Review: The Robot War #1 (JF3CO)

Robots have always been a major part of science fiction, but while we ofte see these sci-fi staples defeating their human overlords in some manner, rarely do we see that uprising actually take place. With The Robot War, we get that wish.

Publisher: JF3CO
Writer: Joe Friend, Steve Stern (Editor)
Artist: Matt Haley (Art), Kat Maus (Colours), Bill Maus (Letters)
Price: £1.99 on Comixology

The Robot War follows Dale, a Philadelphia native who has moved to the small town of Santa Barbara to take a computing job and start his somewhat troubled life over. After a year, things are going great for him; with a cool bachelor pad and a girlfriend who wants more commitment than Dale seems prepared to give. However, all of that comes to an abrupt halt when a seemingly runaway tanker runs aground off the coast of the town, subsequently releasing scores of automated robots and devices with only one mission; to kill all the humans!

Joe Friend has written an interesting and entertaining story with The Robot War, which reads a lot more like an action comedy than a sci-fi apocalypse tale. This issue has a very slow start which doesn’t really get to the main crux of the story until the final third of the issue. However, those first two thirds offer plenty of set up to gain a good understanding of the genre the series is going for. The Robot War has the feeling of one of the Cornetto Trilogy films (Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz/The World’s End) crossed with Garth Ennis’ The Boys series, as the characters feel truly larger than life and subtly bizarre. Friend’s narrative between characters, meanwhile, gives the impression of a geeky Tarantino, as evidenced by the Teleporter conversation early on.

The Robot War gets underway

However, This issue is not without its flaws, which do seem to be almost as many as its strengths. These begin with the very first few pages which are a little confusing as they lack context, although these are immediately amended with the transition to the main story. Meanwhile, the crass language used throughout, while funny, is a little off putting and could maybe have done with scaling back some. Finally, the main character of Dale struggles to be overly likeable, with a lack of depth to his support characters adding to these problems. This is most likely done to facilitate a growth cycle for the character but, for now, he’s not an investable lead. Fortunately, however, the witty dialogue, interesting premise and subsequent cliffhanger, do makeup for these shortcomings to keep this book in the win column.

This ‘win’ is certainly helped by Matt Haley’s art, as his style others a look very reminiscent to Darrick Robertsons’s Boys work, while mixed with Dan Butcher’s Vanguard title. The lines are smooth and clean and the visuals match the mature nature some of the language implies as well as a story that feels very much like a 90’s action movie, as exemplified by the crashing of the runaway tanker. Kat Maus’s colours, meanwhile, are very rich and help sell the bold, action movie-esque look while allowing many panels throughout to really ‘pop’ and leave an impression. This issue culminates in a final panel which is not only a final proof as to the great work both Haley and Maus have input but also a shocking visual which could stick with readers and inform them of the plans going forward.

The Robot War is a comic which gets off to a slow start with its first issue. However, while the title has a number of problems, it also has a great idea, tremendous art and tonnes of potential to transcend those issues and be a truly fun and exhilarating read.This first issue is an enjoyable waste of time which offers enough to make you want to see what happens next. We just hope to survive the robot apocalypse long enough to see that happen.