Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Jason Orfalas
Publisher: Image Comics
Retro Rocket #1 raises some interesting points about humanity and technology but lacks an original premise overall. The idea that a robot with a human brain is considered old-school technology here is a great idea and definitely something for this series to grow on. Also, that same brain, trapped in a hulking metallic outer shell, has human emotions and conflicts, which is also a great starter for the series. However, when you put these two elements together, as well as the other parts of this issue, you end up with a stew that has much of the same flavor you may be accustomed to in your comic book reading, especially if you dabble into manga titles like I do. While it’s a nice Image package and contains lots of pretty pictures and cool action, there is not a lot of originality in this issue, even though the potential is there.
Both Tony Bedard and Jason Orfalas must have boned up on Japanese manga before they undertook this project. The script and the art scream manga! Bedard includes stylized action, wacky humor, mechs with or without human drivers, and even a little fan service. What’s more, the social disconnect that Retro feels from his ‘fellow’ humans is a very typical element in Japanese entertainment (for instance, Full Metal Alchemist). Yet his story is not completely eastern in its approach, and the western touches that I detected kept me interested in the issue. The Clint Eastwood-style takedown of the enemy and Retro’s responsibility to military and country stand as the prime examples of that western style. Still, Bedard draws heavily from many manga and anime conventions, and I think it takes away a lot of the issue’s potential emotional power. There just seems to be a little too much cuteness for a story such as this, even though fun seems to be a major ingredient.
In regards to Orfalas’s art, you can see that there is a lot of attention paid to the details of the mecha and Retro. As in all mecha Japanese comic books, the robots are designed with the utmost care and thought, since much of the target audience is technology obsessed. Plus, the colors here are super bright and very vivid, giving the mecha a very futuristic, yet light-hearted, feel which echoes many anime programs. Finally, the human characters are shown continually with screaming mouths and gritted teeth, techniques the Japanese employ throughout their manga. Do I sound like a broken record yet?
Bottom line: this is an entertaining comic book that is cotton candy for the comic book lover’s soul. It’s not the worst three bucks you will ever spend, but you could probably do a lot better if you’re looking for a substantial story. Put another way, it’s a heckuva lot cheaper than buying manga volumes!
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