Even in the future of the future of law enforcement there is room for improvement

Frank Miller's Robocop #1

Frank Miller's Robocop; Avatar Press; issues 1-9 (of 9); 2003-06; $3.50 to $3.99, 36 pgs ea.; collection (2007), $29.99.

Like most media with a Frank Miller credit on it, Frank Miller’s Robocop does not aged well. More accurately, as far as Robocop goes anyway, it doesn’t improve with age or maturity. It was always as bad as it is now, every reading another bloody stab at nostalgia. Frank Miller’s Robocop is an adaptation of Miller’s original Robocop 2 script. It’s a pseudo-infamous script—Miller, hot off Dark Knight loves Robocop and writes the sequel. There’s a writer’s strike in there somewhere. When the sequel finally does get made, Miller’s script has been rewritten by Walon Green (who wrote some of The Wild Bunch script). The sequel doesn’t get a good reaction, everyone starts thinking it’s because Miller’s script got rewritten. But then Miller’s back for Robocop 3, which should seem weird but actually makes perfect sense because they’re really just using his Robocop 2 script ideas.

So Frank Miller’s Robocop initially comes off more like a Robocop 3 adaptation than a Robocop 2. The first three issues are just Robocop 3, then with 2 elements, but still with a bunch of 3 going on. If only adapter Steven Grant could unravel all these threads….

And he doesn’t. He leaves Robocop entirely jumbled, with Juan Jose Ryp’s highly detailed, precisely messy, very busy art not doing anything to save the comic. Ryp’s art never really hurts it—whoever gives him too many pages for action scenes, for example, is the one who hurts it. Ryp does well with fast paced action. He doesn’t do well slowing down to go through a throw-by-throw. Especially not with the comic’s version of “Robocop 2,” the big villain (sort of) in the finale. It usually feels like Grant’s never seen Ryp’s art, otherwise no one would plot out the scene the way Grant does.

Editing matters. Though with Frank Miller’s Robocop you probably don’t get to tell Frank Miller how his ideas are so bad, even a franchise-desperate movie studio could improve on them.

I’ve read this series something like three times now. Maybe four. Definitely three. I’ve read it as published (often delayed), I’ve read it slowly, I’ve binged it. It never gets any better. There’s never enough story for the issues or even the series. The first three have something like an arc, which suggests Grant might do something similar with the back six, but he doesn’t. Once the big action set pieces start, the comic rushes to get out of there way so Ryp can have too many pages to do boring action.

In the end, all Frank Miller’s Robocop does is raise questions not particularly worth having answered—did Miller write any of these characters any better, did he really have such bad plotting or was Grant trying to make it fit the nine issues (it feels like there’s one missing, though who’d want to read another one).

Robocop 2, the movie, is far from great shakes, but seeing notes on Miller’s script from the studio execs? Seeing those might be interesting, if only because there’s so much to “fix.”

(It’s also strange how few of the “regular” cast show up in the script. Makes you wonder what Miller liked about the first movie).

Advertisements

Ghosted 16 (January 2015)

Ghosted #16

It’s a done-in-one setting up the next story arc, with Williamson following the villain through his evil plans in a small German town. Juan Jose Ryp does the art, which leads to some crazy riot scenes, but the best moments of Ryp’s art are actually the kids playing. It’s a strange thing to see from Ryp (and in Ghosted) and it’s rather nice.

Actually, Ryp now does a lot of points for shading on faces and it gets annoying fast. Like it’s a Photoshop filter or something.

The story’s decent. Williamson has a lot of fun not just with the villain but setting up the situation in the town. When Jackson finally does appear towards the end of the comic to get the set up going, he’s out of place.

Williamson doesn’t just have fun with the issue, he crafts it very well. It feels enthusiastic and finished.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Miroslav Mrva; letterer, Rus Wooten; editors, Helen Leigh and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Nancy in Hell 4 (October 2010)

SEP100494_m.jpg

For the last issue, Torres decides he needs a twist ending—no spoilers, but it’s the weakest of all possible twist endings. The ending I was hoping for, one setting up an awesome sequel, does not come to pass.

Ryp returns for the final two page spread. It would have been nice to have him the whole time, though I guess the replacements do all right. Once again, Malaka Studio and Antonio Vasquez do about the level of work I’d expect from this kind of thing. This issue has some monsters. I would have loved to see Ryp draw a monster.

Torres’s writing is at times too strong for it and too weak. His plotting is uninspired (the big reveal, like I said, is the weakest of all possible) but his actual writing in scene is quite good. Way too good for Nancy in Hell.

It’s disappointing, but still readable.

CREDITS

Writer, El Torres; artists, Malaka Studio, Antonio Vasquez and Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Francis Gamboa; letterer, Malaka Studio; editor, C. Edward Sellner; publisher, Image Comics.

Nancy in Hell 2 (September 2010)

1568222-nancy-in-hell-2.jpg

More than a third of this issue is a history of Lucifer in the Nancy in Hell universe. Torres raises some interesting points—Lucifer’s just a spoke in the wheel because he never had free will. It’s an interesting moment when he realizes no matter what he does, he can’t really make a decision for himself and so he can’t change his station.

