As everyone knows, Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop is a science fiction classic, but after two terrible sequels and a middle-of-the-road reboot, the character hasn’t had much success outside the initial film. Thankfully things may be changing with BOOM! Studios’ new ongoing Robocop series by writer Joshua Williamson and artist Carlos Magno.
Taking place directly after the events of the original film and ignoring everything else that came after, the series’ first arc revolves around a newly released convict named Killian, who reenters the dilapidated Detroit to find everyone’s favorite cyborg cop battling the city’s worst. Killian is not a run-of-the-mill criminal, though. He is smart and cunning and his first plan of action is to turn the public against Robocop, who is still relatively new to the world.
What Williamson gets so right in the first two issues of the comic is the voice and tone of the original film. This is the hard R-rated Robocop we’ve always wanted, but never got to see again after the second film was toned down and the third movie and reboot were PG-13. The biggest fist pump moment of the whole first issue is a nice big panel featuring Robocop punching/obliterating a hostage taker’s face. It is equal parts gruesome and beautiful. It is easy to hear Peter Weller’s Alex Murphy/Robocop voice in your head when reading this book as the words fit the character so well, something that even Robocop 2 somehow managed to mess up. The comic seems to giving a larger role to the Officer Lewis character, who typically didn’t have much to do in any of the films, including the original. It is a nice change of pace, since she our current human connection to the story, while Murphy still struggles with the blurred line between man and machine. What is most clear after reading the two issues is that the creators are undoubtedly fans of the original film. The comic opens with TV character Bixby Snyder saying his popular catchphrase “I’ll buy that for a dollar” and there are plenty of other nods to the film throughout.
The art by Magno also really adds layers to the feeling that this is a natural continuation of Verhoeven’s film. The Detroit of the near future in the film is not much different than the modern city (no offense), with only a few large billboards that look semi-futuristic. Robocop is and should be the only futuristic flourish in this crime-ridden world. Weller’s performance in the film had a certain kind of physicality to it that Magno somehow manages to capture on the page. Robocop is slow, heavy, and very mechanical in his movements. He’s not agile like Terminator 2’s T-1000 and it shows in a spectacular moment when he dispatches some perps by stepping off a building and crushing their car with his massive weight. It’s not a skilled fall like something you might see Batman do. He’s like a falling wrecking ball that is taking out anything that has the misfortune of being under it when it lands.
The film was a biting satire on capitalism, advertising, action movies, and more, and while there doesn’t seem to be as much commentary in the early issues, there is a little that can be analyzed. Killian’s first major move to turn the public against the police is to get them riled up once a new law that would take their guns away is enforced. It’s not in your face about it, but Second Amendment rights is a bit of hot topic issue in the US and there are some fairly vocal people out there that would react strongly to the law if it were real. It can be inferred that it is probably no coincidence that the idea is central to the plot.
If you’re a fan of Robocop than you owe it to yourself to check out the first two issues of this series. It’s the violent and smart Robocop that people have been waiting for decades to see again. Alex Murphy is back and this time it’s the model we’ve always wanted. “Your move, creep”.