Robocop: Killing Machine: Ha ha ha ha haaaaaa, oh silly me. You see, back when I quoted from Avatar’s webpage regarding this book, I accidently left a little pertinent language out. The full quote was: “This full color one shot book contains an all-new Robocop story as well as sneak-peak at the next upcoming Robocop epic!” This accidently led me to believe that there would be a short story and a preview of upcoming Robocop adventures, so I only quoted the part regarding the 'sneak-peak' of future stuff. But what the quote really meant was that the short story was the preview of the next Robocop tome! So what we have here is a 10-page comic story and a bunch of ads for $2.99, which is $1 and 12 story pages less than the last proper issue of Robocop.

The story itself is decent fun. Steven Grant is no longer adapting a Frank Miller screenplay here; he’s the sole writer. Anderson Ricardo does the art. He’s got a much more simple, smooth style than regular artist Juan Jose Ryp (both a benefit clarity-wise and a detriment in terms of tone), and he’s good with action, save for a single panel where it seems that Murphy has vanished inside an attacking robot, when (given his height) he ought to be sticking out the other side. But that’s not a big deal. Neither is the story, but it functions ok as a quick shot of action, as Robocop deals with traffic problems and fights a hacker who’s taken control of a prototype urban pacification robot, and all of this will likely be elaborated upon in the next Robocop series (although there‘s still three issues to go in the current one). Whether all of this is worth three bucks is up to you.

As an aside, there are five different covers (this being an Avatar book). I picked the standard-issue Ryp flavor (which can be glimpsed in the above Avatar link); the artist depicts Officer Lewis standing battered but proud, determined to bring crime to its knees despite her shirt having given its life for justice. Her thong strap is also present to offer moral support. In the actual comic, she never so much as removes her helmet. I guess life is just tougher when you're living on the cover...

Astro City Special: I went into some comments about the previous “Astro City” miniseries a few posts ago; I particularly liked the second issue, an exploration of a certain Silver-Age “Superman” plot device, and the emotional toll it must have exacted on the cast of those stories (had those stories taken place in a semi-realistic emotional environment, of course). This story, which was intended as the final issue of that prior miniseries, acts as something of a companion piece. That’s a good thing: Kurt Busiek seems to be stronger at analyzing specific superhero tropes in the context of an character-driven action tale. Some of his less-focused recent stories, dealing with living in a superhero environment in a more general sense, have descended into mawkishness.

The plot here is simple and tight. A big robot is smashing a whole lot of stuff, and all of the superheroes in town are away on more immediately compelling missions. Aged speedster Supersonic is urged to return to action by an old friend, who can still remember the glory days of costumed adventure. Supersonic was not just a great hero in his youth after all; he was a stylish champion. Why just punch a bunch of villains when you could split into multiple forms, travel through time, pervert the laws of physics, and otherwise fight crime the Rube Goldberg way? But while Supersonic looked cool, maybe there was another motive behind his roundabout way of kicking ass. And maybe he’s too damn old to kick any ass anymore.

Busiek is less critical of Silver-Age tropes than before, grounding fanciful action in some downright utilitarian concerns. He does suggest maybe a rest would be good for venerable characters, who can’t function as well now as they used to, even if their biggest fans have convinced themselves otherwise, and even if there's still some merit to their procedures. The story is slightly longer than usual, although it doesn’t feel unnecessarily stretched out, like the last miniseries’ concluding two-parter. Double and single-page splashes are effectively deployed, giving Brent Anderson plenty of room for dramatic vistas and Big Action shots. It’s definitely one of the stronger recent entries in this series.

The Goon #8: Nothing really could have lived up to the first two pages of this issue, in which writer-artist Eric Powell positively soaks in the joy of his perverse monster-mash being nominated for four Eisners (and winning one). There’s pooping and heads being shot off and spoofery and everything! But the main story would have felt disappointing even left alone between the covers. A bunch of self-deluded frilly modern vampires revive a sad, cursed spirit of a young woman: she’s a vampire too, but she doesn’t suck blood. She extracts life through contagion, hoping to relieve her loneliness. It’s a more staid, moody story than usual, and Powell can’t quite sustain it. It’s not even a big a departure for the book, which makes it even more a downer. My favorite issue thus far, number 5, was stocked to exploding with monsters and hitting and laffs, but there was a distinct core of sadness to the affair, a very big existential hangover to follow the binge of brain splattering of the prior night. It didn’t feel tacked on, or forced; it felt like a natural reaction.

This issue, however, overloads on dejection by the end, with our succubus antagonist spitting out awkward and depressed musings like “I have never encountered such a soul that suffers as this one does - unless perhaps my own. On his back lay the unjust sorrows of a life heaped in calamity. Take my pity my love.” Gah. It’s a little too thick. Even stuffy. Powell can handle dramatic material with this book; he’s shown it before. He mishandles it here. His art is always excellent though, especially his images of plague-ridden characters, who retain their cartoony blank-eyed figures even while wasting away. The visual is funny but oddly disturbing, a vibe I’d have rather felt more of in the story.

Ex Machina #3: An entertaining issue, despite the fact that very little happens to advance the overall plot. Mayor Hundred is still trying to deal with last issue’s PR situation, parts of his past are still being revealed, and the mystery killer is still running around. Hundred is aware of the killings now (there’s a fun twist on the old superhero/police commissioner relationship), and it’s making him very disturbed. Anchoring the issue is a positively wonderful dream sequence in which Hundred flashes back to what might turn out to be a rather cliché childhood trauma, only loaded with (subconscious?) sexualization, and culminating with the good mayor being taunted by menacing household appliances, including a toaster that delivers one of the Best Lines In Comics, 2004:

Light. Medium. Dark. Racist.

A fucking toaster just called the Mayor of New York City a racist. That’s awesome enough, but evil lamps and blenders are also circling his head, with a nearby laptop exclaiming :“VILLAIN VILLAIN VILLAIN.” And you know what? This is exactly what the book needs! I honestly loved this sequence, because the ability to talk to electrical objects is a pretty silly power to have, so why not be silly with it?! Why not indulge in some high camp? It was great.

The remainder of the book hints at bringing in yet another classic superhero motif, which I won’t spoil. The dialogue remains witty, and the plotting is beginning to feel more confident in its cleverness and less contrived. But most importantly, the book is beginning to feel a lot more fun, even a little reckless, which might come in handy if the book does indeed plunge into more typical superhero examination.

Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #1 (of 6): All set-up for the second series. The book mostly focuses on Tom Strange, the alternate, other side of the galaxy Tom Strong, who has curiously begun a relationship with his world’s equivalent of Strong’s wife. There might be a good story to come out of that, but Peter Hogan’s script (with co-plotting by Alan Moore) doesn’t seem interested just yet. Instead we have time disruptions galore and a mystery in space. A few of the leads from the last series also pop up for some soapy operatics, and there’s a funny minor villain called The Clock. Yanick Paquette and Karl Story also return, on pencils and inks respectively. There’s just not much to say. It was amusing, and nothing went wrong, but who knows where it’s going?

*Oh, and I also got "The Comics Journal" #262 and holy shit it looks big. I mean really thick and heavy with zones of slick pages and lots of comics. It'll take me six weeks just to read it...

And finally, some words of enlightenment for all of you undersea documentary filmmakers who are planning to embark on a quest to destroy the rare shark who killed your best friend:

"What would be the scientific purpose in killing it?"