February 24, 2010

13 Reasons to Read Blacklist Studios’ Robot 13!

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Written by: Andy
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R 13, written by Thomas Hall and drawn by Daniel Bradford, is an action-packed adventure story starring the monster-slaying Robot 13 who is on a quest to discover who he is and where he comes from. The story is published by Blacklist Studios and issue #3 hits shelves March 10; it’s definitely a chapter that kicks the story into high gear, dropping clues as to the origin of Robot 13 and the reasons for his initial programming. Before jumping ahead to chapter 3 though, readers need to be brought up to speed on the first two issues starring our stoic monster slayer.

The story begins on a ship at sea. Its captain is a rough old man who sharply barks orders to his crew. They’re bringing in the day’s haul of fishing nets when they come across a hunk of metal mixed in amongst the fish. Upon further inspection, the hunk of scrap is actually what seems to be a metal suit with a skull lifelessly sitting inside a glass helmet. The Captain and crew are perplexed by their find, but have no time to dwell on it, as from the depths of the sea a giant tentacled creature assaults their ship out of nowhere, devouring the crew and gaining hold of the Captain in its slimy, suction cupped tentacled grasp!

Enter Robot 13 who, upon coming spontaneously to life and taking hold of the Captain’s spear, leaps onto the ocean monster and engages it in fierce combat. When the giant behemoth plunges Robot 13 into the sea, almost instinctively the robot grabs the ship’s anchor and with one mighty swing, plunges it deep into the lone eye of the enraged sea creature. After the melee, the robot, ever the ignorant one, awkwardly inquires where he is and who he is, and makes the request to be brought to land. The Captain, happy to be alive and still have a crew and his ship, is unable to answer the “who” question, but willingly agrees to take Robot 13 to shore. After all, it did save his life and he knows money is to be made with the giant eyeball trophy R 13 acquired for him and the crew.

Issue #2 picks up right where #1 left off: with the crew and R 13 heading towards land. R 13 is engaged in a reflective conversation with a deck hand, pondering questions like why we’re here and the overall nature of peace. Then, as abruptly and surprisingly as the sea creature appeared, a giant Phoenix swoops down from the sky, snatching R 13 off the boat with its giant talons! The Phoenix, which makes Jean Grey look like Little Bo Peep, takes the fight into the air, barraging R 13 with walls of flame. Our hero is unaffected though, being a robot, and proceeds to literally pummel the Phoenix back to earth with his bare hands. The two combatants fight until they crash into a nearby mountain peak, resulting in an explosion. What’s left is a giant crater, a motionless R 13, and a small golden egg. The egg quickly hatches and out flies a baby Phoenix, leaving our battle-worn hero alone and vulnerable atop a snowy mountain peak….

R 13 takes on the Phoenix while Cyclops can be heard in the background yelling "JEAN!" from the mountaintops.

R 13 takes on the Phoenix while Cyclops can be heard shouting "JEAN!" from the mountaintops.

The scene then shifts to the lair of Echidna, a grotesque multi-armed worm-like creature with razor teeth and a demonic visage. Echidna is the mother of these killer creatures on Earth, so naturally she’s pretty pissed off with Robot 13 and his slaughter of her “babies.” She wants to find him so she can put an end to his murderous rampage of her children.

This brings us up to speed with issue #3, the final chapter of the “Colossus!” story arc, where Echidna calls upon her sword wielding Cyclops monster to destroy R 13. Upon hearing the robot’s name, the Cyclops flies into a rage and storms out of his lair in search of his metal prey.

Meanwhile, a recently rescued R 13 awakes from his battle with the Phoenix inside of a small, isolated cabin in the snowy mountains. A blind old man named Oliver and his dog have taken in the hero. Artist Daniel Bradford provides the reader with some easily missed irony as a sightless Oliver states, “Lucky and I moved up here to the mountains, away from the politics and the troubles,” in a panel where a crucifix is prominent. Oliver’s faith is blind indeed, but his little trinket couldn’t stop the Cyclops from easily locating R 13 and engaging the little robot in an intense and highly destructive showdown, one that not everyone survives….

