Atomic Robo and the Temple of Od

Atomic Robo and the Temple of Od is written by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener.

Atomic Robo is in pre-World War II China, where the Imperial Japanese Army is forcing a Chinese scientist to work on a super weapon. Fortunately, the good guys have volunteered Robo to save the scientist.

There’s a bit of a Casablanca feel to this tale, since Robo’s working with an old flame, Helen McAllister and her new love, Chen Zhen, both of whom are fighting for the Chinese Resistance.

“Was that a real explosion?”
“It was! Robo’s alive!”

Add in a hidden fortress and a constantly-switching-sides band of mercenaries called the Ghost Bandits, and it’s a winner of a tale.

Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire

Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire is written by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener.

Atomic Robo is back in his own time! Or he will be, as soon as someone finds his remains. The problem is that two years have past since Atomic Robo: The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur and the Action Scientists have been broken up and scattered.

Oh, plus there’s this little problem of supergiant monsters attacking the world with a plan of destroying everything.

This one’s got spaceships, giant Japanese-style monsters attacking the coast, breaking-and-entering, robot body issues, and every bit of explosion-y fighting you’ve learned to expect from an Atomic Robo adventure.

Atomic Robo and the Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur

Atomic Robo and the Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur is written by Brian Clevinger and drawn by Scott Wegener.

I love Dr. Dinosaur.

It is 100% clear that Dr. Dinosaur is totally out of his depth fighting Atomic Robo and his crew. It is also pretty clear that Atomic Robo underestimates Dr. Dinosaur, but exactly how that will play out is, as always, the plot of the book.

Dr. Dinosaur is only the primary plot of this volume, with the whole of Tesladyne Labs at risk of political and financial destruction by their enemies.

This book is simultaneously fun and goofy and a romp, and a serious step forward in the fate of Tesladyne Labs and Atomic Robo — with a cliffhanger ending, so grab Atomic Robo and the Knights of the Golden Circle while you’re at it.

Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific

How have I not written about Atomic Robo before??

OK let’s start with the basics: Atomic Robo is a comic about a robot built by Nikola Tesla in the 1920s who goes on to become a PhD, a World War II flying ace, the founder of the company Tesladyne, thwarter of the Cold War, an astronaut, and an inventor.

He battles Dr. Dinosaur, numerous Russian, Chinese, or Japanese enemies, a giant robot pyramid, and of course his creator’s nemesis, Thomas Edison.

We’re talking good old fashioned comic books here.

But they’re not just good old-fashioned comic books, they’re good old fashioned comic books written and illustrated by creators that understand what the flaws of old-fashioned comic books were and they do not repeat those mistakes.

For example, Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific is not just a post-WWII comic about an attempt at Japanese conquest via a super weapon. It’s not just a graphic novel about women pilots and mechanics who become air pirates over the Pacific. No, it’s all of those things and it’s a send-up to eight women in the comics industry who are fantastic in their own right.

Author Brian Clevinger summarizes their goals in the introduction:

The text doesn’t contort itself to show these ladies in a positive light. Nor does it pat itself on the back for featuring these ladies as its main characters in the first place. It doesn’t make bad guys say sexist things so you know they’re bad and wrong. No one praises the She-Devils’ ability or know how or pluck for a girl. None of them picks a lock with a hairpin to save the day.

Because normal is what goes unremarked upon.

I love it when a comic team doesn’t need to make a big deal out of women characters because, in the context of their universe, women are as common as men, and as accepted. Doubly so for an action/adventure type where honor, hard work, and sacrifice are driving the plot.

Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific is volume 7 of the Atomic Robo series and I’ve got at least four more volumes waiting for me in the library. This may have been the first time I’ve mentioned Atomic Robo, but these comics are so good you can be pretty sure it won’t be the last.

Unrig: How to fix our broken democracy by Daniel G. Newman

Having been raised in a mostly-white mostly-middle-class part of a purple state, I understood that the United States is a government for, by, and of the people. But for the last ten years or so that hasn’t felt like it was particularly true anymore… and it wasn’t just because of the presidential election or the current unrest. Nobody seemed to be able to tell me why, though, and the few that tried fell into traps of Democrat and Republican stereotype talking points and attacks on the other party.

Which didn’t make sense, really, because I know Democrats and Republicans and while everyone has points they differ on, we’re really not as far apart (on the whole) at the grass roots level as we believe. Heck, I was raised Republican, and the Republican party of today is definitely not espousing the same values as the one that existed when I was in high school.

So what the heck’s been happening? Why can’t we get along? Who the hell are the Koch Brothers and why do I care? How is Betsy DeVos in charge of education and why does it look like she’s purposely destroying public schools? Why are the elections swinging directions that we don’t expect, or don’t want?

When Scott McCloud mentioned Unrig: How to Fix Our Broken Democracy on Twitter I decided to give it a shot, and it’s done a very good job of describing the forces that are pressuring both our elected officials and the elections themselves.

Daniel Newman puts forth a case (with a sizable bibliography) that the ultra-rich in the US banded together and started playing a long game years ago with the intent to take control of the democracy out of the hands of common citizens like you and me. Dark money influences both elections and the elected. It changes how our electoral maps are drawn. It prevents fair elections. It increases the financial effects of corporate lobbyists to get what they want.

It’s a freaking mess.

But this book isn’t just an explainer for what’s happened over the last 20-50 years. It’s also an explanation for what we, the people, can actually do about it. It explains ranked choice voting, clean elections, the Voting Rights Act, gerrymandering, and many other political tools that we can use to make our democracy more or less fair, and then what we can do to wield those tools.

And look, if you’ve fully bought into the narrative that the government should be small and helpless and distrusted, or that people shouldn’t help each other or work together for better lives because it’s a dog-eat-dog world, you’re probably not going to be a big fan. This book assumes that neighbors help neighbors, we all want better lives, and we can work together to get them. It doesn’t ascribe to any specific ideology although it does make it clear that most of the dark money from the ultra-rich is going into the Republican party with the specific intent to undermine democracy.

This book is for disillusioned Republicans, frustrated Independents, confused Democrats, and everyone else who’s looking for an explanation of our current political and democratic situation in clear terms, with a compelling and precise visual and textual story. It’s for everyone that needs a graphic novel (graphic textbook?) refresher in that civics class you might not have had in five, ten, twenty, or thirty years. It’s for people thinking of getting into politics now, people thinking of getting into politics later, and people who are just sick of attack ads on television and always having the worst choices at the election box.

The book has an accompanying website for bringing people who want to unrig our democracy together. And it’s time.