In roughly a month, Sonny Liew’s new graphic novel from Image Comics, Malinky Robot: Collected Stories and Other Bits is coming out. It is a stunning mixture of whimsy and sadness, as the two young leads of Liew’s Malinky Robot tales live in a world where technology is futuristic but the world itself is still pretty darn dusty and sad looking. However, young kids have been finding a good time in the midst of sadness for centuries now, and the stars of the book (Atari and Oliver) are no exception.
This graphic novel collects for the first time together all of the various stories Liew has done in this world that have appeared in a number of different books. Combined together you get a strong sense of world-building and an engaging set of characters that will alternately amuse you and make you feel great pity for them.
It is a powerful work and well worth you picking up. Read on to hear more about it and see some samples from the book.
As you can see from the cover and the fact that Atari is smoking, these are not exactly Leave it to Beaver kids you got here. These boys are urchins more than anything else. They live in the dystopian future city of San’ya and the five stories in the volume mostly follow the boys on their various misadventures.
The first tale in the volume is also the first story Liew did featuring the characters, as the boys are convinced by the friendly older man, Mr. Bon Bon, who always keeps an eye out for the boys, that there is a “stinky fish” that eats the waste from the populace of San’ya, and once it died out, the city began smelling, well, you know, stinky. So the boys set out to find the “stinky fish.”
Isn’t it remarkable how fanciful Liew can make the environment feel with his artwork while still conveying that overall sense of grime and melancholy? It’s a remarkable artistic achievement, really. I’ve long been a fan of Liew’s work (anyone remember My Faith in Frankie? He was dynamite on that – and Liew’s covers were always a regular feature when I judged books by their covers – his work for Marvel on their Bronte and Austen adaptations is nothing less than exemplary).
I am torn on what my favorite stories in the book are.
On the one hand, you have the wonderfully creative (if terribly sad) series of “Funny Pages” style pages where the Oliver and Atari learn about the background of Mr. Bon Bon, from the accidental pregnancy in high school through the accidental death of his son – all the sordid details that led to Mr. Bon Bon being where he is today, only delivered in the style of classic newspaper comic strips…
On the other hand, you have the robot, probably the best character in the whole series (and Oliver and Atari are certainly strong characters themselves – the hard-nosed Atari always having to look out for the weak-minded Oliver, but the simplistic innocence of Oliver serving as a constant reminder to Atari that sometimes lightening up and having fun is just as important as being dour and reflective). He is introduced as the servent of an elderly man who Atari and Oliver are helping move…
He feeds the cat, does the dishes, records the old man’s shows, makes rain noises to help the old man sleep – he’s basically a walking, talking appliance more than a traditional robot. And yet, he is still an artificial intelligence, even if his ways of conveying that intelligence are somewhat limited (a lot of “I am a robot”). So, in one of the stories, when his owner drunkenly forgets him in a bar far from their home, the robot sets off on an incredible journey back home. It is a sweet tale of an innocent robot lost in the sometimes unfeeling world of San’ya. It is an extremely well-crafted tale, and at the end of the day, it is likely my favorite of the stories in this collection.
This book also has pin-ups from some top of the line comic book creators (including Roger Langridge, Mike Allred and Skottie Young – WOW!) and there are design sketches by Liew of the characters.
Next Monday is the last day comic book stores can adjust their orders, so if the comic sounds good to you and you want to order it – now would be a good time to let your retailer know you are interested (although, frankly, they can still raise their orders even after next week, but still, best to do it before the final cut-off date). The Diamond code is JUN110503. Your retailer can order you a copy using that code.
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