Overview

Robotika #1

Review

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Robotika #1

Credits

  • Words: Alex Sheikman
  • Art: Alex Sheikman
  • Inks: Alex Sheikman
  • Colors: Joel Chua
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Price: $3.95
  • Release Date: Dec 7, 2005

In a far-off future, the delicate balance between humans and cyborgs is threatened by an invention that will restructure society. One silent samurai stands between peace and civil war.

In a distant and virtually unrecognizable future, technology has progressed at an exponential rate, producing human enhancements, intelligent machines, and cyborgs. Generations of cyborgs come and go, each new model rendering previous models obsolescent. The discarded cyborgs drift to the fringes of society, where they dwell hating their human masters. The social order is threatened by the development of a totally new lifeform—a cyber-genetic hybrid that can learn, develop, and reproduce on its own. And when the hybrid’s inventor, Dr. Rha Agon is murdered and his creation stolen, The Queen calls in the elite of her guards, Niko, the silent techno-samurai. His mission—retrieve the hybrid in four days, when The Queen will announce its creation in hopes of staving off a civil war. Niko embarks on this perilous assignment, and soon joins up with an early generation cyborg named Cherokee Geisha. Soon he learns that who has the hybrid is no secret. Going after it—that’s the big problem.

Few first issues are as jam-packed with genre elements as Robotika #1. Evoking classic science fiction, traditional samurai tales, and the timeless hero’s journey, Alex Sheikman’s story also has touches of the western, the action/adventure, the mystery, as well as the alternative, conspiratorial fiction of J. G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick. Then, to engage the reader even more, Sheikman remixes this melange of genres with a pulp storytelling sensibility that nevertheless confronts the reader with some deep questions about what it means to be "human" once man’s technology undermines that which makes him different from the machines he’s created. The result is a fresh and startling amalgam that reaffirms what a wild ride comics readers can get for less than five bucks.

The plot is deceptively straightforward, particularly once one considers the conflicts and the motivations of the opposing sides between which Niko is caught. The Queen gives her bad-ass bodyguard a simple mission with a lofty goal. But staving off a civil war for the humans is the perpetuation of oppression and deprivation for the cyborgs. And the cyborgs themselves, creations of dizzyingly advanced levels of technology, have come to hate that which has created them. The nature of this master/slave tension is intriguing and heightens the drama as Niko sets off to find the hybrid. And of Niko himself, while he may seem as simple as the plot, perhaps even a stereotypical character, it’s his silence that gets us thinking. Does he see the bigger picture? If or when he does, will he carry out his mission and remain as much a slave as those to whom he’s opposed?

To Sheikman’s credit, these sorts of questions arise after the third or fourth reading, because his magnificent artwork puts the world he’s created in the foreground. Indeed, his pencil and brush bring as many styles to bear as his keyboard. At once we see the influences of Jack Kirby and Japanese prints in his fluid anatomies and proportions, 2000 A.D. in his organic tech and sprawling architecture, Hellboy’s Mike Mignola in his sparse but dynamic panel constructions. And though the violence and chaos of his action sequences brings the likes of Miller to mind, Sheikman’s skills, when taken as a whole, are all his own. However much of a question mark Niko is as a character, his creator’s character design—part futuristic covert op, part Kurosawa swordmaster—leaves a real impact on the reader. Likewise, Sheikman depicts Robotika as a world in which "the future" exists side-by-side with "the past," his extremely fertile imagination driving home with images how it’s all made possible by that sometimes frightening obsession with newness and progress that defines technology.

2005 will most likely be remembered in comics as The Year of Massive Crossovers and Big Events. The title is certainly apt, but beneath all the sturm und drang kicked up by The Big Two, 2005 has also been a year of solid and sometimes brilliant debuts and first issues across a wide range of genres and publishers. Count Alex Sheikman’s Robotika #1 among them.

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