Review – Alex Automatic #3 (Thought Bubble 18)

The first two issues of Alex Automatic delivered a mind-bending genre mash-upand introduced us to Alex Anderson, a mentally damaged government agent who, as a result of the experiments conducted on him, now believes he’s the star of a campy 1970s television show that only exists inside his own head.

This latest issue sees writer Fraser Campbell dragging us deeper and deeper down his narrative rabbit hole, with Alex’s fractured consciousness seemingly now convincing him that he’s living the life of a comic book writer, trying to keep the momentum going on his latest smash hit series.  A series called, you guessed it, “Alex Automatic.”

Campbell reminds us frequently that we’re in Alex’s subconscious throughout these sequences, but does so in a subtle, unobtrusive fashion, leaving several neat little visual Easter eggs along the way that gently hint at the events unfolding in the “real world.”

It’s also worth pointing out that James Corcoran’s artwork actually seems to be improving issue by issue, with a slightly tighter style here amidst all the creative panel layouts and eye-catching character designs.  The visuals are as dense and heavily inked as always, with detail once again being sacrificed in favour of narrative flow and energy.

The introduction of Johnny Jenkins, AKA the “Spy in a Suitcase” also opens up all manner of exciting opportunities for Corcoran, particularly in the latter stages of the issue when… well, let’s just say things start getting a little intense.

David B Cooper’s typically strong colours also go a long way towards deciphering some of the narrative ambiguity, using subtle palette shifts to differentiate between Alex’s hallucinations and the real world (or what passes for real in this book, anyway).

As unique as it is, it’s worth reiterating that Alex Automatic may be a bit of a tougher sell for readers looking for a more straightforward story.  There’s very little here that could be described as conventional, and while I’m personally a huge fan of this kind of storytelling, I can definitely see some people being put off by the continual subversion and disorientation provided by both the artwork and the writing.

At the end of the day though, Alex Automatic is a series that flat-out demands your attention, coming across like an intentionally disorienting blend of The Six Million Dollar Man and Inception.  It’s hard not to become drawn into the mystery though, and while it’s still not clear exactly what’s real and what isn’t – especially if the head-scratching final pages are anything to go by – you can definitely count me in with this series for as long as Campbell and Corcoran keep writing and drawing it.

Alex Automatic #3 launches on September 22nd at Thought Bubble in Leeds.  You can find Fraser at Table 66 in the Ask For Mercy Marquee.

However, if you can’t make it to Leeds, have no fear because you can pick up a physical copy of the comic from the Cabal Comics Online Store (CLICK HERE) shortly.

ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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