Welcome to the Comic Archive! There have been so many amazing stories, characters, and series produced from comic book publishers for almost 100 years now; this column will serve to celebrate some of the tales you may or may not know about. Each week, we’ll take a story arc or trade paperback/collected story from a non-new comic (three years old or further back), and discuss the details with you.
Put frankly, ‘That’s Because You’re a Robot’ is a difficult book to quantify. Release intentionally as a “one-shot” stand-alone issue by Image Comics in 2014, it’s clear that there were never any plans to continue this series; this is a self-contained story, and what you see inside the pages is all you’re going to get. Now, creators always reserve the right to dive back into their worlds and make more if they so desire, and BAFTA Award-winning writer David Quantick and quirky industry stalwart artist Shaky Kane certainly reserve that right… but it’s been five years since the book’s original release, so I’m thinking that the odds are good that this ship has sailed.
The big thing about the book that makes it a challenge to comprehend and think about, then, is the fact that the story receives no real resolution at the conclusion of this issue. This in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve long been a proponent of tales that don’t outline every little thing for its audience and doesn’t tie up all the plot lines in a convenient little package. But I believe that the “average reader” certainly does expect these things, as most books, TV shows, movies, etc., routinely provide these conclusions for their audience members. With that in mind, then, ‘That’s Because You’re a Robot’ is going to make lots of its readers feel some very strange feelings as they finish this book.
This, however, is no reflection on the plot of the story itself – on this front, Quantick has delivered in spades. In future Los Angeles, two police officers and partners are told, rather bluntly by their commanding officer, that one of them is a human and one is a robot, but no one is certain which is which. This fact in and of itself is enough to keep a story flowing, but immediately following this revelation, the duo has to continue on their current assignment.
That assignment appears to be on the surface nothing more than a simple “tail and track,” but the two end up getting in over their heads when they stumble into an undercover operation. From there, the “buddy cop adventure” type of story takes things to the extreme with futuristic firefights, the duo being unfairly demoted but still working the case covertly, and discovering a deep well of corruption and cover-ups contained within the LAPD. Oh, and this is all going down while the pair continue to argue with each other on which of them is the human and which is the robot.
The book seems like such a simple, straightforward type of tale (with a bit of a robo-twist thrown in for good measure, of course), but it’s got a surprising amount of depth to it. You get all the buddy-cop genre cliches: surly police chief, reckless driving, unnecessary civilian endangerment, plot twists, corruption, shootouts, breaking the rules with the best of intentions, and so on. The fact that the narrative is set in the future also allows for some additional wackiness in the form of flying cars, and a truly bizarre rogue’s gallery of villains that show up towards the conclusion of the book to make life even more difficult for our pair of cops.
The art is a fantastic blend of retro-style, EC Horror-esque visuals with some modern flair; in this department, artist Kane delivers in spades, and each panel is chock-full of visual delights that can keep a reader staring at the page much longer than it takes to read the text contained therein. It’s a really fun book to read, plain and simple, but readers need to be forewarned: there will be no further parts of this story to discover once you close the cover on this book. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and this book can certainly be enjoyed on its own merits, but it’s certainly something you want to know going in.
Got a comic, character, or story arc that you’d like to see covered by the Comic Archive? Feel free to list it in the Comments below or send your recommendation directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – see you in the funny papers!