Summer’s barely half over, and to date, we have been shown a summer of Avengers fighting X-Men, beloved characters from a 1980s classic self-contained story ressurected for the generally accepted comics story motivation of “fuckloads of cash,” and an apparent cold war between the Big Two publishers over who can be more gay for the apparent purposes of mainstream media attention (“Northstar’s getting gay married? Well… Earth 2 Green Lantern’s gay! But we know that Marvel will escalate, so get George Perez on the phone and tell him to start giving Lois Lane man hands!”). All this big event posturing might be enough to make a person despair over whether the days of short-run, plain old fun comics is over.
Well, despair not. Because Atomic Robo is back. And not only that, this time he even has a message on sexual identity and politics for the people who are deeply enough invested in that kind of stuff to give a shit what Alan Scott puts in his mouth in the privacy of his own home.
The genius conceit that writer Brian Clevinger has built into Atomic Robo is that he only writes short miniseries about the character, and due to that character’s nature – genius, immortal science-based adventurer into the unknown – those short stories can be about almost anything, in any genre. Since Robo’s inception, we’ve seen him fight crime with 30s pulp adventurers, battle super villains, tangle with rogue artificial intelligences, curse Stephen Hawking while traveling to Mars, and even attack Cthuhlu himself. Clevinger has built himself an engine that allows himself to tell pulp stories, superhero stories, horror stories; he can pick and choose between any genre he wants. And this time around, he’s tackling the old pulp Air Adventurer stories of the 30s and 40s, seen most prominently in the comics world in the long-running and repeatedly-cancelled Blackhawks from DC.
In this first issue of the five-issue The Flying She-Devils of The Pacific arc, we find Robo test-piloting an unarmed jet fighter over the Pacific Ocean in 1951, when he is attacked by some new form of aircraft that can turn on a dime, stop dead in the air, and which resemble the head and shoulders of Robocop with helicopter landing skids for forearms and a giant 30-caliber dong sticking out of his chest. Somewhere, Peter Weller just woke up screaming. But I digress.