To Live And Die In Detroit
writer: Joe Harris
artist: Piotr Kowalski
With the remake of Robocop opening in theaters, Boom! Studios is in the midst of releasing a series of stand-alone stories continuing the saga of Alex Murphy, one good cop who happens to be a cyborg. And without having seen the film yet, it's good to see that as a comic, Robocop works as well as anyone could hope.
If you're not familiar with the character, writer Joe Harris delivers the basics in a tension-filled first few pages. A young girl wanders on a bridge during rush hour, confused and terrified. Robocop arrives and, using his superior cybernetic skills, rescues her. But there's something deeper going on, and when he returns to his lab home, he is determined to find out.
That seems glib. But without losing an ounce of the darker tones of the remake, Harris establishes that Robocop could easily be taken as any other well-written superhero. But those glitches in his memory keep appearing, as he struggles with his past life.
Though this Detroit of 2028 may be a few years away yet, there isn't much about it that looks unfamiliar to the casual reader. It could be now, except for this cyborg cop. And unfortunately, despite a citizenry wanting law and order, Detroit has been heavily corrupted. It's hard to tell the good guys and the bad guys apart, except for one: Robocop.
That's as it should be. The armor is darker than the original Peter Weller version, but artist Piotr Kowalski finds a way to make it shine. His layouts are clean, with a style that feels European but isn't quite as dark and gloomy as last week's Robocop one-shot, Hominem Ex Machina.
For a movie tie-in, this really does the job right. It feels like it could have spun out of the movie, not necessarily moving the emotional arc of Alex Murphy along but at least preserving it. Last week's book, while an interesting read, felt like it was somehow happening alongside the plot of the movie, providing an alternate explanation for events there. (Still strong -- but it felt like the middle chapter of a mini-series.)
To Live And Die In Detroit also does what not enough comics seem willing to do -- truly stand alone in a tight story for readers both casual and dedicated. It might be too intense for the pre-teen reader who got excited about the movie, but only in terms of the case being investigated. Robocop still stands for a strong sense of morality without this feeling like a knock-off of Judge Dredd.
If you're a Robocop fan, you're probably buying all these tie-ins, but if you must make a choice, we recommend this as the better of the two (out of four total) so far.