Review: Micronauts #1

Micronauts #1 is not good space-opera, but it did leave me wondering what elements make for good space opera. After all a lot of what I don't like in Micronauts, has, in other situations, made for great stories. Cullen Bunn's opening space adventure introduces us to a cosmic threat on a massive scale (the entropic wave), a band of likeable space criminals, a series of bulky robots, a bunch of made up names, and a regal alien villain. In other words, the basic building blocks are present that form Star Wars, Hyperion, Prophet, and a hundred other better space books. But what's missing are the subtler, abstracter qualities that made the worlds of those stories and countless others like them come alive--a sense of scale, moments of raw creativity, and a strong sense of pacing. From a little research I did (i.e. Google and Wikipedia, so long barred to me as a college student but now my dearest friends), Micronauts is a property based on a series of action figures from the 70s and 80s. This aspect is made clear by the designs of the characters, specifically the robots, who looks sadly, a bit too much like jointed action figures to be taken seriously (the whole book has a candy colored, over-cartoony look that's a little too reminiscent of a middling children's cartoon). Anyhow, after the property bounced around a few publishers (most notably Marvel), it landed at IDW, the current king of the licensed property comic. Micronauts #1 is their attempt at a big relaunch, bringing in an A-list writer, a better than average artist (David Baldeon), and a slew of variant covers for a extra long debut issue.

Micronauts01_cvrRI-AThis brings us to the plot--well almost--it actually first brings us to the setting. As implied by the name, apparently this isn't actually space-opera but is a microscopic universe of some sort. This hardly seems to matter as it is never mentioned and looks exactly like outer space. Now as to that plot, I didn't get much from reading the issue itself. Basically, we are introduced to a group of loveable (well, actually mostly bland) pirates who are roped into attempting to steal some medical supplies from a heavily guarded space station. According to the book's backmatter, there is in fact a war going on between...someone (money's on generic space empires) and each of these characters have some sort of backstories. Also there will apparently be time travel. Having to garner important information like this from the backmatter is a clear sign of a clumsy story and there's not much to counter that idea.

I think perhaps, judging from the fast pace and quippy dialogue, Bunn was trying to avoid falling into the trap of making his story's introduction too dense and exposition-laden. Unfortunately, he overcorrects, making for a story that never really manages to infuse any of its tropes with a distinct personality.  Nothing about Micronauts is new, creative, or even particularly distinct. I can't help but compare it to my favorite sci-fi comic of the moment, Prophet, whose debut issue was a quiet, disturbing tour through a sparse alien world of jelly cities and spider-ish nomads. Micronauts by comparison, gives us robots fist fighting and image after image of laser guns being fired off haphazardly.

As for the art, it's inconsistent. According to the solicit, the artist is David Baldeon, but the issue itself lists about five other artists who contributed. This might be why things range from highly detailed and beautiful artwork to other material that is cartoonily in-keeping with the bland IDW house style. I would like to compliment the coloring which is in places ridiculously gorgeous, but even there that becomes difficult as four different colorists are listed.

So Micronauts manages to be high-quality even while being a not-particularly good or memorable comic. Cullen Bunn has plenty of time to spin his book into something more special, but at the moment, the odds don't seem great.


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Micronauts #1 Writer:  Cullen Bunn Artist:  David Baldeon Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $4.99 Release Date: 4/27/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital