Going into Atomic Robo: Hell and Lightning I was playing catch up. Blame it on the irregular publishing schedule, or, more likely, my employment at a startup two years ago, but either way I had not read an Atomic Robo comic in quite some time. It was just one of those good comics that somehow slips through your fingers. But I’m glad to say that after reading Hell and Lightning, not only am I caught up, but I feel great about it. Hell and Lightning is a great collection. Its greatness primarily comes from the great stories. The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific, The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur, and The Knights of the Golden Circle are all collected in this volume. And throughout each arc, there is not one subpar comic among them. There are better issues, even better arcs. In my opinion, Savage Sword is the best of the bunch and Knights is the weakest, but even so, each issue still held that same mix of adventure, humor, and high-stakes that make Atomic Robo one of the best comics around.
As for the additional content, Hell and Lightning contains 3 free comic book day issues from 2013 – 2015, a notes section about the lives of the characters portrayed in The Knights of the Golden Circle (in it, Robo heads back to the old west Marty McFly style), and a few sketches from Scott Wegener. The free comic book day issues are excellent one-shots. The standout among them being The Trial of Dr. Dinosaur (something about Robo vs. Dr. Dinosaur just tickles me the right way). The notes are an excellent addition, not just because I love essays in comics, but because while most readers will have heard of Dr. Holiday, most will probably not have heard of U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves who was just as much of an old west badass. The sketchbook isn’t anything extraordinary, but it does show off some of Wegener’s stylistic range. It’s always good to see a sketchbook that really illuminates some of the artist’s process.
All in all, this is just a really good collection. The core stories are great, the fact that they included the free comic book day issues is also an excellent choice on the part of the publishers/creators. Especially considering how much Atomic Robo has become associated with the event. If you haven’t picked up the trades or are looking to get back into some Robo action, this is the collection for you.
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Atomic Robo: The Hell and Lightning Collection Writer: Brian Clevinger Artist: Scott Wegener Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $29.99 Format: TPB; Print/Digital