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‘Robocop: Hominem Ex Machina’ - Advance Comic Book Review (‘Dead or Alive, You’ve Got a Comic to Read’)

I’m never one to mince words, so it’s saying quite a bit that I’m not looking forward to the new Robocop reboot . . . at all.  In fact, I think I may just schedule myself for a root canal in place of seeing Hollywood’s latest incarnation of a classic film getting the makeover treatment.  Note: this is coming from someone that places the original in his top five favorite movies ever and is also in perfect dental health.  Apparently, studio execs didn’t learn their lesson by bastardizing and sterilizing another Verhoeven classic, Total Recall, as they are now putting Alex Murphy through the shiny remake-ringer, as well.

That glowing and cheerful intro provides a nice lead into to my review of BOOM! Studios’ comic book release of Robocop: Hominem Ex Machina, which is the last tale in a series of one-shot stories that take place within the world of the upcoming Robocop reboot.

Of my major issues with the trailer for the corresponding new movie is specifically with the apparent human nimbleness and rapid speed at which Robocop movies.  Hominem Ex Machina doesn’t ease my fears any, as the first scene has the tin-man swinging in on a rope-like apparatus a la Tarzan and crashing through a window. Huh?  One of the weaknesses of the original bucket of bolts was his slow robotic movements.  Not only did it play well for cinematic moments of peril, but it provided a realistic aspect to the technology of mixing man and machine.  Robots are supposed to move like robots.

In all fairness, much of this change has to do with the advances in technology in the past 27 years, and the technology portrayed in the new film should, arguably, keep up with the times.  I’ve seen some videos of the human and animal-like droids Google has been testing for the military, and let’s just say the Terminator franchise may not be too far off from the actual date of Judgment Day.

Another disappointment with this comic was the lack of blood and mass murder taking place on the good, ol’ streets of Detroit.  It seems Robocop, and every other Detroit cop, is now also equipped with a Taser-gun hybrid.  Gone are the days of brutal murders, limbs being chopped off, and slime balls literally turning into slime after falling into vats of acid.  No, this is now a kinder, gentler Murphy that mildly shocks first and asks questions later.  Again, it must be acknowledged that this is probably more realistic by today's more politically correct standards when it comes to how cops handle a threat, especially here in the US of A where police brutality is usually a controversial, hot-button issue.

If you can get past the new PC police protocols and the fact that Robocop is now built to compete on Dancing with the Stars, the rest of the this issue actually isn’t too bad.  For starters, the art work by Jason Copland (Coincidence?) is top notch.  Love the new suit or hate it, Copland does a fantastic job of capturing the new, metal threads of the man-machine mash-up with great detail.

The other element I enjoyed with this book is the way it still managed to capture the essence of the original property.  The resistance of Alex Murphy to fully accept his mechanical protocols harkens back to the day of the original Murphy’s inner struggle to remember parts of who he originally was.  Speaking of Mr. Murphy, I had no problems imagining Peter Weller’s voice robotically spitting out the lines written within this book.  Alas, that has more to do with the format allowing for that type of creative imagination than anything else.

At the end of the day, I’m probably still going to go ahead with dental surgery than subject myself to another unnecessary remake, nonetheless, I’m happy to report that no matter how the film turns out, it has undoubtedly helped to keep the spirit and popularity of Detroit’s most infamous lawman alive and well, especially in graphic novel form.

To borrow some of the words from one Alex J. Murphy, “Dead or alive, you’ve got a comic to read.”         

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