Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Brian Wood
Artwork: Jorge Coelho, Doug GarBark (colours)
Release Date: 11th April 2018
I’ve been on a bit of an early 90s comic book nostalgia trip recently, reliving the might and terror of many film franchise-based adaptations, so when I saw a new Robocop title by BOOM! Studios on the forthcoming BCP review list I knew I had to dive in and wash away the bad taste of those franchise mash-ups that were so fashionable back in the day.
You can’t spell Robocop without OCP (mainly ‘cos R’boo just isn’t an intimidating title), and on the first panel of the first page of Robocop Citizens Arrest #1 we’re reminded of who the big bads are and why they’re bad. A cop having his family’s medical insurance revoked as his wife is giving birth – and subsequently having them turfed out of the hospital (because it’s “not a hotel”) – leaves no doubt as to the situation we’re in. This is New Detroit and life is PAYG.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Leo, our newly jobless cop, is anything other than a throw away sympathetic set up because Citizens Arrest then dives heavily into corporate world-building mode. In quick succession we’re introduced to the new head of OCP, channelling a serious Ex-Machina Oscar Isaac vibe, the Mayor (who might be Jones from the films?), some implausible law enforcement droids and the general populace of New Detroit who are becoming caught up in the use of a new app by the name of R/Cop.
The R/Cop app is a simple concept; report a crime – suspected, witnessed or otherwise – and if an arrest is made or crime genuinely committed you win big! Personal vendettas, gambling addictions, miscarriages of justice, all are up for grabs and more than hinted at in this elegant story point that really is in my mind what makes an otherwise overly familiar narrative into an original and promising one.
While all this is going on you’d be forgiven for wondering where Robocop is in Citizens Arrest and just what his role in it might be. It’s not until the end of this first issue that we get any real suggestion of where we are, where we’re going and what sort of Robocop story to expect in following issues. But that’s largely the fault of being #1 in a new series that’s starting afresh and trying to be accessible to those who may not be familiar with the original films or older comics and well written enough to be engaging to any existing fans.
I should also point out that the art style is attractive, the linework and colour well done and appropriate to the story. The larger panels, I must say, that detailed landscapes and sweeping, open vistas are beautiful, very detailed and wonderfully evocative.
If you are a fan of Robocop or at least familiar with the franchise you might find there to be a distinct lack of Verhoven’s gaudy stylised violence and humour. The overall world building is good, if a little obvious. Dystopia by numbers. CEO of greedy Corp, political puppets, oppressed civilians, underclass rising being suppressed, etc. The R/Cop app is the biggest single concept and it suddenly makes the story relatable to the world we currently live in. It’s a fantastic element with a lot of potential. More please.
So what do I think of Robocop: Citizens Arrest #1? Is it good? Yes. Is it entertaining? Mildly. Is it anything new? Certainly not. What Citizens Arrest does have is bags of potential to go off in a few different directions. I’m personally hoping to see more of the app in use and how it starts to contort the portrayed society, possibly with Robocop himself being integrated into it, against his will finding himself powerless as he’s forced to uphold a brainwashed society’s twisted view of justice and the law.
Or maybe we’ll just get a straightforward redemption/return of Robocop affair with the cyborg lawman tackling the greedy corporation as well as his own man vs machine moralistic and ethical quibbles. It’s too soon to call. Not an instant recommend but certainly one to keep your eye on. Here’s looking forward to issue #2!
The writer of this piece was: Alex McElhinney
Alex Tweets from @UnicronsBeard