“Atomic Robo and the Knights of the Golden Circle” #1 by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener explores a new setting and genre for Robo: The Wild West. It’s 1884 in Colorado, and despite his own rules about time-travelling, Robo chooses to meddle in order to fight the wrongs of gun-toting outlaws.
Clevinger and Wegener begin with a well-executed two-page silent sequence. The lack of words is an enjoyable deviation from the norm. The reader can take in the new setting gradually, and Robo’s handmade wall calendar quickly clues the reader in that we’re in the past now as the result of some time travel. Wegener’s clean lines, attractive composition, and the feeling of space in his interiors and outdoors scenes are all strong draws into the story.
Clevinger also adds a new element of interest in introducing a local legend about “Ol’ Ironhide.” Either it’s a case of mistaken identity, or Robo went even further into the past on another trip, and it adds another layer of mystery. Time travel creates all kind of annoying storytelling pitfalls, but Clevinger has used lightly enough thus far as a way to place Robo throughout the ages, so it hasn’t overtaxed credulity yet.
The action is fast-paced, leading readers into a siege standoff in a saloon by the end of the issue. Clevinger deliberately hits on all the classic tropes of the genre: a menacing outlaw gang, a slippery con man, card games, drinking and even off-the-cuff doctoring with the tools at hand. Clevinger has fun with the western drawl in the dialogue, adding lots of twang and slang. The best character is the dentist, “Doc” Holliday. The medical scene has a lot of humor to it, and Wegener’s facial expressions reinforce the funny moments.
Wegener’s art is attractive and easy to follow as usual, and it’s just good fun to see Robo in a poncho and cowboy hat. Clark has a good sense of design and complementary color, and happily, he maintains the spaciousness of Wegener’s pencils. The problem is that his range of hue is limited. There are reds, blues and greens as accent colors and in the background, but there’s too much brown, tan and beige. The takeaway impression of color is monotone. All the brown conveys the heat and dryness of the West, but neglects all the range of colors possible in the sun and dust.
Clevinger and Wegener’s exposition in “Atomic Robo and the Knights of the Golden Circle” #1 is friendly to new readers and uses upbeat action to relay information. The only thing that’s missing is a little more depth of characterization to give readers a stake in more than just Robo’s fate, but Doc Holliday shows that Clevinger has a handle on this kind of development if future issues have more focus on the cast. It’s a strong start and will satisfy both new and longtime readers.