Ryp’s history of Hell is his most successful art of the issue. Many of the pages are iconic, full-page spreads retelling a familiar story with a particular bent.

Then another third is spent on Nancy’s history. It’s a slasher movie without many of the gory parts. There’s some gore, but not mostly after the fact stuff. Unfortunately, Ryp uses some kind of digital inking in this section and it looks terrible.

The last part is the setup for next issue.

It’s okay, but sliding in quality.

CREDITS

Writer, El Torres; artist, Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Francis Gamboa; letterer, Malaka Studio; editor, James Heffron; publisher, Image Comics.

Nancy in Hell 1 (August 2010)

8511757-nancy-in-hell-1.jpg

So is the title, Nancy in Hell, a reference to Nightmare on Elm Street? Torres opens with that the titular Nancy in the middle of a monologue comparing herself to an eighties horror movie star. Maybe I’m over thinking it.

Because Nancy in Hell does not offer much in the way of story or inventiveness. Actually,the soft cliffhangers compelling and unexpected. Torres does well with it.

What Nancy does offer is Juan Jose Ryp doing his first work—as far as I know, anyway—for someone other than Avatar. It’s less busy and more rounded, mainstream stuff and, oh, it is beautiful. The joke is Nancy is an eighties pin-up girl, so Ryp does get to play with the cheesecake, but really he’s bringing all his excellent action sensibilities… but not busying it too much. You can see what’s going on.

It’s beautiful.

And a not terrible read.

CREDITS

Writer, El Torres; artist, Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Francis Gamboa; letterer, Malaka Studio; editor, James Heffron; publisher, Image Comics.

Frank Miller’s Robocop 9 (January 2006)

27485_20060314154000_large.jpg

Here’s what I can’t figure out–there’s this interspecies kiss between Robocop and Lewis in this one and then Robocop goes rogue, like some kind of vigilante–why the hell do Frank Miller and Steven Grant and the boys at Avatar think someone without nuts–without sex organs of any kind–is going to be getting all passionate on his partner. His partner who he has one scene with in this entire stupid comic book.

Frank Miller’s writing sucking isn’t new. It didn’t start with All Star Batman or whatever; he was a lousy writer from the start. And I write that sentence loving Batman: Year One and lots of Dark Knight Returns and a couple of the Sin City series. His Robocop is an unholy monster; Avatar did a disservice to the franchise printing this crap.

Of course, taking nearly three years to publish it is something else entirely.

CREDITS

Writer, Steven Grant; artist, Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Mark Sweeney; editor, William A. Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Frank Miller’s Robocop 8 (April 2005)

25958_20060314153735_large.jpg

Once again we have the almost naked Officer Lewis bossing everyone around and it’s better than usual. The entire issue would have probably taken about four minutes on film, which is about how long it takes to read. One has to wonder what the Robocop producers thought when they read this script–and how long it took them to bring in a good writer like Walon Green to fix Miller’s crap.

But since it is an action issue, I can’t tell what’s going on. I can’t even tell when Ryp’s trying to draw an explosion. It could be anything yellow, like a mold or something. The comic fails on almost every level, except Grant does manage to get some sympathy for the beseiged police officers.

It’s cheap sympathy sure, but at least he’s finally realizing the reader should care about someone in the story, even if it’s almost over.

Gag.

CREDITS

Writer, Steven Grant; artist, Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Nimbus Studios; editor, William A. Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Frank Miller’s Robocop 7 (October 2004)

16281_20060127213426_large.jpg

So there’s that scene in Unforgiven where Clint Eastwood shoots the unarmed man and comments he should have armed himself, which is something like what happened about twenty-five years earlier in Hombre, but whatever.

This issue has Robocop killing a bad guy in a torturous manner. Apparently, Miller thought having government employees torture people was awesome way back in the late eighties, which answers the question of whether he was a fascist before 9/11 or just after.

It is an unpleasant, irresponsible, asinine scene, which probably sums up this entire series. I liked Steven Grant’s column when I read it, but I appear to hate his writing. Not because he writes fascist, sexist crap, rather because he can’t construct a narrative. He’s a nice guy though. Interviewed him once.

The comic’s winding down, stupider than ever. With two issues left, I shouldn’t be dreading reading them so much.

CREDITS

Writer, Steven Grant; artist, Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Nimbus Studios; editor, William A. Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Frank Miller’s Robocop 6 (June 2004)

16279_20060127213057_large.jpg

I can’t even tell anymore. Is this issue better than the last or is it the same or is it worse? I mean, there’s a lot of television stuff, a lot of stupid future post-nuclear war stuff–and a big fight scene between Robocop and Robocop 2 I couldn’t follow (Ryp is not given to comprehendible action scenes, something Grant should have thought about)–and it’s over in a few minutes.

Nothing like a four dollar comic you could read three times waiting for a McDonald’s coffee.

