Malinky Robot is quite possibly the most charming set of comics that I have ever read. I was absolutely enchanted from cover to cover by the enthralling personality of this book. You know how you can sometimes get a feel from certain books? Malinky Robot feels like reuniting with an old friend. Itís a comforting tale full of emotion that focuses on the adventures of two friends in a futuristic, grunge metropolis. Rather than some epic, long story about saving the world thatís been done a dozen times, Malinky Robot is instead about a simple journey through the lives of two kids.
This my first venture into Liewís work and Iím pretty impressed. The overall style and details interwoven in the story is what really makes this a beautiful piece of art. You get a myriad of emotions while reading these stories -- sadness, happiness, whimsy, amusement. If you can name it, youíll probably feel it. Thatís the nice thing about a collection of stories -- variety! Inside these pages youíll see stories about fish, dreams, robots, Transformers, friendship and an overall feeling of bravery as you learn about Atari and Oliver. These kids go through a lot on a daily basis, but they refuse to whine about it.
Despite the fact that these kids obviously live dysfunctional lives -- thereís really no mention of parents or homes and theyíre clearly very poor -- the main characters have a laid back view of life. A bit like that saying from Finding Nemo, "just keep swimming." Nothing really seems to faze these kids. Thereís an underlying tone of whimsical sadness in the story because of that, but more on the readerís part. Like for instance, when you see how much Atari and Oliver want to go to school so they can achieve a dream job like flying airplanes. In the "Stinky Fish" story, they come so close to the possibility, but it's snatched away by bad circumstances. You can't help but feel bad for them. Afterward, instead of acting like their world was crushed, they just shrug it off and go on with their day. This is a kind of introspective story; one that makes you look at your own life and wonder if you were put in the same circumstances, would you be able to keep your head above water and still find enjoyment in life like they do?
Atari and Oliver see the world through both the eyes of children and the eyes of a much older, jaded adult. All of these stories are about taking a bad situation and seeing the upside to it. No matter whatís going on, these kids still find a way to have fun. Even if it means "borrowing" items. Though I honestly think they really would take everything back. These friends arenít malicious in any way. They donít even seem to have bad thoughts towards other people. They live in the huge, dirty cityscape of Saníya and still manage to be excited over something like going to the movies to see Transformers. The childlike quality is what really makes Malinky Robot stand out. Questions like "Does that robot shoot lasers out of its butt?" or "Is the fish really the cause of that smell?" lend a comedic aura to the stories without being unrealistic. I would expect a 10-year-old child to say a robot isnít legit unless it shoots lasers out of its rear.
Look up every synonym for the word gorgeous, because thatís what Iím going to use to describe Liewís artwork. The art is what animates this comic to life and what drew me to Malinky Robot in the first place. Thereís a sketch quality to his work, but by no means does that make it look unfinished. Once glance at any page can tell you that Liew spent a great deal of time making sure every panel was perfected. There were parts where the kids would talk about the backstory of a character called Mr. Bon Bon and instead of just having dialogue, Liew went so far as to include renditions of popular comic strips like Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes and even turn the side story into its own comic within a comic. Itís that kind of creative thinking that makes Malinky Robot stand apart from all the others.
You can tell from the hairstyles, clothing and overall look of Saníya, that this is obviously meant to be an Asian city with a science fiction personality, but the artwork looks nothing like an anime. Thereís a good amount of blended, muted colors as well. The lack of gaudy, surprising contrast gives more of an older, comfortable feel. I donít really have much to compare it to, due to the originality of Liewís art, but the colors suggest more of an older comic and the style itís drawn in is definitely new. Itís a unique blend of the two that was pulled off magnificently; enough that Iíll definitely be looking into more of Liewís projects.
Overall, Malinky Robot was a gem to read. It's one of those books that I'll probably read over and over. Liew achieved a fantastic combination of urban fantasy and childlike wonder packed in a box of adventure where nobody can predict what'll happen next. Atari and Oliver are fantastically written, lovable kids who could teach the world a thing or two. The artwork was just astounding and makes me wish I had a piece or two to put up on my wall. I would highly recommend anyone to allow Malinky Robot the chance to charm your socks off, because I have no doubt that you'll love it.
Felicity Gustafson was born in Ohio and, after the astounding realization that there was more to do than look at trees and cows, she decided to become a nerd and got into comics, anime and video games. New to Comics Bulletin, she sticks mostly to reviewing things out of the horror and comedy genres. She spends most of her time working in the manufacturing industry, finishing her computer degree and steadfastly avoiding ham fat at all costs.
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