Overview

Part Man, Part Machine, All Comic

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In his first film, RoboCop is described as “something that could have appeared in your parent’s comic book.” Well, he did appear in many comics afterward including a return this week. 

In the not-so-distant future, a dedicated policeman is shot and killed in the line of duty. A powerful corporation that runs the police force claims the body and turns it into a cybernetic supercop. Everything goes swimmingly until the cop starts to remember his past life—and the criminals who killed him. Unfortunately, the criminals are connected to the corporation that created him, and his vengeance becomes that much tougher.

It sounds like it could be a pitch for a Deathlok revamp. Or maybe it is the synopsis for an early Image book. It is neither. It is a brief description of the 1987 film RoboCop, and its connections to the world of comics do not end there.

The first film was one of the best sci-fi movies of the 1980s—if not all time. It was a graphically violent, bitingly sarcastic look at 80's corporate greed that still worked as a shoot-em-up adventure. The director of the film, Paul Verhoeven went on record as saying the unstoppable robotic police officer was inspired in part by the British Judge Dredd comics.

The two RoboCop sequels share several things in common—both were written by comic legend Frank Miller and the less said about them the better. Neither film had the subversive sense of humor nor had the satire of the original, a fact Miller blames on studio interference in his screenwriting process. Judging on future cinematic efforts Miller would have on his own, it might not all be the studio’s fault.

Around the time the second film was set to be released, Marvel Comics came out with a 23-issue series tying into the franchise. From Marvel, the RoboCop property moved along to Dark Horse, who adapted the third film and put out a series of miniseries with the character, including one that faced the cyborg cop against another licensed property, the Terminator, in a series written by Miller and drawn by Walt Simonson.

It would be almost ten years later until RoboCop made his return to comics. In 2003, Avatar Press acquired the rights to the character in order to do a miniseries adapting Miller’s original, pre-studio tweaking script for RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3. This series was only nine issues yet took almost three years to complete.   

Dynamite Entertainment announced last year that they took over control of the rights to the concept and would add it to its stable of licensed properties. They will be taking the character back to the beginning, using the original films as a jumping off point. The Marvel, Dark Horse and Avatar series will be ignored, as will the two Miller-penned film sequels.

The series aims to capture the satiric tone of the original film (including, possibly, a plot point about a foreign war the evil corporation of the film, OCP, is designing weapons for), and will return to many of the popular components of that movie, including the ultraviolent action, members of the supporting cast, and even the robotic ED-209.

If you grew up on the first RoboCop film, then this series seems like a lock to pick up. A remake of the film is planned for 2011, so by picking up this series, you might just be ahead of the game.  RoboCop and comics are a perfect fit. Hopefully, this new series will be a worthy addition to the character’s mythos.

Also out this week:

Captain America: Reborn #6:

I have a question: why does Bryan Hitch keep getting high-profile work? I can hear some of you answer “because he’s a great artist” but I can’t say that I’m a fan. There isn’t a wow factor there for me. At least, there is not enough of a one that overcomes the fact that he is consistently late. Take a look at any of the big projects he did over the last several years—JLA, Ultimates 1 & 2, or Fantastic Four. All of them either had to have fill-in artists to meet schedule or were so late they became the butt of jokes.

Take this series for instance. This was supposed to be the big series that reintroduces Steve Rogers as Captain America, tying in to most of Marvel’s major storylines for the next year. But the series was so late that Marvel had to go on with their publishing plan before the series ever finished. The ending to this story has already been spoiled in numerous Marvel publications. If I was the one responsible for this happening, I’d be embarrassed.

Ed Brubaker (W), Bryan Hitch (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Final Issue.

Ultimate Comics: Enemy #1:

When it comes to the Ultimate universe, you can’t really find a bigger enemy than Magneto. After all, he just got done with flooding New York, putting Europe under a deep freeze, and killing off half the Ultimate heroes. But apparently there is a bigger enemy out there, and Spider-Man, the Thing and a bunch of other survivors are going to find out who he/she is. 

Ultimatum was supposed to be the game–changing event that would reinvigorate the Ultimate line. While I haven’t read all the post-Ultimatum books, the events of Ultimatum haven’t changed things much. The Ultimate Comics Avengers is still an over-the-top, Millarian adventure where the cataclysm of Ultimatum is barely mentioned. And in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, the biggest effect Ultimatum had was increasing the number of people living in Peter Parker’s house. Maybe this series will be showing more of the aftereffects of Ultimatum.

Brian Michael Bendis (W), Rafa Sandoval (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Pilot Season: Demonic #1:

The idea that there could be voices inside our heads that compel us to kill is a real world fear. The idea of that kind of insanity existing in the world terrifies us and makes us hope that we will never be the victim of one of these loonies—or become one of these loonies ourselves.

Well, I should say most people are afraid when they think of this. Robert Kirkman was inspired. He applied this idea to your typical vigilante and put a new spin on an old character type. The lead character of this story kills the bad guys to satisfy his own, personal head voice—and to make sure the voice never asks him to kill his wife and daughter. Pretty grim stuff, but very interesting.

Robert Kirkman (W), Joe Benitez (A), Top Cow/ Image Comics, $2.99. One-shot.

Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk #1:

One thing I’ve learned in my decades of comic book readership, is that when a solicitation asks “What secrets will be revealed?” the answer usually is, “none whatsoever.” The identity of who the Red Hulk is has been keeping message boards buzzing for months. Naturally, hinting that secrets will be revealed, as the solicitation for this one did, with such a big mystery yet unsolved would be a good selling technique. However, that doesn’t mean that you will be learning the identity of the Crimson Creature just yet.

What you will get is another installment of the “Fall of the Hulks” crossover and at least some insight into the Red Hulk’s motivations and master plan. But will this series reveal who the Red Hulk is? Well, take into consideration that Jeph Loeb is not the one writing this miniseries. That should give you a pretty big hint right there. 

Jeff Parker (W), Carlos Rodrigues (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Astro City: The Dark Age Book Four #1:

The Williams brothers’ long quest to find the killer of their parents is at long last nearing an end. One is after vengeance, one is after justice, but both might be biting off more than they can chew. The results of their efforts might cause the dark age they’re in to turn pitch black.

You can view the Astro City franchise as glorified fan fiction. But as long as the fans are Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson, they can write as much fiction as they’d like. This will be the last miniseries in the Dark Age storyline and when it ends, Astro City will return as an ongoing series. This makes this mini an excellent jumping on point. 

Kurt Busiek (W), Brent Anderson (A), DC/Wildstorm Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Iron Man: I Am Iron Man #1:

Comic book adaptations of films are not unusual. However, they usually arrive when the films are still in the theaters, not almost two years later. But that’s what is happening here as this series adapts the 2008 movie into comic book form, just before the sequel arrives in May.

Of course, anyone who would be interested in knowing what happened in the first film either saw the film when it was released or just rented the DVD. A comic book adaptation at this stage in the game is rather superfluous. But, if you are a collector of all things Iron, at least you have an adaptation written by Peter David (who also adapted the same film into a novelization), and former Iron Man comic artist Sean Chen. That’s a pretty good tandem.

Peter David (W), Sean Chen (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Two-Issue Miniseries.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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