Robocop: Dead or Alive, vol. 2

Robocop: Dead or Alive, vol. 2Summary: No win comes without a cost. RoboCop, now a lone officer in the field, faces a calamity of ED-209 attacks plaguing his city. As he works the streets, newly promoted Detective Anne Lewis will work outside her jurisdiction to bring Killian’s corruption to an end. But they are merely pawns in Killian’s game. This is the beginning of the end for Detroit.

The critically acclaimed series from Joshua Williamson (Nailbiter; Birthright) and Carlos Magno (Lantern City) continues in the second chapter to the Dead or Alive trilogy.

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Robocop: Dead or Alive, vol. 2, by Joshua Williamson, Carlos Magno and Marissa Louise 7.0

Seriously, after the last volume, I was sated; ‘RoboCop: Dead or Alive‘ was an okay foray into the world that Edward Neumeier and Paul Verhoeven created back in 1987, but nothing more. It was certainly better than the film’s sequels, but that isn’t saying much.

Still, being a bit of a completist type, I decided to pick up the second volume from my local library, if only to see how the story would wrap-up (for some reason, in my ignorance, I thought that this was merely a two-part affair – there is actually a third, final part).

In any event, volume two continues pretty much where the first one left off; RoboCop has been neutered and only wields a baton, Detective Lewis is putting together clues to link Killian to the current rash of violence, and Killian is trying to start a war in Detroit.

As with the previous set, ‘Dead or Alive, vol. 2’ is pretty much par for the course for this type of story: action, action, action – with a tenuous amount of generic plot development. It’s not exactly inspired stuff, though it reads fairly well – aside for some sketchy grammar.

What’s truly galling about it, though, is the lack of thought that was put into it. It’s as though Williamson was merely content lining up and serving genre clichés and didn’t bother to consider if they held up to closer scrutiny. This left me quizzical at almost every turn.

For instance:

  • Right at the onset, RoboCop manages to fell an ED-209 by stabbing it with his baton. That the ED-209 could jump through a bank window was already absurd, but that a mere baton could stop it in its tracks is utterly preposterous. Talk about a massive design flaw!
  • At the next encounter, RoboCop is subdued during an assault by Killian’s men, who are backed by an ED-2000X. But then they leave RoboCop alive, even though ED-2000X has him dead in its sights. WTF. Naturally, the pretense is that they’ll have time for it later.

Really? Could you get a worse bad guy cliché than that? Just annihilate him, already – while you have a chance! Or, better yet, why didn’t Williamson just write a situation that doesn’t require such a cop out (pun intended)?

  • At the next encounter, ED-2000X has been souped up: with… a Taser. So they proceed to shock RoboCop’s system. Really? Um… how exactly did the Taser’s pins pierce his outer shell anyway? I mean, he’s more than just bulletproof, so…
  • The police department find a way to infiltrate Killian’s organization, and send Lewis’ friend (and budding love interest, based on the last book), Mason. But why would Killian tell him all of his secrets and show him the compound if he knows Mason’s a plant and is planning on killing him?

Again: bad guy cliché. Just kill the guy and get it over with. Obviously, it was done for the readers’ benefit, but there’s got to be a more creative way to explore Killian’s operation than this. Sheesh.

  • Eventually RoboCop is given an upgrade of new legs, which makes him run faster – even though he still has pistons as Achilles tendons. A huge mistake is that the rest of his body should still be as slow as it’s always been (and let’s not forget how clunky his torso is too!). But now he’s super-fast. And super-strong. Um… why? Because… legs?
  • After Wyatt is taken by the police, he is utterly unresponsive. Naturally. That is, until RoboCop threatens him with his unusually stabby data-retrieval unit. That’s all it took? Really? Why’s he afraid of that big bad USB key after all of that?
  • Detective Lewis notices for the first time that OCP has been putting up cameras all over town. Um… why hadn’t anyone else noticed those big clunkers? It’s not like they’re discrete or anything like that…
  • RoboCop and a bunch of cops attack Killian’s compound even though they know that he’s got the new ED-2000X – but just walk in not expecting the inevitable ambush. WTF. Um… strategy?
  • Okay, so, since when can RoboCop give a knock-out punch to an ED-2000x? And how is it that he can wrestle one to the ground? I understand that new legs makes RoboCop much stronger somehow (because magic!), but c’mon!
  • Since when do the ED-209s and ED-2000Xs have personalities? Here they actually interact like thinking beings. Except. Every. Statement. Is. Broken. Into. Individual. Words. I mean, they actually ask RoboCop what he’s doing, that sort of thing. If they’d wanted to make this just a touch cornier, they’d have the EDs speak in slang (“Yo, Robo… wachu upto?”).

At least the art is good, though the amount of lines Magno puts into each drawing makes it difficult to ink in a traditional manner and doesn’t always blend with the colours well. But he does have a knack for large action spreads, as evidenced at the opening of each issue.

Ultimately, I’m finding the ‘Dead or Alive’ story arc a bit disappointing. But the bar had been set pretty low with the two ‘RoboCop’ sequels, so this serves as an improvement, I guess; it’s somewhat entertaining, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m just not its target audience.

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