Like an amnesiac Inspector Gadget battling a James Bond villain’s henchman, but drawn by Jack Kirby, Fraser Campbell’s Alex Automatic takes those classic spy-fi conventions of the 1960s and mixes in a generous dose of paranoia and PTSD to make a truly unique creation. but will his amnesiac agent be another Winter Soldier wannabe or a hero in his own right?
Publisher: Cabal Comics Group
Writer: Fraser Campbell
Artist: James Corcoran (Art), David B Cooper (Colouring), Colin Bell (Lettering and Design)
Our rating: [star rating=”4.5″]
Alex Anderson is not only a kick ass government agent, but also believes he is the star of his own 60s TV show. So when he is rescued from a lab by a pair of friendly journalists who are looking to reveal his secret and also help Anderson return to normal, you know that his government handlers won’t allow this to happen!
It’s a fantastic premise for a story and allows Campbell to mix reality and fantasy into an intriguing cocktail. The opening action sequence is told completely straight, until you notice that the dialogue contains script instructions and scenery information that give away the fact this is all a fantasy inside Alex’s head. As the idea expands out, we eventually see the mission in his head played out in tandem with the bloody real world results of his actions, which makes for a really interesting, if slightly confusing read. Making a disjointed story like this is not easy, and thanks to little touches like the script reference or Colin Bell’s mixed style of lettering, it helps create a decent balance between the two worlds.
Campbell makes the most of an extended 40 page issue to pack plenty in, however it may have benefited from having even more time and space to get across the true essence of the story, especially with some of the more subtle elements of what is real and what is delusion. Fortunately, the story is left open-ended and so we can but hope that we will see more very soon!
What also helps to make the story truly stand out from the crowd is the artwork from relative newcomer James Corcoran. His Kirby-infused Silver Age style, matches the genre perfectly and every page has a great sense of action and dynamism to it, thanks to some clean and stylish lines. It’s not perfect, with some compositions a bit ropey at times and some of the faces not quite looking right, but when you’re being compared to the Master, then you are following in some epic footsteps! Although it may lack some of Kirby’s crispness, it does have a lot of his vibrancy and pace, and there are some truly stunning compositions – such as the scene where Alex is sent plummeting to the bottom of the ocean to encounter the irradiated C-Men, which would make Neal Adams sick with envy! He also does a fantastic job with the character designs, mixing the throwback tech of Alex (especially the robot face removals) with the gritty real world of his rescuers.
Corcoran is also aided by some exceptional colouring from David B Cooper, who’s mix of digital slickness and muddy vintage colours (lots of greens and brown and oranges) make the whole thing feel like you have picked it from a dusty old book shelf or a forgotten bargain bin and you can almost feel and smell the newsprint on every page!
Ever since we first heard about Alex Automatic, we thought it was a superb idea and we are delighted to discover that Campbell’s strong premise carries through into the final pages. Take our word for it, there’s no delusions here – Alex Automatic is a prime time hit!