Robot Bildungsroman #3
Damn, now that’s how you wrap up a trilogy. Reading this without reading the first two issues of this series is silly, but if you choose to go that route this one does a nice job of summarizing the story so far. This time around we get to see robot Marci learn what her true purpose was, what was going on behind the scenes at the company behind it all, and even get a suitably epic final confrontation between the main players. There’s always the temptation to go huge in series finales instead of keeping it realistic (within the framework of the story, that is), so kudos to Joe for keeping things in line while still wrapping up all of the loose ends. OK, he leaves one damned intriguing loose end on the last page, but there’s nothing wrong with that. My only complaint, if you could even call it that, is that he packed so many ideas into this series that it seems silly to give them up and move onto other things. Still, what do I know? Maybe he has lots more planned in this universe. Whatever the case, if you happen to be at SPACE this weekend, you could do a lot worse than to pick up these three issues. Or if you’re reading this in the future, maybe buying them online, or downloading them directly into your brain, or whatever the prefered method of consuming media is in your time. Sorry about the mess we left you with the environment, future dwellers! Oopsie!
I just now realized that this was different from the PANEL set of anthologies put out by Ferret Press, the ones that I love pretty much every time (which is saying a lot for an anthology). Is there a feud of some kind going on, or are there just too many stories for them all to be contained in one anthology? Or hey, maybe it’s because the PANEL anthologies tend to stick to one theme, while the only theme of this one seems to be “people who were at SPACE in 2012.” Whatever the case, this is a damned solid anthology, and if you find yourself wondering if you really want to pay $20 for an anthology, remember that a good chunk of the proceeds go towards keeping the same price for the yearly convention and generally funding all aspects of the thing. Think of it as a donation to a worthy cause where you come out of it with a fairly hefty anthology that also happens to be mostly in color. I always thought that seeing The Accidentals (by Mike Carroll) in color would be a revelation, and it looks like I was right. If only he could afford to put them all out like that! Ah well. Stories in this one include a John Steventon piece about the eventful birth of his daughter, a battle for the fate of the universe that came a little too late by Jon Michael Lennon and Thor Fjalarsson, an utterly unique vision of the afterlife by Leslie Anderson, a Christmas alone for a bear by Shawn Smith, an uneventful conquering of the world by Bob Corby, Kathleen Coyle and Jason Young’s piece on Kathleen’s first time seeing Return of the Jedi as a young child, Brian John Mitchell exploring the meaning of it all (he also edited this whole thing), Mari Naomi’s attempt to square the image in her head of her grandfather with the horrible stories that she was told about him after he died, Mike Kitchen’s hilarious take on the attention span of iPad users, Steve Myers and his tale of reality blending with fantasy, Matt and Jeanie Bryan’s unique take on a ruined date, Kel Crum’s computer virus, Kris and Mary Lachowski’s piece on a bizarre half dream half reality conversation, Blair Kitchen’s superhero who’s having a really tough time saving the damsel in distress, a sneak preview of Dave Kelly and Lara Antal’s tale of the Night Watchman (probably not what you’re thinking, but maybe you nailed it!), another great Homegrown Alien tale by Joe Davidson, a one page shortie by Ray Tomczak, and a brief bubbly piece by Maryanna Rose Papke. The color was done really well, and it was great to see some of these characters done how they were “meant” to be done (for all I know the creators were perfectly content for these stories to always be in black and white but couldn’t resist the chance to change it here). It’s a nice pile of stories and seemed to be really representative of the work of these people, which is why this thing exists in the first place, right? $20
Sure, I could have used a sample page detailing the plot of the book, but after that cover I’m sure that you folks demand mayhem. I know I would! This comic has a succinct (and charming) synopsis detailing how a meteor carrying seeds fell to earth, the seeds formed a plant, and the plant took the shape of the first person that it saw. Well, it clearly did a pretty poor job of imitating that person, as it remains a bit of a horror show, but at least it was trying to fit in. These two (the drifter it imitated basically adopted it) wander into a group that’s hunting down a yeti, and the simple-minded creature gets talked into looking for the beast. This yeti had been captured previously but escaped, meaning that it’s now wandering around in a foreign land causing all kinds of mayhem. A big (and fairly gruesome) battle occurs, which I won’t spoil even a little bit, but it turns out that the losing creature had defenses that the survivors could have never dreamed of. I think Joe is selling himself short by giving this one away, but hey, maybe he’s just trying to drum up interest in his other series and is using this to do it. Either way it’s damned funny/gory all on its own, and you should maybe try to email the guy to get yourself a copy. Oh, and if you go to his website, check out his latest comic (from 4/27/12, all you readers in the future), as it’s fantastic.
Robot Bildungsroman #2
The comic with the catchy title is back! Seriously, I’m sure some people have skipped this if they’ve seen it at the store purely due to that clunky title, which would be a shame, as they’d only be hurting themselves. Well, and Joe, who I’m sure would like to at least make a few dollars on this. In this issue we get a solid recap of the last issue (hoorah!), see a bit more of the men behind the robots, and get a showdown between the cops and the gang from the last issue, which doesn’t seem to end well for anyone involved. Marci was a bit scarce in this issue, but we do see her getting a “routine” check-up and seemingly forgetting about it once she gets to school, although she is left with the sense that something is wrong. There’s also a short story at the end of the book that deals with a bit more of the culture involved in having robots being readily available all the time, as this tells the tale of… well, you can see it for yourself on the sample page. I probably should have used one of his splashier pages (as this issue really looks great), but I couldn’t resist that description. Anyway, the humanoids don’t exactly work as advertised, but one boy decides to keep the defective creature with him anyway. It’s another solid issue and again, I have to point out that this has all the makings of a really great series. Assuming you like smart science fiction, that is… $3
Robot Bildungsroman #1
Who out there is looking for a great comic science fiction story? It’s way too early after one issue to call this great, but all the potential is there. This starts off with an advertisement for a new process that allows you to transfer the consciousness to robot bodies after they die… more or less. It relies on interviews from loved ones, diaries and personal records (which actually sounds like it would still leave quite a bit out) and sends them back into the world. In this case a young high school girl gets killed, then gets brought back in a robot body. Still, with her classmates unwilling to provide any information, her school life is a bit of a blank slate. She begins to make new friends, but is attacked by a gang on her way home… and learns that there’s more to her than she thought. I thought this issue had everything a first issue needs: teasers, bits of information, character introduction (the cops aren’t given much time, but at least they got in the comic), mystery (some sort of spy who blends into the brick wall) and all sorts of confusion. Why is the robot company so interested in Marci? Why are violent street gangs so common? Exactly how much of Marci is in this robot body? All sorts of things to keep you coming back for more. I do think the backgrounds could use a little work, as there’s barely anything there, but Joe has plenty of time to work on that. He seems to have this writing stuff down pat, and if he sticks with it this could turn out to be a really impressive series. $3