‘Where do all the robots go?’. It’s a pretty good question, when one thinks about it, just another of the many things comics never really address. When mad scientist X, Y or Z comes in to town, the proud new owner of something large, shiny, ambulatory and looking to cause some ruckus, and said shiny thing is quickly reduced to a collection of paperweights of various size…where do they all go? As always, Astro City is here to shine a light on the lesser-known side of any comic book universe, the robot junk yard.
Our protagonist for the issue Ellie, an elderly woman who finds and repairs robots left behind from various supervillain battles and collects them as part of a museum, though it’s really more of a tourist attraction. Rather than just tourist attractions and a quick source of revenue, Ellie considers the robots her friends, and when the crowds are gone they spring to life like a shambling, creaking Island of Misfit Toys. But when Ellie’s nephew Fred turns up on her doorstep, change is inevitably brought into her world, and not change for the better.
The issue is another strong entry in the Astro City library, though one not without its faults. The deepest and most cavernous of these is the leap asked of the reader when they’re expected to believe that an elderly woman with no stated engineering background is able to repair and maintain what must be wonders of science even in a universe as full of fantastical tech as that of Astro City. Is Ellie a former supervillain or hero? Possessed of some sixth sense for machinery? Is she just really, really smart? Unanswered questions abound, and hopefully the answers will come in the story’s second installment next month. That one problem aside, the issue does a fine job in establishing the status quo for Ellie’s little slice of the Astro City universe, and then deftly shattering it. It’s clear from the outset that Nephew Fred is up to no good, and it should be interesting to see where things go next.
Astro City 14 isn’t the most exciting or original of the series, asking a bit much of the reader at times, and for all the cleverness of the premise, it has some stiff competition from previous issues. All the same, it works well enough and with a solid conclusion could prove to be an above average storyline.