“Atomic Robo”

Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Lee Black, Ronda Pattison, Nick Filardi, Anthony Clark, Jeff Powell

Atomic Robo is one of my favorite comics, one I’ve been reading long enough that I wish I had some way of figuring out exactly how long I have been reading it. It’s getting a review now, however, as I recently did an all-the-way-through reread.1

Here’s the concept of the comic: Nikolai Tesla built a nuclear-powered, fully sentient robot. He’s creatively named Atomic Robo Tesla, and generally goes by Atomic Robo, or just Robo to his friends. Being a bulletproof, super-strong robot, he gets into some adventures! Being an ageless machine, those adventures occur across a wide range of time. Being a world where it’s possible for Nikolai Tesla to build a nuclear-powered, fully sentient robot, those adventures involve a whole lot of pulp science fiction—there’s an entire comic early on where Robo spends a few hours fighting giant insects while having a discussion via radio about why giant insects are impossible.

Basically, it’s some of the most fun science fiction I read, and I absolutely love it. There’s some really interesting storylines, and there’s also some really funny storylines. Just about everything that Dr. Dinosaur shows up in absolutely hilarious—everything else in this world feels like it’s following some rules, though different ones than our world, but Dr. Dinosaur is just running around inside his own personal reality distortion field. And he shows up precisely often enough to maintain the hilarity of how well he plays off of Robo.

So, hey, if you’re at all interested in any of this, go read the comic. The nice thing about webcomics is that it’s all free online! And, honestly, I really recommend starting from the beginning—it makes the most sense that way, and while there’s some early references to stuff that shows up again later, it’s more little hints that make it better on reread.2

  1. Well, in April; these reviews aren’t exactly timely. (Which I usually avoid admitting to, but in this case, the specific things going on in the comic at the time were what set me off rereading from the beginning, I wanted to remember what was being called back to.
  2. Seriously, I had a moment on this most recent reread where I realized that something really early on had been foreshadowing of a storyline that happened, in publishing time of the comic, something like a decade later. Their ‘about’ page says “Everything that happens will fit into the larger setting; everything that happens will happen for a reason” and they mean it.

“Signal Moon”

Kate Quinn

This is one of those stories that, going in, you know is going to hurt. Voice-only time travel does not a happy ending make, especially across 80 years. But it’s still worth reading—it’s quite short and to the point, and very effectively told. Spend an hour being sad.1

  1. This is an Amazon affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I prefer Bookshop affiliate links to Amazon when possible, but in this case, the book wasn’t available there, so it’ll have to do.

“The King’s Man”

Evidently, I do movie reviews now? I suppose it’s somewhat in keeping with all the book reviews I’ve been doing, but as it’s a new thing I still feel the need to point out: I am not a professional reviewer, I just don’t want to make an account on… whatever website it is that people use to do movie reviews.

After having it in my queue for a while, I finally got around to watching The King’s Man. I absolutely love Kingsman, and while there’s still a good deal to enjoy in the sequel, it was nowhere near as good as the original. I was hoping the prequel, then, would be as good as the original. Sadly, it wasn’t.

Quite frankly, The King’s Man is bad. Not terrible, but absolutely not good. It’s campy, but I can’t tell if it’s campy in the “this will be a cult classic in a decade” way or just campy in the “we’re all going to forget about this” sense. Too early to tell on that regard.

The plot makes absolutely no sense. And, yes, I realize that I’m saying this about a prequel to a film that had “a SIM card makes you murder people” as the core of the plot, but at least that just required some hand-wavey science fiction. That’s the problem with trying to do a prequel—we know how history went. If you haven’t sat down and called it Alternate History as a genre, then when you start breaking the timeline, it gets really hard to suspend that disbelief.

Like Deadpool 2, it feels like they came up with a couple key scenes they wanted to have in the movie, and then had to figure out a way to string them together with some semblance of a plot. As a result, though, here I am, a day later, still trying to come up with a sensible explanation for why any of the Bad Guys were listening to the Big Bad. He’s just… some guy? Like, sure, I can believe some guy with a hatch to grind could pull together a few well-connected people with grievances to start this evil plot, but Rasputin just doesn’t fit. What’s Rasputin’s motivation for listening to you, dude? He’s the de-facto ruler of Russia, he’s got all the food, drink, drugs, sex, and power a man could want; why would he show up to your drafty Evil Meeting Place in the middle of nowhere together threatened by you into messing with his good thing he’s got going?1

That said, I still enjoyed watching it. I’m glad I missed it in the theater because the best way to watch this is somewhere that you can pause it to laugh in disbelief with your friends. It’s got some solid action scenes, and the cast is fun and does a good job of it all. The pacing is all over the place, the plot makes no sense, and there’s a serious change of tone for a bit in the middle, but so long as you don’t go in expecting something that’s gonna win awards, you’ll have a good time.2

  1. And, speaking of that drafty Evil Meeting Place: this movie is set prior to the invention of the jet plane. How, exactly, is Rasputin making it from Moscow to your undisclosed location on the other side of Europe for these meetings without it being commented on?
  2. The bit in the middle is probably even more effective if you haven’t seen Kingsman, or you have the kind of brain that doesn’t latch on to world building details like mine does. For me, it was predictable, and the tension was in wondering when that Canonical Event was going to happen; I suspect that scene feels very different if you go in without that foreknowledge.