There are clues dropped throughout these issues about the origins of R 13 and where he may have come from. In issue #1 we meet a monocled man who, for reasons we don’t know, gives R 13 his “freedom” by setting him adrift, alone, out into the middle of the sea. So it’s no wonder the Captain and his crew dug him up later on. Then issue #2 begins with a scene from ancient Crete. A king has assembled the greatest minds in the world to create a hero that will stand and fight against the monsters of the world in the defense of mankind; we later learn that these heroes are the line of robots Robot 13 hails from. In issue #3 we see a panel of R 13 getting repaired in Crete, and a story told by Oliver that further elaborates on the aforementioned king creating the robots to protect his people from the monster threats. We are introduced to the original creature slayer, Talos, who looks similar to our protagonist; only Talos wore a red cape, slung a fancy schmancy sword, and had a gold orb for a head instead of a skull. Still, we don’t know much about the origin of Robot 13, and that adds to the great storytelling of this series: we’re passengers on his heroic journey to discover who he is, and we learn about the world as he does. It’s really quite cool.

Now that you’re all caught up, here are 13 reasons to read Robot 13:

13. The art.  It’s pretty obvious that one of Daniel Bradford’s influences is Mike Mignola of Hellboy, and the style works wonders for the story. It has a unique feel to it, one that’s dark and mysterious, and really sets the tone for the book.

12. The creepies. The monsters look badass in this comic. From the squid creature, to the Phoenix, to the Cyclops, the creatures are huge, hulking, and scary. I eagerly await seeing which big ugly will appear next!

11. The time period. Since the story is set somewhere in the pre-WWII/post WWI era, technology is limited, which explains why R 13 isn’t running around with uzi’s or rocket launchers. And I like it that way. Whatever the exact year may be, you get the sense that it isn’t the present day, and that only adds to the mystery.

10. The unanswered questions. Speaking of mysteries, there are plenty of them here. Who is R 13? Are there more of him? What about robots 1-12? Where does he come from? Writer Thomas Hall said in an interview with, “Once Robot 13 knows all about his own past, what will he do with that? To me, that’s when it’s going to get even more fun.” What a tease!

9. The mythology. R 13 is jam packed with it, and while some of the references may have gone over my head (I’m not an expert in Greek mythology), a true fan of the genre will wet their pants over this comic.

8. The reading length. Since the story is fast paced, the issues don’t take very long to read and that plays to the benefit of the series. You don’t feel like you’re reading a drawn-out novel.

7. The adventure. Each issue of Robot 13 is an action packed battle royale that follows natural combat progression and doesn’t feel forced. Plus, the journey of R 13 finding out who he is is exciting even without all the bloody pomp and circumstance.

6. The publisher. Blacklist Studios is an up and coming indie company founded by Bradford and Hall, yet the production quality of Robot 13 is up there with any of the major publishers of today. That’s no small feat: to produce a high quality, full-color indie title in today’s market and exist beyond one issue. The only other comic published by the company is KING!, which has yet to debut.

5. The creators. After reading the interview Bradford and Hall did for the site a few months ago, they come off as enthusiastic, dedicated, and likable; adjectives that make it easy to support their work. Character traits aside, if you purchase Robot 13 they’ve made sure that you’re rewarded with a kick ass story that definitely delivers!

4. It’s a damn fun read. ‘Nuff said.

3. Take your coat off and stay awhile. Despite the issues being fast reads, the story doesn’t feel rushed at all and the pacing is spot on. Each issue features intense action with sprinkles of clues as to where the plot may go, while simultaneously hinting at where everything originates from.

2. The dialogue. It’s tough to explain, but R 13’s speech pattern is very odd; essentially he talks like an alien from another world using short/fractured sentences, who is completely ignorant of himself and his surroundings. R 13 doesn’t have much to say, but when he talks you hang on every word, looking for some answers that may unlock the secrets of his past….

1. The robot. R 13 is an awesome protagonist. He’s not evil or blood thirsty, he’s just a robot whose programming was to destroy man-hunting monsters. OK, I can get behind that! The ease with which R 13 disposes of his monster foes with mundane weaponry is crazy: a fisherman’s spear, an anchor, planks of wood, you name it! It makes you wonder who or what created this guy and how powerful it/they are. Regardless, Robot 13’s innocent ignorance grows on you fast, and you welcome accompanying him in his quest for self-discovery.

In short, check this series out. You never know when you may need to be rescued from some mythological beastie, and if Robot 13 disappears, well, we’re all screwed.

Click here for an interview with creators Tom Hall and Daniel Bradford and here for another R 13 Review.

Andy Liegl



  1. I’m sold. and yes! the art is very Mignola! and masterfully done!

  2. Well that’s certainly…unique! Props to anything that successfully incorporates Greek mythology, though.

  3. billy

    That dude in the comic reminds me of the Scooby episode…”The Kooky Space Kook”. lol

  4. […] behind Blacklist Studios. At that time they had just released the amazing comic Robot 13, We talked a little about that gem of a comic, but I couldn’t help being mesmerized by the […]

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