Writer: David Quantick
Artist: Shaky Kane
David Quantick’s That’s Because You’re a Robot one-shot reminds me of the type of programming that I used to love in the late eighties/early nineties. Funny, irreverent, filled with a healthy sense of retro-nostalgia and basically pointless. While those memories of watching silly shorts on MTV late at night might hold fond for me, upon revisiting them it’s hard for me to expect anyone else to like them.
The story behind That’s Because You’re a Robot is all but told in the title and first couple of pages. A pair of police officers are brought into their chief’s office and told that one of them is actually a robot, but they don’t know who it is. They get involved in the usual case of “buddy cop” hijinks; going on stake outs where they inevitably don’t do the stake out, getting yelled at by their surly black police chief and getting their badges taken away to go on the lam.
A larger plot is introduced of a mystery that starts to develop and then the comic just ends. Yeah, hate to spoil it for you but seeing as how the plot seems to matter so little to the comic I’m not going to shy away from spoiling anything. This one-shot comic has no resolution. Nothing is figured out and it’s hard to say there is any kind of ending whatsoever.
This is where my reference to those early-’90s shorts comes from. They were little cartoons that played in the wee hours and they were fun and interesting but they didn’t really go anywhere because that wasn’t the point. The point wasn’t about telling a great story so much as it was about exploring an aesthetic or just lampooning popular culture for the hell of it. And while I wouldn’t call this comic a satire, it does play enough with the buddy cop thing to edge in that direction. My main problem is that it isn’t very funny.
The basic joke of one character being a robot and both of the characters arguing over which it is can be funny. At one point one of the officer says, “I’m Jewish how can I be a robot?” which got a chuckle from me. But the joke wears out its welcome when you realize that’s pretty much the only joke the comic has going for it. All of this makes a little more sense when you realize that David Quantick is more famous in the film world. Far be it for me to tell a BAFTA winner how to write but the types of things that are funny in movies don’t’ exactly work in the comic medium. I found most of the jokes regarding the buddy cop stuff to be rote rephrasing of the buddy cop formula rather than anything new.
The artwork is great however. Shaky Kane is still one of the greats in this business and if you haven’t heard of this artist then that alone might be worth the price of admission. He does all the work on the comic except for the lettering and it glows with a retro, almost Andy Warhol-esque kind of vibe. The colors pop in an almost saccharine sweet kind of way but the heavy line work on all the faces grounds everything in a surreality. Adding to that is the random background details such as Frankenstein Elvis wandering around in the foreground, to bars over people’s eyes which all has a nice pop-punk aesthetic. Plus the comic features not one but two splash pages of just plain fun art.
All in all this comic kind of reminds me of Axe Cop, and if you follow my recommendations you might think it would be right up my alley. But the funny thing is that Axe Cop actually has more of a cohesive storyline than this thing does. I mean it’s hard to criticize something that is so obviously not taking itself seriously, and normally I would let it play the “just for fun card” all night. But the fact is this isn’t some silly webcomic; this is a thirty-page, FOUR dollar comic, and that’s probably the biggest problem with it. There is nothing wrong with it as a silly comic, but for how long it is and how little it manages to do with that length, you realize you are cutting out a more fulfilling, real comic. That makes it hard to recommend. But then the art is really, really good.
“That’s Because You’re A Robot” earns 6 / 10. Slight recommendation.