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NYC Mech #1
Written by Ivan Brandon & Miles Gunter
Art by Andy MacDonald

Robots usually make for great fiction, with or without laser eye beams. It’s something about how they relate to humans. How we can use them to simplify and isolate bits of our own screwy nature.

But I don’t know if I’d really say NYC Mech is ABOUT robots.

The series kicks off by introducing our gang of robots in four parallel scenes as one of them narrates. They get high, rave, rut like crazed weasels, and beat the crap out of some guy in their separate scenes until they come together the next morning for breakfast in their shared apartment. The chit-chat doesn’t last long before they pile into their car and all smoke out together, though, and, following a bit of squabbling, they head out to rob a convenience store.

I can go for sly beginnings. Not every comic should start with an origin story or mini-adventure that leads in to the first arc of the series, and NYC Mech opens with interesting if somewhat heavy poetics. The flow of the opening scenes almost feels like something Spike Lee might do if he were telling a story about a gang of young New York hoods.

So, I have to wonder why they’re robots.

This story seems very much like it was a film in the concept stage. Everything in the writing is oriented to the modern world, from the gang’s tendency to smoke like chimneys to the kids eating lik-a-stik candy. These robots feel pleasure and pain. They breathe, eat, sleep, joke, make love, have kids, wear clothes, go to the bathroom, keep pets, drive cars, wear eyeglasses, drool, do drugs, and react to bullets and fists just like any person would.

So, why are they robots?

Aside from a self-propelled coffee machine and a rather large pack of bulldogs, nothing in the story is any different from our own world. Nobody plugs cables into themselves to get energy or information. They don’t swap parts out for different tasks or social occasions or possess any superpowers or know any more than the average person does. Their world is just as mundane as our own with it’s traffic lights, graffiti, breakfast cereals, and hamster cages.

So, what’s going on with the damn robots, already?!?

I have no idea. This isn’t a meditation on robots or the human psyche (at least not in the way an Isaac Asimov story would be). There are no humans or animals around to compare their robot counterparts to (which makes me wonder how much smaller this NYC must be when there are also cybernetic animals running around, yet the book just says “eight million robots walk the streets”). The issue states on the inside cover that it’s not science fiction, but what else do you call a city full of robots?

Brandon and Gunter probably don’t look to have been planning a cyber-drama, initially. There really isn’t any allegory at work here and, in a way, they’re right about this not being science fiction: science fiction examines how our world changes when our technologies advance. NYC Mech isn’t concerned with future worlds at all.

The art works well enough, but it didn’t really jump out at me. Andy MacDonald’s New York photo-reference backgrounds work better than most of his interiors and his coloring stays simple throughout the issue. I will give him big props for knowing his character designs, though. These robots have all sorts of seams and plates and exposed cables running over their surfaces, and he manages to keep a lot of those little individual details consistent throughout the comic. It’s one thing for an artist to know his characters faces by heart, but to keep track of the different elbow spikes, neck joints, forearm plates, and knuckle designs… that’s dedication.

NYC Mech’s story has me intrigued and I’ll probably check out the next issue. Do I recommend it? Hard to say. If you like modern New York street stories, it’s a good book for you. If you like robot stories… well, you might want to look elsewhere.


Jason Schachat

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