Atomic Rocket Group 66 #1
Written by Robert Curley; Illustrated by Will Sliney
Atomic Diner; $4.95
I thought I’d become skeptical of self-published comics. I thought I’d become jaded enough that if I didn’t know the publisher or hadn’t read some darn good reviews, I was going to be very careful about my purchases. Guess not.
But c’mon. I see in Previews a comic with a robot, a spaceman, a black-masked pulp adventure hero, and a gal wearing what looks like a ‘60s spy catsuit… I’m gonna be curious. Then I read that it’s set in ’57 and features characters named Space Phantom, Night Ghost, Lunar Girl, and a misogynist who turns into a woman named Minute Maid? You’ve got to work pretty hard to screw up a concept like that.
Still, I don’t want to just waste five bucks, so I give it a flip-through in the store when it comes out. The art’s all right: pretty good anatomy; lots of dramatic use of black-and-white. And I’m seeing scenes like robots fighting tanks, a spaceman finding a girl (with no spacesuit) on the moon, and a splash page of what looks like the Invisible Man standing with a couple of revolvers in front of a giant dinosaur skeleton. I’m hooked.
Then I took it home and read it. I take back what I said about working hard to screw up a concept this good, because the over-riding feel I got from it was profound laziness. Not in the art. Will Sliney obviously has some growing to do in terms of storytelling, but he’s obviously very fond of these kinds of characters and has put a lot of passion into getting them on the page. There’s some inconsistency to how much effort he gives backgrounds, but there’s some truly nice work here.
I’m thinking that Rob Curley also has a fondness for these types of characters, but unfortunately the effort he put into them looks like it ends at the basic concepts. Having a robot on your team is always cool, but this robot is actually a suit of armor called Project Bushido that was developed by a Japanese corporation and stolen by the misunderstood daughter of its owner.
“But Father won’t you listen to what I have to say.” (Yes, that’s the actual punctuation.) “I know I am capable of the work effort, if you will just allow me.”
“Enough of this nonsense, daughter. I have been too lenient toward you. No more! From now on you will do as you are told.”
Two panels later: “But Father…”
“No! Ever since your mother’s death I have been too lenient toward you. No more! From now on you will do as you are told.”
“This isn’t the last of it. I will prove myself somehow.”
She steals dad’s top secret robot suit he’s developing for the military.
Here’s how you know that the guy who’s going to turn into Minute Maid is a woman-hater. He’s in a bar talking to his buddy who says, “Ha ha! Max, man I ain’t never met nobody who hated women the way you do. You ain’t careful, one of these days you’re liable to rub one of ‘em up the wrong way.” Ooh, foreshadowing.
Max responds with some truly vile stuff that I wouldn’t have felt as uncomfortable with had the rest of the book been presented maturely. I mean, it still would’ve been hateful and nasty, but at least I would’ve felt like it communicated the character in a meaningful way instead of just used as a shortcut to set up a joke. It would’ve been much more in keeping with the rest of the book’s tone to just have Max drunkenly try to pick up women. It still wouldn’t have been good, but it would’ve been better. Better yet, don’t play the character as a joke at all, but explore with us what it might really be like for a realistic misogynist to be stuck in a woman’s body.
I won’t even go into the other characters. They’re all as sketchy, haphazard, and miserably written as those two.
The book is 42-pages long, but it doesn’t even get the various characters together at the end. So I’ve paid five bucks for an incomplete mess of a story about characters I pretty much hate. Don’t make the same mistake.
One out of five bandaged vigilantes.