Expectation is a funny thing. More and more, whether it’s a good idea to admit it or not, I find expectation to be one of the most surprisingly defining factors that goes into my overall enjoyment of a given book. Take my expectations of Vandroid as a prime example... When I first heard about this Dark Horse title’s origin as a fake adaptation of a lost 1980s sci-fi-borg flick, I was understandably crazy excited. But then, I read it (again with expectations set perhaps too high), and was left disappointed. However, going into this issue, with my second set of expectations so low, I liked it a lot better than I thought I would. Expectations, man. They do weird things.
This issue sees our main character - the robotic double of a fallen van graffiti artist superstar from the 1970s - as he lustfully searches out a very specific chemical compound to recharge his batteries after what scientists might call “a whole mess of killin’” last issue; a compound (not coincidentally) with ties to the main villains of the book. Actually, that was one of my biggest problems with Vandroid #2.
I know this is supposed to be random - that’s kind of the point, I get it - but for me, the tenuous (and quickly-rushed together) ties that bind together these characters didn’t turn out as funny as I’m guessing the creators had hoped. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of a cyborg fighting a gang of motorcycle-enthusiast geomancers in a bid to obtain illicit chemicals sounds amazing on paper, but as has been true throughout this book’s nascent run, its practice never quite matches its premise.
The way I see it, the problem with farcical stories like this is that many of them are written ridiculous so as to be beyond reproach. My personal feeling, however, is that you really have to be good to be make bad fun, and I’m not sure Vandroid yet has found that balance. Of course, that’s not to say there isn’t fun to be had in this comic.
Some of the dialogue here is really great, particularly in the interplay between our android and his “old friend.” The problem is that the exposition cuts to the quick all at once in thickly troweled-on exposition, which feels way too convenient, even for a movie that is busting the balls of 1980s sci-fi tropes. In other words, the badness didn’t always feel like it was on purpose.
Fact is, I thought Vandroid #2 was a much better issue than its first attempt, but it’s still having a problem deciding what it wants to be, with a tone that is spastic and unruly; again, that would be great if it was done intentionally or through a greater measure of clever mockery, but this feels too basic to be pastiche and too lackadaisical to be an ode.
The art from Dan McDaid was good, and I think it finds a nice, comfortable spot between the likes of Francavilla and Doyle, but it remains inconsistent, and has a hard time - like the story itself - capturing sufficiently the tone of the very specific time period it has chosen. The visual cues of when we are just aren’t strong enough, a tactic which, if changed, could make up for the similar lack thereof in the writing, but here again I think this book relies too much on the power of its concept, rather than the fruition of its storytelling.
The one thing Vandroid #2 did do for me, however, was entice me back onto a series I had all but entirely written off. With the caveat that my expectations are once again high(er) - yet still suitably measured - I’m willing to stay on this book at least until next issue, and hope it can finally decide what the hell it’s trying to be.
Writers: Tommy Lee Edwards & Noah Smith Artist: Dan McDaid Colorist: Melissa Edwards Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 3/26/14