Review: Atomic Robo and the Revenge of the Vampire Dimension #1

Cover to Atomic Robo and the Revenge of the Vampire Dimension #1.

Just another day at the office.

“Bernard’s First Day”

Writer: Brian Clevinger
Penciler: Scott Wegener
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Jeff Powell

Atomic Robo’s back, regular as the sunrise. Revenge of the Vampire Dimension was originally titled Atomic Robo and Other Strangeness, and that title sums up the storytelling approach this time around. Instead of one interconnected plot arc, Team Robo’s opted to tell a four one-shot adventures featuring various plot points from Robo’s past.

Of course, the series’ big draw for the hardcore Robo fanbase isn’t necessarily issue 1, with the denizens of the Vampire Dimension returning to wreak havoc. Like Jeph Jacques’ Questionable Content and its fans’ adoration for foul-mouthed AnthroPC Pintsize, Atomic Robo has its own fan-favorite crazy bastard, Dr. Dinosaur. I’m guessing there are a lot of people who would love to see an entire Dr. D series, after his Free Comic Book Day appearance last year, but they’ll have to wait for issue 3 to temporarily sate their mammal hungers– this issue is squarely aimed at fans of Jenkins, Tesladyne’s resident badass, and his fellow Action Scientists.

Jenkins was the sole survivor of an ill-fated expedition to the Vampire Dimension, holding his own until Robo came to his rescue. That story, a backup in Atomic Robo & the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne,was an incredibly tight, tensely imagined short that told readers everything they needed to know about Jenkins’ ability to kick ass and take names. It also hinted that the Vampire Dimension was a victim of its own success; Jenkins was arguably one of the last living beings in that world, if not the only one. Out of everything in Robo canon so far, it’s my favorite story– the economy of narrative Clevinger sets up makes me completely envious.

Jenkins takes out a vampire.

Still just another day at the office.

Revenge of the Vampire Dimension has that same sparing narrative approach– a lot of the groundwork has already been laid in the Jenkins origin, which frees Clevinger and Wegener up to commence Die Hard-esque mayhem all over the Tesladyne building. Jenkins spends a great deal of the B-plot posing before his terrified coworkers like a bloodsoaked Charles Atlas, which is consistent with previous portrayals; it’s never about Jenkins in the act of mayhem, it’s about his utter unflappability in any tense situation.

Early issues of Atomic Robo garnered a bunch of comparisons to Hellboy, both fair and unfair. Robo’s A-plot in Revenge of the Vampire Dimension is one of the strongest refutations of this theory yet. Where Hellboy, especially in recent plot arcs and BPRD issues, is defined by his absence from his friends and coworkers’ lives, Robo spends all of his time as CEO with his hands firmly on the Tesladyne operation. As Tesla’s greatest creation, tasked with upholding the great work of Action Science, he can’t do anything less.

Within the space of a hectic half-hour, Robo sizes up Bernard, motivates him to embrace his inner action hero, and successfully shepherds the FNG through a class-one corporate emergency. This is the kind of interpersonal and tactical awareness and sensitivity to others Hellboy’s never going to develop– especially after the events of The Wild Hunt— and this is where Atomic Robo firmly diverges from Mignola’s work. It’s the sort of dichotomy you see all the time on Lost. Robo is a man of science, while Hellboy is a man of (uncertain) faith, and the difference between them is substantial enough to make me content that Team Robo’s not just reinventing the Ogdru-Jahad wheel.

Highly recommended.

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