Sunday, September 20, 2015

CBR:Quickies RoboCop (Dark Horse Comics)

It's time to look at RoboCop's missing comic book years - the RoboCop series from Dark Horse Comics!

Part man. Part machine. All cop.

Outside his film trilogy, RoboCop has known all sorts of adventures in the comics. Starting first with a classic run at Marvel Comics in the late 1980s. Following a comic adaptation of RoboCop 1 and 2, Dark Horse Comics would then acquire the license to produce their own comics adding to their ever-growing number of licensed comics in the 1990s.

Dark Horse's run of RoboCop comics was short live but memorable.

They launched the title by immediately publishing a crossover mini-series, Frank Miller's infamous RoboCop Versus The Terminator. This would soon be followed by several more RoboCop miniseries: RoboCop: Prime SuspectRoboCop: Mortal Coils and RoboCop: Roulette.

Alongside these titles two stories were also featured as backup feature in the anthology series Dark Horse Comics issues #1–3 (a story leading to the events seen in Prime Suspect) and Dark Horse Comics #6–9 (a prequel to Mortal Coils). And Dark Horse also made a RoboCop 3 adaptation.

I'm just going to focus on the 3 main titles below...

Comic title: RoboCop: Prime Suspect 
Written by John Arcudi
Art by Paul Leon
Format: Mini-series RoboCop: Prime Suspect issues #1-4.

The story is set some time after the films. It acts as a direct sequel of sorts to the series.

Alex J. Murphy is now perfectly integrated into the Detroit police force. But lately there's been a lot of street war, crime gangs fighting one another, and it might just be too much for one robot cop to face.

OCP - the Omni Consumer Products - is long gone. But now there's short of a fallout and people are picking the old enterprise apart for scrubs. This eccentric entrepreneur Insane Izzy wants to sell his own products and he has been bashing RoboCop's role. And now Izzy is finally found dead... shot by RoboCop's gun?? A gun only RoboCop can fire!!

RoboCop must now clear his name. But even RoboCop's memories might not be that reliable since they can be tampered with. RoboCop ends up on the run, helped by the only people that believes him, the original technician that helped put Alex Murphy's brain into RoboCop, Dr. Marie Lazarus.

Meanwhile these new machines - the ZED-309s - are added to the police force as part of the push to get rid of RoboCop, courtesy of scientist Matthew Zieske. And they avoid the problem of the previous ED-209 models by removing the robotic brain and having a regular human control them from afar.

Will RoboCop clear is name on time and avoid the destructive onslaught after him?!

Overall: This first 4-issue mini was published from October 1992 to January 1993. The story comes from the creator of The Mask and regular Dark Horse writer John Arcudi.

Prime Suspect had a pretty simple and clear enough pitch - RoboCop, framed for murder and trying to clear his name. It takes place shortly after RoboCop 3. But it doesn't seem to add anything new really. It's more or less the same thing we already seen three times (in all three films, in one form or another). Even the new addition, the ZED-309s are just a simple recolor of our classic ED-209s.

I liked the addition (or return) of Marie Lazarus. It was a nice use of the character, tying it back into the films. (And replacing Lewis, killed stupidly enough in R3).

The art on the other hand was pretty terrible. Nothing against artist Paul Leon, his recent work can be pretty good. But in RoboCop? It was really bad. I can get used to "90s extreme" art styles, but the awful lazy coloring really ruined it for me. And Marie Lazarus looked nothing like her movie counterpart..

It's a kind of bland and generic story, serviced with terrible artwork.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: RoboCop: Mortal Coils 
Written by Steven Grant
Art by Nick Gazzo
Format: Mini-series RoboCop: Mortal Coils issues #1-4.

"Mortal Coils" takes RoboCop on the road for a change of scenery!

Meet Federal Marshal Alex Murphy! That's right, RoboCop was deputized by the government to go after a certain John Coffin. Still following the OCP fallout, vultures are now coming around to clean the corpse "illegally" so to speak. This man Coffin is now running some spare parts-business with people looking to get their hands on OCP's phenomenal ground-breaking work. RoboCop is charge to find who's collecting the pieces.. and for what reason.

With Marie Lazarus running a micro-lab in a van, they arrive in Colorado on the snow only to be attacked by Hooks and his pirates of hi-technology trying to steal the van. They're warmly welcomed by RoboCop.

