“Atomic Robo” has been kicking his way around comics since 2007, each new miniseries bringing a completely different genre feel to the table. In its 9th volume, Robo takes on the Wild West. Read our spoiler-free review below to see how much fun that ends up being.
Written by Brian Clevinger
Illustrated by Scott Wegener
Colors by Anthony Clark
Lettered by Jeff Powell
There was an explosion, some crystals, a lot of lava, and several nuclear warheads. Plus, a crazy time-traveling dinosaur. Now it’s 1884 and Atomic Robo is up against the notorious ‘Butcher Boys.’ The fate of the West is at stake, but can Atomic Robo save the day before his nuclear fuel runs dry?
Though we’re technically nine whole volumes deep on “Atomic Robo”, the highest compliment I can pay to it, time and again, is that there isn’t a barrier to entry. There’s a rich history of the character by now that, while it certainly pops up here and there, is not a requirement for having fun with whatever his latest adventure happens to be. As I mentioned earlier, it’s an old West adventure this time around. Tombstone-era stuff. Robo is the drifter in a western town that’s on the verge of upheaval. You know, because back then men were men and they’d just as soon put a bullet in your chest over a poker game. Despite being a fairly light comic, tensions are consistently high thanks to these outlaw personalities and the setting is not treated like a joke.
Clevinger is a smart writer who’s technique improves the longer he does this professionally. “Atomic Robo” dives right in to plot and lets the reader form the full picture of the setting and circumstances as she or he goes along – no clunky exposition here. When a comic is allowed to drop you into a setting and catch you up through visuals and plot advancement, it’s pure comic book magic. Robo treads lightly through some time travel tropes, including the butterfly effect and some amnesiac properties, but instead of being confusing or bogged down, this serves to act as a friendly starting point for readers who may not be versed in “Atomic Robo’s” history. The story is more concerned about propelling forward and ratcheting up the confrontations between Robo and some colorful, indulgent old timey personalities.
Wegener’s art is playful too, lending a sleek cartoony feel to the action. Wegener lightens things up even more, because even as there’s gunfighting and gut shots going on, there’s a vibrancy that keeps the story out of the darkness. A color palette dominated by tans and browns evokes the wild west, but again, keeps things lighter than it could be. Furthermore, characters kick in doors, cock shotguns, and swig down whiskey – all accompanied by charming and cleverly-rendered sound effects. Even though we’re in a grittier, nastier sort of genre, the spirit of “Atomic Robo” remains through these smart artistic choices.
“Atomic Robo: The Knights of the Golden Circle” is one of the least intimidating experiences you’ll have jumping into the “9th volume” of something. Thanks to a terrifically focused creative team, “Atomic Robo” remains concerned with crafting a greater fiction, maintaining a sleek comic book pace, and welcoming new readers at every turn. It doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, but take my word for it, there’s no reason not to dip your toe in this time around. And long time fans will be pleased as ever with its return.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – Buy