One thing about being around TV is how quickly I get sick of seeing ads for the same things over and over again. I forget about that when I go 8 months without watching much TV. I wasn't likely to ever watch Horrible Bosses 2, but having seen the commercial seemingly 5,000 times, I want that film to tank, and everyone involved to see their careers plummet into the toilet.
Atomic Robo and the Knights of the Golden Circle #4 and 5, by Brian Clevinger (words), Scott Wegener (art), Anthony Clark (colors), Jeff Powell (letters) - Slow badass walk towards gun-toting bad guys for the win!
Robo, Doc Holliday, and Marshal Reeves survive their initial encounter with Helsingard's primitive cyborg soldiers, and Helsingard's attempt to blow them up with his base. They board his zeppelin, but he has still more of the autosoldats. Robo recognized that Helsingard is using a liquid fuel derived from the Hollow Earth Crystals Dr. Dinosaur had been utilizing, which are highly explosive, and sends the Marshall and Holliday to blow up an engine room while he fights Helsingard's army. Except he's seriously running out of steam, and there are an awful lot of autosoldats. He's doing better than you might expect, until Butcher Caldwell shows up. I don't know if Helsingard built him a little better, if there was still enough of Caldwell in there to recognize and hate "Ironhide", or if Robo was just on fumes, but he was battering our hero pretty well. Until Robo tricked him into shooting the engines.
There are capsules that can be used as sort of a parachute/landing capsule, but Robo only has enough time to get Holliday and reeves safely stowed away, before he goes down with the ship fighting the still determined Caldwell. Reeves and Doc find Robo's remains, and travel to his home, where they find his instructions, which is to put his head in a box and ship it to a location in Colorado where Tesla will set up shop in 1899. Over the ensuing 116 years, the box travels from base to base, and apparently no one ever got curious and opened it, because now it's sitting in a Tesladyne storage facility that's been quarantined by those Majestic-12 a-holes.
I quite enjoyed this. The fact Helsingard had no idea who or what he was even up against, because it really didn't matter to him. He figured it was an insignificant threat, and that came back to bite him. If I recall, in the first volume, it was Jenkins who turned the tide, because Helsingard focused only on Robo. I will say I'm not sure if Clevinger and Wegener justified Reeves' and Holliday's involvement in the story. Especially the last couple of issues, they were largely extraneous, except as someone for Robo to need to protect from Caldwell-soldat, or to transport his head where he wanted. It could be the creative team just wanted to use them, and their interactions were very funny, but I'm not clear why else they were there. Maybe no other reason. It's not a big deal, I just kept expecting one of them was going to do something really critical to stopping Helsingard, and it didn't happen.
The fight scenes were good. Not that Wegener did anything wild with the page layouts - not really his style, which is fine - but just in terms of telling a good story. Robo is clearly several steps up from these guys, and so he mostly can beat them easily. But there are so many, and he's so worn down he can really only fight well in fits and spurts. So he gets tired, and they start to overwhelm him, and he pulls himself together and throws them off. It makes him look good because he's doing well, but clearly operating under a handicap, which is recurring more and more frequently. Then when he faces Caldwell, who seems to shrug off his strikes, and swats Robo around like a beach ball, there's some real tension. Does he have anything left in the tank? Can he pull it together and win?
I don't always love the sound effects, because sometimes I feel they clash with art. Especially when they're very precise and more computer-generated looking. Other times, they look pretty good. One I especially liked here was when Caldwell smashes his hands against both sides of Robo's head. The effect is a simple "WHAM", but it has much more of a hand-drawn look to it, and it's done in a way so that the bottom's of the letters are partially missing, like the force of the blow has damaged them, or else the effect is flying away from the impact so fast it's streaking. I also like that Clevinger gave Wegener two pages to just draw Robo and Caldwell fighting, with no talk. Just fighting, and Caldwell is almost always drawn as being too big for the panel. A lot of times, when he hits Robo, it's just his fist, and Robo flying into the distance. He's just too powerful to be contained.
I would have liked to see more of Robo living in the Old West, and I'm still not totally clear on whether Robo was the only Ironhide, or if there was another guy who actually got blown up, and it's a matter of mistaken identity. I think he's the only one, but see, now I want to know about the adventures that earned him the name. Especially considering his "Do nothing unless you're supposed to" manta. What drove him to get involved?
One nice touch is that after all that talk about bringing in Holliday for the reward, Reeves lets him go at the end, but they don't make a big deal about it. In one panel, Reeves says they go their separate ways and don't look back, and that's it. No "I guess you're all right", or moment where Reeves stops at the edge of town, thinks about it, then uncuffs Holliday and lets him go. That was well done.
Now I have to wait for the next mini-series, and hope it picks up where this one leaves off. I wouldn't be totally surprised if Clevinger and Wegener pull a fast one and do another series set in some part of Robo's past, just as a curveball.