I know I’ve read Frank Miller’s Robocop before, so I wonder if, at this point then, I had given up as I have now. I’ll be finishing the comic, I’m a passive participant. I don’t think my brain has shut off completely. The benefit of having seen both Robocop films based on this source material means the occasionally jolting memory.

Three left.

CREDITS

Writer, Steven Grant; artist, Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Nimbus Studios; editor, William A. Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Frank Miller’s Robocop 5 (February 2004)

16278_20060314153209_large.jpg

And, almost magically, it goes to crap again. Not total crap–even though Ryp has got Lewis sexualized to the point she’s got less content than a swimsuit model (there’s nothing like realizing mainstream action movie misogyny has absolutely nothing on comic book misogyny, whether in Miller’s late eighties movie script or Grant’s early 2000s comic script), she does have a decent enough chase sequence at the beginning. Since Lewis can die, it’s a little more interesting watching her in peril. Though they haven’t yet even tried to put Robocop in peril, so who knows….

But the second half of the issue is the corporate goons going after Robocop and about to replace him with Robocop 2, who they’re testing out by having it kill civilians. Grant doesn’t seem to get how having utterly repugnant bad guys, especially in a comic, makes things boring.

And another lame cliffhanger here too.

CREDITS

Writer, Steven Grant; artist, Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Nimbus Studios; editor, William A. Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Frank Miller’s Robocop 4 (December 2003)

frank-miller-robocop-4.jpg

You know what, this issue isn’t terrible. I mean, it’s bad, but not in comparison to the rest of the series. Robocop is in it, more than usual, and as comic relief instead of the protagonist, but whatever, at least he’s in the comic book. And some of the ideas–presumably Miller’s–are actually somewhat entertaining here. Ryp’s sexpot female after sexpot female is annoying, but, again, whatever. It moves faster than the previous issues and is less painful.

Some of it might–might–have to do with Grant finishing the issue with Lewis. Even though she’s barely been in the comic book (and I love how this Amazon War thing is such a great key phrase for everything, nothing like introducing all sorts of nonsense complicated world events for the reader to keep up with), she’s the closest thing it has to an empathetic character.

So, terrible, but fine.

CREDITS

Writer, Steven Grant; artist, Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Nimbus Studios; editor, William A. Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Frank Miller’s Robocop 3 (September 2003)

16276_20060314153504_large.jpg

Here’s where the comic sort of jumps off the deep end. I do want to point out how poorly Grant uses the commercial breaks, which are funny, in this issue. He doesn’t do them with any related news program, so there’s just story, commercial, story. He certainly hasn’t set up a comic book where he can makes moves like that one.

As for the drowning Robocop narrative, I find it hard to believe Grant, who doesn’t just write comics, but writes about them, thought this was a solid idea. It’s a complete, unmitigated disaster of a narrative. Grant gives pages to OCP goons, action scenes Lewis couldn’t survive and maybe a page and a half to Robocop this issue.

Ryp’s a bad match for a Frank Miller adaptation. Spared down artwork might have made it more tolerable, but this intestine-filled mess is just getting tiresome and ugly.

It’s crap.

CREDITS

Writer, Steven Grant; artist, Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Nimbus Studios; editor, William A. Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Frank Miller’s Robocop 2 (September 2003)

16275_20060314151738_large.jpg

And here Robocop is even less of a character. Grant (or Miller?) has found a character he wants to follow, a voluptuous female version of Dr. Phil who can guide the story.

The supporting cast here is really thin; since Ryp doesn’t exactly do likenesses (at all), the familiar movie cast is identifiable only by their traits. The sergeant at the police station is black, check; Lewis blows bubbles, check. The comic’s major problem is with the yawn-inducing corporate bad guys taking center stage.

The issue ends on a lame cliffhanger, but it’s only appropriate, since it opened on a really lame cliffhanger resolution. Frank Miller’s Robocop came relatively early in the unproduced scripts to comics genre and it’s unclear how Avatar thought anyone might confuse this book for one Miller actually wrote himself.

It’s too much of a misfire to even be interesting enough to be a disaster.

CREDITS

Writer, Steven Grant; artist, Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Nimbus Studios; editor, William A. Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Frank Miller’s Robocop 1 (July 2003)

frank-miller-roboocop-1.jpg

There’s technically twenty-two pages of story here, but so much of it is wasted–five pages alone, at the front, go to showing clips of television shows of the future (Grant adds, presumably, the material about TV being safe for all kids, since when Miller wrote his Robocop 2 script it was 1988 or whatever)–it doesn’t even feel like half an issue.

The big problem is the lack of characters–Robocop isn’t a character here and maybe he just doesn’t work with comic books. He doesn’t have an alter ego to humanize him, so maybe you need to actor with the voice, need the acting.

Ryp’s art has its moments and his Robocop certainly does look worn down and “realistic,” but it’s a little too much. The comic relies on his detail over writing or plotting. He also can’t figure out how to make Robo-Vision look good.

CREDITS

Writer, Steven Grant; artist, Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Nimbus Studios; editor, William A. Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: