Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Surfing the Bleed Review - Robot 13 Issue #3

Whenever creators pour a healthy amount of their time into self-publishing a book, they deserve credit from their peers. Whether the finished product is worthy of sitting on the shelf next to some of the biggest and best names in comics isn't always the point. As an industry, we should always strive to support the efforts of creators who believe in a story so strongly that they're willing to sacrifice their own time and their own money and often, their own sanity, to deliver it to us.

So before I write this review of Robot 13 issue three by Thomas Hall and Daniel Bradford, I would just like to congratulate them both on finishing their first arc. I count both men as friends and I can attest to the difficulties they've encountered on their journey to this point, but I can also tell them both that its been well worth it. Robot 13 is a great comic and issue three is the best issue yet.

I'm a fan of living fiction, of life imitating art and vice versa, of moments where the line between a creator and his creation begins to blur. Perhaps that wasn't the intention of writer Thomas Hall when he set out to write this issue of his mythological epic, but sometimes stories have a way of taking over and drawing from some place deep inside of us that we're never entirely aware of. Let's detour for a moment and I'll attempt to explain what I mean.

Issue Three of R13 is a big step forward for both the writer and the artist. While the first two issues have certainly been good, issue three sets the bar much higher. When looking back on what will hopefully be two very successful careers, Hall and Bradford may well mark this point as the moment when they went from being struggling self-publishers to bonafide creators.

The same Campbell-esque hero's journey, the same myth-building, the same frightening monsters and sweeping cinematic action are here, but they're just bigger, better...more. This is where Robot 13 levels up. In this issue we find out more about the main character's backstory, discover that at least some believe him to be the newest incarnation of the deadly monster-fighting Man of Bronze (a subtle homage to Doc Savage, the character who started it all?) and are introduced to Lucky, our robot champion's newest companion. As per usual, all of these scenes are illustrated with aplomb by the immensely talented Daniel Bradford, who distances himself from the Mignola comparisons with each issue, creating a wide angle style reminiscent of Frank Quitely and John Cassaday cut through with the sort of inhuman grotesquery that is the trademark of the great horror comic illustrators of yore.

All of these things come together to create the last chapter of the first volume of Robot 13, a story that ends on a beginning. In the last panel, we see our hero walking toward the camera, his new companion in tow, heading certainly into the unknown future that awaits him. This image is reflective of the creators' path itself, as Hall and Bradford continue down the unknown road on their quest to deliver this story to as many people as are willing to read it.

I'm aware that this blog has a very limited readership, but I'm also aware that it is occasionally visited by people in the industry with more than a little clout. If you are one of those people then I implore you to give Robot 13 a serious look. The hard work of creators like Thomas Hall and Daniel Bradford, the willingness to sacrifice for this medium that they love, deserves to be rewarded and Robot 13 is the kind of story that deserves to be told for a long, long time.

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