It’s no surprise that Red 5 are gaining fans quickly. The relatively new publisher gets it. They get that comic fans want something refreshingly different. Atomic Robo has become Red 5’s mascot, in a sense, as the character has shown the world what comics used to be like – simple, fun and funny.
Each issue of Atomic Robo has a handy summary of what’s happened in the series before. Since my last experience with Robo was months ago, with the excellent Trade collecting the first series, I needed this primer. This second series, entitled Dogs of War is set entirely in WWII, whereas the first series was set in the present. Robo’s been around for a while, you see. In fact he was created almost a century ago by real life scientist Nikola Tesla and has been aiding the government against oddities and monstrosities ever since.
In this issue, he’s teamed up with the British Commandos to halt the advancing Nazis and their super weapons. Writer Brian Clevinger and artist Scott Weneger are on creative duties, as they were in the previous series. As the metal soldier leads a platoon on to the shores of Fermain Bay, the men come under fire, and the source reveals himself, a battle suited German knows as Skorzeny. As is common with this series (but not jarring) we cut back 10 hours earlier, where Robo is informing his British team of the weapon they’re targeting – the V-5 Electric Canon, which is a massive multi-rocket machine. Switching back to the “present” Robo is now Skorzeny’s captive, and in fact will be used by the Nazis to power the V-5. But just as all appears lost for our intrepid hero, in busts gun toting tough guy James Milligan to save the day. Milligan, or Scottie as he’s known to the Yanks, is a no-nonsense soldier who speaks in an amusingly almost-indecipherable accent.
This is another great issue for Robo. There’s enough action, foolish henchmen, crazy megalomaniacs and wit to counteract all the darkly complex fare that 2008 has given us from Marvel and DC. It reminded me of Star Wars too, which is never a bad thing. Nor is it a surprise, as the two founders, Paul Ens and Scott Chitwood, come from the Star Wars on-line world. Clevinger and Weneger work beautifully together. The writing moves smoothly and is full of character, while the art is cartoony without being simple. This is something parents could give to their kids without fear, after reading it themselves of course, as it’s brimming with exuberance.
Robo continues to present all the wit of Spider-Man under fire and doesn’t seem bothered by the strange shenanigans around him, including the temporary absence of his lower appendages. There is also a 4 page bonus story set in Madrid in 1974, where an ageing Skorzeny and an un-ageing Atomic Robo meet at a café. Also written by Clevinger, and with art by James Nguyen, it’s a more serious bookend to the main story. Skorzeny is now a dying cancer victim and claims that he killed Tesla, Robo’s creator, decades ago and stole his futuristic weapon designs. Robo doesn’t believe him and leaves him to suffer. Atomic Robo is a series that’s always been able to mix the outrageous aspects of a crime fighting robot, with the dark side of war and loss. Like TV’s Scrubs, it handles these opposites with a gentle hand that allows neither to seem out of place. After only launching last year, Red 5 look set to make their mark on the comic shelves, and I’m sure Atomic Robo will happily lead the way.
This issue will be released on Christmas Eve, but until then here’s an amusing Christmas card from Robo himself.
Here is a sneak peek at Top Cow’s cross-over starring two of their biggest titles. Cyberforce is a unique superhero team with cybernetic implants who defeated their cruel creators-the Cyberdata corporation. Hunter-Killer is a newer series, from 2005, that follows a group of Ultra Sapiens. Basically they are walking weapons of mass destruction, who keep an eye on their own kind so as not to destroy our planet.
The series debuts in July 2009 and is written by superstar writer, and Hunter-Killer co-creator (with Top Cow CEO & Cyberforce creator Marc Silvestri) Mark Waid. The art will be provided by anther superstar – Kenneth Rocafort (Madame Mirage). Click below to see a pin-up, plus some inspiring character sketches from Rocafort.
In the 1400s a hungry army of vampires stake a claim on Eastern Europe, and only one man can save the terrified citizens. His name is Vlad Tempes, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler. He is a man literally empowered by the church to fight these beasts, and does. Fast forward to modern New York. Widower detective Victor Dailey discovers corpses in an abandoned ship, and soon the vampire horde is back. However, so is Vlad, and he’s ready to end the fight for good. This time though, he has help, with the US military and Dailey doing whatever they can to stop the snow covered city from becoming a vampire covered one too.
Impaler was originally a three issue series published by Image Comics in 2006 and 2007 but went on hiatus. Top Cow picked up the reins in October and published a Trade Paper Back of those first three issues, plus three new ones. Now, Impaler receives its own ongoing series, written by series creator William Harms with gorgeously gory art from Brit Matt Timson. These are not today’s goth-wannabe vamps. Impaler’s blood suckers are horrific monsters, not introspective shadow dwellers, and as you can see on the following pages Impaler is an unashamed horror title.
This month’s Impaler series kicks off after the recent TPB. For those who missed out are you able to give them a heads up as to what’s going on?
WILLIAM: The Impaler trade ends with the vampires busting through the military’s blockade of New York City and pushing west, toward New Jersey. (And east, toward Boston.) The US military tries a desperate, last-ditch attempt to destroy the vampires, but it fails. At this point, Vlad and Victor (the two primary characters from the trade) are hiding out in New York City, and Victor is dying from radiation sickness. The story quickly expands in its scope to include a special forces team, led by Lt. George Wagner, that is sent to Newark International Airport to look for a VIP. By the end of # 1, it’s looking pretty grim for the human race.
How difficult was it to bring a fresh take to the vampire mythos?
WILLIAM: It was pretty hard, to be honest. The most important thing to me was to not be limited by the traditional defenses against vampires, such as holy water, crosses, that kind of thing. If the only way you can kill a vampire is by either staking it in the heart or dousing it in holy water, you’re pretty limited in where you can take the story. So I decided that as long as the vampires in Impaler are in “flesh” form, they’re killed the same way we are – if you can shoot them in the head, blow them up, or cut them in half, they die. Simple as that. That idea really drove the development of the vampires in Impaler, and I’m really proud of the direction they took.
What happened that put the initial series on hiatus and how did it victoriously return?
WILLIAM: Working in independent comics, even if it’s a place like Image, is really hard. In addition to writing the book, I was the PR guy, the marketing guy, the schedule keeper, that kind of thing. It was really exhausting. And, to be honest, despite the acclaim that Impaler received, the sales weren’t quite where they needed to be. Luckily, the guys at Top Cow really enjoyed Impaler and decided to take it under their wing and give it new life. And I’m forever grateful that the book got a second chance.
How did you manage to bring a level of realism to this series?
WILLIAM: One of the things I love about writing is thinking about stuff like, “if vampires were real, what would happen?” And sitting down and writing out all of the ways they’d attack us, how we’d fight back, etc. And that really drove the realistic nature of Impaler, because it was important to me that the characters and world look like our world – just a normal place where something horrible has happened. Of course, that’s the formula that Stephen King has used his entire career, and in my mind it’s the only way to approach horror fiction.
What is your favourite interpretation of a vampire character from pop culture?
WILLIAM: “Shadow of the Vampire” (see trailer of the 2000 film below-ES) is one of my favorite movies – the idea is sheer genius. I’m also a huge fan of Salem’s Lot and I am Legend. Those are the two best vampire novels as far as I’m concerned. I read them both at least once a year.
Impaler #1 and the Impaler TPB, collecting the original mini-series with extra material are out now. Impaler #2 is out in late January. You can read a preview of #1 here.