"Vandroid" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Originally published as Vandroid #1 - #5
Illustrated by Dan McDaid
2014, 146 Pages
Trade paperback released on December 2nd, 2014
It's 1984. Computers are just starting to be taken seriously. Slimy scientist Taylor tricks his old friend Chuck Carducci into helping him develop a robot with a new type of artificial intelligence he's developed. Unbeknownst to Chuck, Taylor intends to sell the project to a rich local mob boss and invest it all in parachute pants (that last part is pure speculation). A new breed of robot is about to be born. It's time for the world to meet... Vandroid. *Cue wicked guitar riff*
Vandroid starts out as a bad guy. He comes across like the Terminator, ready to take out anyone that stands in his way. He quickly evolves into an '80s-fueled android of awesome that would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the biggest action movie stars of that decade. This robot would show up the cast of the Expendables.
So much of who Vandroid is comes from Chuck. While the AI was developed by Taylor, the heart and soul of the robot came from Chuck. He's infused with his creator's memories, personality, and moral code to the point where he actually thinks he's Chuck. This leads to some very unfortunate circumstances, but they're quickly washed away. In many ways this is the mechanic's crowning achievement. It's his last attempt to turn his life around from the downward spiral that it's been in for years. This is his last chance to make something good.
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That humanity gives Vandroid the push he needs to take the fight to the man. He wants to take down the mob once and for all in this town, and he's going to do it with a whole lot of bloodshed. The battle quickly gets personal, pushing the robot to the point where he must level the entire operation or die trying.
Some of the plot points in the book are a little thin, but then again, so were a lot of them in '80s action movies. This whole comic is like one big love letter to that era. It's filled with little tidbits like a Betamax playback and a kid's Voltron hat. The real meat is the excitement as Vandroid heads into battle. In the climax of the book, he fights gangsters, cyborgs, punks, psychopaths, and ninjas. That's all in one scene! Even Swarzenegger didn't do that.
Artist Dan McDaid really set the style for Vandroid. If you didn't know any better, you'd think that you had picked up this comic from a yard sale somewhere, like some lost treasure from thirty years ago. Just take a look at the title character with his long, wavy hair, bitchin' sunglasses, sporty vest, and a giant back tattoo of a centaur. What more do you need really?
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Co-writer Tommy Lee Edwards delivered some amazing covers for Vandroid that would be at home next to VHS copies of cheesy and forgotten movies of years gone by. Each one perfectly sets the tone for the book. They let you know what you're getting into. If you see one of these covers and you're not instantly interested in what this book is about, then I'm not sure we can be friends anymore.
Vandroid is like a mix between Drive and RoboCop with a bit of the Terminator thrown in for good measure. It captures the look and feel of every ridiculous '80s movie, fills it with heart, and then blows it up in a cornucopia of violence. The creators included some bonus features claiming that the comic is actually an adaptation of a failed movie from decades ago that I desperately want to believe. They even included still shots and interviews with cast and crew. Oh, and did I mention there's a soundtrack?