Friday, February 02, 2007

Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter #12

Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter #12, Quality Comics
writers: Alan Grant, Tom Tully
artists: Ian Gibson, Dave Gibbons
letterers: Steve Potter, Dave Gibbons

Another Alan Grant classic from the United Kingdom, Sam Slade is an entertaining synthesis of the pulp and sci-fi genres, which is a surprisingly natural combination considering that the two categories are inspired by the same basic human emotion: dissatisfaction. Most pulp heroes are little more than whiny tough guys that wax poetic about their rugged looks, damp offices, or poor finances as much as they trade blows with the worst scum the city can spawn. In short, they’re dissatisfied. Similarly, the technological advances characteristic of science fiction is the embodiment of humanity’s struggle toward effortless convenience. Why walk down a hallway when a conveyer belt can carry you there? Why drive to work in bumper-to-bumper traffic when a simply hover-conversion will help your fly there? Why cook your own meal when a replicator can do it for you, or at least your robotic maid? Until mankind doesn’t consider mere existence a necessary workload, we’ll be dissatisfied. Therein, Sam Slade is born.

Sam Slade is poor, futuristic bounty hunter that can lament is inability to pay the rent on one panel yet berate his absent-minded robotic assistant the next. I’m sure robotic assistants go for a rent-worthy closing bid on eBay, but I digress. Even Slade’s robo-cigarette is sentient, proving that the guy may be down on his luck, but he’ll never be lonely. However, Slade’s fortunate experiences a shake-up when his former pilot Jason Kidd, whose body had regressed to that of a one-year-old, seeks his aid as a bodyguard at ten thousands creds a day. Kidd capitalized on his infantile image by becoming a television star, and between the eccentrically arrogant way he treated his co-stars, his mother, and the general public at large, the source of the assassination attempts against him were a veritable This is Your Life. Not that Slade would want them stop at ten-thou a day; alas, our hero’s inherent nobility nabs the perpetrator before any harm permanently befalls Kidd . . . or so we think until the final page, wherein the proverbial Baby Herman rehires Slade when the assassination attempts to continue. With a title like “Robo-Hunter,” I was perplexed as to why Grant would pit him against some jealously jilted human. Ah, this story’s “to be continued” could only imply a more convoluted mystery on the horizon. Indeed, science fiction has never been so pulpy.

Interestingly, this issue’s back-up story, Harlem Heroes, would make an excellent addition to my series of Black History Month comic reviews. Featuring an “all-black” team of Aeroball champions – Aeroball is “football, boxing, kung-fu, and basketball all rolled into one,” plus jetpacks – this tale, illustrated by the acclaimed Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, takes us on a roller coaster of the Heroes’ fall and reemergence. When three of their teammates are killed in an unprecedented plane crash, and yet another survived by only his living brain, the team recruits a gangster, a retiree, and two reserve players to round their ranks, much to the public’s judgment. I enjoyed the scene when the guys scoured the streets for fresh blood, as so many “urban youth” pray for the moments their skills are “discovered” by scouts or celebrities that fled the ghetto. Also, A Comic A Day hasn’t experienced a sports comic yet, and Harlem Heroes is a fitting introduction to the Super Bowl weekend. Stay tuned for more pigskin particulars . . .

Despite that each of its stories had nothing to do with each other aside from a weak foundation in sci-fi/fantasy, Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter was a satisfying read, even if its characters weren’t. I would’ve appreciated some connection between the two tales, even if Slade simply placed a quick bet on an Aeroball game to pay the rent or something, but I guess these shortcomings are what make the future so highly anticipated. There’s always room to grow, and sometimes, even the strangest associations can happen.

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