Twenty-three years later, we get a comic book sequel to Paul Verhoeven’s “Robocop.” I realize that we’ve had plenty of other sequels in that time, with “Robocop” films, television shows, and comic books (from the likes of even Frank Miller and Walt Simonson). But this Dynamite Entertainment “Robocop” #1 by Rob Williams and Fabiano Neves takes place in that window between the first film and the second one — it even says so on the credits page — or perhaps it replaces the other sequels entirely. It’s a divergent path for the Robocop Family, it seems, and an attempt to capture the tone of the original movie.
But Verhoeven’s satire of corporate greed and the corruption of public service (and, really, what could be easier than satirizing corporate greed?) doesn’t translate well to comics. Or it doesn’t translate well to this comic, I should say. Without Peter Weller’s voice, Robo-officer Murphy lacks the implicit struggle between human and machine. His word balloons look like everyone else’s, and when he says lines like, “They open fire in here, it’ll be a blood bath,” not only does it sound too informal to match the movie’s Robocop tone, it doesn’t have that metallic ring of dehumanizing mechanical voice modulation. It reads like a line anyone at the precinct could have said.
So the voice is one problem, and another is the attempt to turn this comic into a tribute to the Verhoeven movie instead of tackling the story from a fresh perspective. Presumably, anyone interested in this comic would already have seen the film. (I can’t imagine why anyone would be interested in this comic, or enjoy any part of it, without a fondness for the original.) And what this comics seems to do is try to recapture some of the highlights of the film, but provide a slightly different plot. So we get the head honcho of OCP declaring that all the Detroit police officers are terminated and will be immediately replaced by working versions of those machine gun laden scout walkers that never actually work in any of the various “Robocop” incarnations.
It’s barely a spin on the concept. It’s a regurgitation of it, with an incremental step forward in time. Even the “I’d buy that for a dollar” guy shows up for a panel, as if to say, “yes, this is all the stuff you love about the first movie, but in a comic book for some reason.”
Fabiano Neves draws like a less-photo-referency Greg Land, or a Greg Land who draws slightly less attractive characters. So that’s not much of a draw either.
But at least there’s a bit of humor here, and a hint at a larger plot. It’s too much of the old stuff and not enough of a new approach, but maybe that’s what fans of the original film are looking for. Me, I’d appreciate something that stretched the concept a bit more. Or at all.