Atomic Robo is everything that is right with comics.
Really I should just stop there, because everything I say from here on out will only delay you in heading to your local comic shop and getting yourself some Atomic Robo.
The Ghost of Station X opens with the news that astronauts are trapped in a deteriorating orbit and Atomic Robo is their only hope! From there, the story rockets (both literally and figuratively) in to high gear. At the same time, and entire building has gone missing in London, revealing a mystery that has more layers than mom’s 7 Layer Bar. Amazingly, the doomed astronauts and the missing building may not be as unrelated as they first seem. Add to that the fact that everyone seems to be out to get him, and this is not shaping up to be Robo’s best day.
What really struck me about this volume of Atomic Robo was how personal it was. That may sound strange when we are discussing a comic about a wise-cracking robot created by Nikola Tesla almost 100 years ago, but that is almost irrelevant. The story that became the Ghost of Station X actually was created quite some time ago. But both Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener were not ready to tell it. They worked at it, nibbled around the edges, and re-shaped it for a number of years. Along the way they both became more competent and confident storytellers.
So The Ghost of Station X feels a bit different than other Atomic Robo collections. The witty banter is toned down a bit (yes, it is still there, it just is not at the forefront of every scene). The action scenes are a bit more brutal and violent, highlighting the danger and trauma that comes from attempting to stop megalomaniacal plans. And the final climax is far more emotional and intellectual than guns and explosions (but, yes, there are plenty of explosions). What is left is a book that feels like it has turned a corner and is now ready to take on bigger problems and not shy away from a challenge.
Scott Wegener notes in his artist statement at the start of the book how he approached this volume differently than any other so far. He had hit a roadblock in his art and was starting to feel lost. But then he rediscovered Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo and the boyish thrill that came with it. Suddenly Wegener was ready to take more chances, go bigger, go bolder, and challenge himself to do more. There are loving nods to Akira throughout this book, and you can almost see Wegner smile as he draws them.
Even the foreword by Greg Rucka is deeply personal. He writes about growing disenfranchised with the Big Two in comics and generally losing his love of the medium. But Atomic Robo reminded him there was another path. There was a way that comics could be fun, could be wild, and could operate successfully outside of the parameters set by Marvel and DC.
From cover to cover, Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X proves that comics can be and still are a fun, vibrant medium. Best of all, it does not require readers to have an encyclopedic understanding of everything that has happened before. So, even though this is the 6th volume of the series, it is a great jumping on point for new readers. So, head out to your LCS, pick up Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X and re-discover the joy that is comics.