In X-Ray Robot #1, writer/artist Michael Allred and colorist Laura Allred run their usual 1960s space-age aesthetic through a body horror filter. It’s basically that bad trip of a cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” that Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus, and Moby did in 2014 as sequential art. The comic is a tale of a scientist named Dr. Max Wilding discovering interdimensional travel with the help of a nifty robot. However, his journey to the “other side” is not without its effects. It messes up his home and work life while kick-starting this miniseries’ ongoing plot.
X-Ray Robot #1 gets off to kind of a weird start. It looks like the CEO of Wilding’s funding company, Reynolds, makies an unwanted pass at the only female member of their scientific team. Later, she kisses Wilding on the mouth in front of his wife and kids. Honestly, the character’s motivation doesn’t make sense to me. It’s the single, real flaw in a visually stunning, engrossing, and sometimes terrifying comic.
After the initial awkwardness, Mike Allred easily rights the shop by making interdimensional travel look like the process of drawing, but with a robot and a splash of yellow from Laura Allred. Instead of having unnecessary exposition, we get to experience the journey with Wilding and the growing bond between him and his robot. Each trip (Pun definitely intended.) has its own distinct style with consciousness transfer and an incredibly psychedelic double-page spread appearing as the story progresses.
However, a key strength of X-Ray Robot #1 is its juxtaposition of the normal with the otherworldly beginning with Dr. Wilding’s wife and children showing up at his launch and even the banter between scientists as he begins his journey. At first, they seem like scientists, who took design notes from Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four, Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy, and yes, Mike Allred’s earlier work, who have normal lives otherwise. But, then, the unsettling nature of Wilding’s journey creeps up on him while he’s pushing his kid on the swing, in bed with his wife, and finally, hurtling down the passageways of his lab. The man, who had enough wit and grit, to ask his boss for an increase in funding is no longer tethered to reality anymore.
Mike Allred shows this by having a constant sense of movement in his line art and foregoing a boring ol’ grid for fun and new panel shapes. Laura Allred adds the icing on top with intense background colors because X-Ray Robot #1 is really pop art gone loony, or Andy Warhol spending way too much time with Luis Bunuel.
X-Ray Robot has all the pulp science fiction trappings, like intrepid scientists with cool outfits going on a wondrous journey beyond what scientists in our current time can do. Mike Allred combines these elements with the mecha genre, including a cool looking robot that has But he cuts the story together in a way that looks like an avant-garde fever dream at times. Some of the ways he does this is by reality turn on a dime, making Dr. Wilding the ultimate unreliable narrator, and transforming his and Laura Allred’s wonderfully refined artwork into raw pencils.
X-Ray Robot #1 may end up being another scientist and robot team up to save the world from a threat beyond our knowledge, but for now, Mike Allred and Laura Allred subvert these well-trodden tropes and give readers a unique experience of traveling to another dimension and bonding with another consciousness. The way they shift their art style when Dr. Wilding goes to another dimension and the cutting together of tranquil domesticity with violent unreality makes X-Ray Robot #1 a fantastic reading experience and worth pouring over for the Allreds’ dynamic storytelling alone.
Story/Art: Michael Allred
Colors: Laura Allred Letters: Nate Piekos
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.5 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy
Dark Horse Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review