Arrived in Denver, they get to the police station only to find a local police over there even more corrupted!

They later this rich guy, Edward Agincourt has scientists trying to replicate OCP's innovative brain transplant methods to allow him to become immortal! He even has this golden cyborg body waiting for him. But when he's accidentally shot dead, they're forced to put his brain into a nearby ED-209 instead!!

Caught in between a local war between Coffin, Hooks, Mr. Agincourt and the local cops, RoboCop can only count on Dr. Lazarus and what made Alex Murphy a damn' good cop to survive the night!

Overall: Another 4-issue mini, Mortal Coils was published between September and December 1993.

The story itself was a lot more fun and action-packed than the last one. Steven Grant took RoboCop out of his usual element to have him chase some criminals in the snow. It plays with the same subjects as all these Dark Horse RoboCop stories do - the OCP break-in - and has someone trying to voluntary be given the same treatment Alex Murphy was forced into.

Nick Gazzo is just as much a product of the time, but he has a real crack for giant robots. So his ED looks great, the robots look impressive and the guns are all huge. The Coffin character kind of ridiculous though, but he worked in an over-the-top Paul Verhoeven-kind of way.

It was nice getting to see RoboCop outside Detroit for a change. And the story wasn't that terrible this time. Plus I liked the little details such as RoboCop forced to have Dr. Lazarus tag along, "just in case". And the mini-lab in the van. And the tie-in with OCP. All in all, it was a decent mini.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: RoboCop: Roulette
Written by John Arcudi
Art by Mitch Byrd   
Format: Mini-series RoboCop: Roulette issues #1-4.

The final tale in this trilogy of post OCP-related comics!

Several scientists that used to work for OCP are being target and killed by this mysterious machine, the damnest and biggest meanest robot you'll ever saw.

Turns out they're all linked, they all were hired to work on the original RoboCop project back in the day. Well, nobody knows that, OCP made sure to keep it all secret from the scientists working on the project. The "brilliant" Detective Haas put in charge of this murder case doesn't have a clue. Since RoboCop is the last known walking OCP database, he's forced to ask the hep from Murphy, but he has a grudge against Detroit's world-famous RoboCop!

In town some punks are using these old re-purposed ED-209s to cause some mayhem.

Meanwhile Marie Lazarus is forced to face the worst enemy they've ever faced.. an IRS agent!

It all comes crashing together in a tale of corrupt government agencies, shady lab practices and a last attempt to rip OCP from all their robotics discoveries.

The real question here at the end of the day is... is there still a man living inside the machine that is the "RoboCop"...?

Overall: This is a great tale to tie it all together and close this chapter.

John Arcudi is back to pen a much better story this time.

RoboCop: Roulette is the last 4-issue mini published by Dark Horse, it was released from December 1993 to March 1994.

The story begins with an intriguing murder which continues the rampage through all this series in the background. Meanwhile our main protagonist is probably this reluctant detective, forced to work with RoboCop before getting into some actual trouble. You should have collaborated with RoboCop, dude!

It all leads to the ghost of OCP in the end.

The art was good here. Mitch Byrd's work is detailed, if somewhat more cartoony on the faces.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

All in all, this was a pretty decent run of RoboCop comics. These Dark Horse Comics series are probably some of the best and more consistent RoboCop comics ever produced to this day. The art was kind of hit and miss, but they were much more in tone with both the original movie and the ongoing theme of the franchise.

There also was a RoboCop versus Predator comic proposed for Dark Horse. Some pages by Joshua Boulet have been since released online, but the comic itself was never green-lighted.

For a really long time I waited, and I waited for an Omnibus collection of these RoboCop comics, but it never came to be. Dark Horse was originally going to publish it along the Terminator OMNIBUS, but it was canceled for some unknown reason. When Dynamite picked up the license in 2014 and produced their own comics, they were going to re-release these classic Dark Horse minis in a collection of their own - and Amazon even listed it - but it was officially never released as well. So I finally ended up picking these old backlog issues instead.

After Dark Horse run, the series went in a hiatus (much like the film franchise). Avatar Press would pick up the license in 2003. After publishing Frank Miller's RoboCop based on his original screenplay for RoboCop 2, they would finally make original new material.

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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