A book called That’s Because You’re a Robot, written by a famous comedy writer and drawn by a cult comic darling, should be review-proof. If its title and team aren’t enough to prove the point, then what about the way writer David Quantick solicited his and Shaky Kane’s Image book by calling it “‘Car 54 Where Are You?’ channeled through Philip K. Dick’s cryogenically-preserved brain?” That’s got to count for something, dammit. I mean, that solicit alone made me want to buy 10,000 copies. Unfortunately, it seems I let my own internally-driven hype machine get the better of me this time, because That’s Because You’re a Robot was one hell of a disappointment.
The premise of this book is simple...ish, and really should have been amazing. As its name implies, and as we are told on the very first page, this is a story about two buddy cop partners, Jeff and Matt, one of whom is a robot, though nobody knows which ... including them. From there, supposed jocularity ensues as the two bumbling, if fairly indistinguishable characters very quickly screw up an interrogation, a stakeout and a massive monster riot on their way to finding out the truth behind their odd situation, and those similarly experience by future Los Angeles’ criminal element.
The titular gag in That’s Because You’re a Robot is, as expected, the best part of the book, and that interplay between Jeff and Matt (not the Hardy Boyz) was great, feeling as natural and endearingly familiar as the “you know how I know you’re gay” riff shared by Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan in 40 Year Old Virgin. It’s honestly great stuff, and leads the book through its first half effortlessly.
From the very beginning of the second half, however, this thing gets too farcical, crumbling into a style that tries way too hard to win at being random-as-fuck and then getting weirdly sentimental before finally (though far too late) picking up on what made it start so gloriously.
As I do with most of Kane’s stuff, I think the absurdity of his art in this book would have been much better served with a tighter, and if I’m honest, funnier writer. I understand that Quantick is an accomplished comedy scribe in the UK, and I’ll concede the point that his branch of humor has clearly given him a name there, but that doesn’t come through in this book, and for the most part, it certainly isn’t for me.
Saying that and as great as the dialogue between Jeff and Matt was, the narrative is clearly meant to service Kane’s art rather than drive or join it. Unfortunately, in so doing with so unrestrained a visual style,That’s Because You’re a Robot feels rudderless, which I admit may be the point, but most of its gags fall flat because of it.
That “evil giant leprechaun who can fly,” for example, which was another part of the book’s solicit that sold me, is part of a cockamamie crew also including an angry anthropomorphic ant, a fake ghost with laser guns and Frankenstein. As awesome as that may sound (and it does sound awesome), their appearance is so out-of-nowhere, that it felt contrived, not to mention overwrought, as it took up six whole pages of light but stiff mayhem, two of which made up a “double page pin-up.
There are so many things going for this book, from its premise, to the officers’ seemingly Evel Knievel-inspired police uniforms, to pretty much the whole of Kane’s eye-popping and quirky style (which remains a credit to his talents, misplaced though they often are with stories), but I have to say I was bummed like hell with That’s Because You’re a Robot’s overall presentation, further mired by the fact that this is only a one-shot and it ends super-abruptly.
I expected, nay, wanted to like this book as much as I did last year’s standout one-shot star, Buddy Cops, which had a similar concept, but where that succeeded so spectacularly, this failed to crank my engine. But maybe that’s because I’m a robot.
Writer: David Quantick Artist: Shaky Kane Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 06/11/14 Format: One-Shot, Print/Digital