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NOW! Comics Astro Boy - Issues 11/12

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Well, ladies and gentlemen, we are entering the second half of the NOW! Comics series. These issues are the ones I've had for a long time, and keep with the tradition of the second half...they're terrible, fall in no particular arc, and make you angry while reading them.

Issue eleven has a "FREE GIANT FULL-COLOUR PIN-UP INSIDE!", and so do all the remaining issues. No, you won't get Rebecca and Jean making out in bikinis...the pin-up is just an enlarged version of past cover art in the centerfold. If anyone who actually pulled them out and used them was not a bored ten year old looking for something to coat their wall with, I'd be worried. All of the comics made by NOW! Comics started printing pin-ups around this time, and for no clear reason. All the pin-up does is take up space and serve no function to anyone. In response, these articles will start using a new useless gimmick...at the end of every article, there will be a reaction image summing up my feeling for the issue. It's about as useful.

Also, since issue eleven is 80% flashback, it'll be merged with issue twelve, so the stories interlock together and you won't have to wade through the exposition.

Rebecca sure could pack a sexy lunch.
 
We open with Astro in his family's new kitchen, with Elmer and Rebecca packing Astro up for school while he eats a bowl of metal nuts. Astro realizes he's going to school and leaps into a whole new dimension of glee, despite either adult refusing to tell him why they look like those knucklehead researchers. Let's break for a moment...as my friend Alittleacorn brought up, why should these two be Astro's parents? It's not like he ever had any attachment to them when they were...human! WooOOOoooOOOooo, secrets!
 
Shunsaku, fight that Ronald Reagan lookalike there and my respect for this comic will increase.
 
When Astro gets to school, he finds a full scale protest on the school's front yard, every one of the protestors relying on the worries that Astro will turn evil like every other cartoon robot. Astro has an ally in Mr. Pompus and Unnamed Blonde Reporter Woman, however...
 
Don't laugh at Gumshoe's facial Tourettes, you insensitive bastard.
 
To summarize this, go back and read all the reviews. No, really. That's the rest of the comic, save for three pages. It also refers to Astor's death as "Boynton's dark secret"...look, watching your kid die doesn't make it a dark, evil secret. You didn't beat a little old lady to death with a spinning wheel, your son died. NOW! Comics, why you gotta be so heartless?
 
Astro finishes showing the crowd these Xeroxed panels and begs them for a chance to live like a real boy, so the Reagan lookalike from before drops his sign and shakes Astro's hand. Astro and Mr. Pompus go into the school, while Gumshoe reminds him that he'll kick the collective asses of the Institute if Astro does something wrong.
 
It's okay, little blonde pointing girl. I see what Archie's doing, too.
 
Astro meets the class of white kids, to which Archie the Loveable Class Skinhead retorts that robots don't have any rights, according to his father. Mr. Pompus essentially tells him to go to hell, thus making him my favorite character in the comic. Oh Pompus, don't do anything creepy like all the others. So, Astro joins the class, discovering his first letter from a girl. At recess, Astro meets the Nikki lookalike and ergo future girlfriend Krystal Kleer, who thinks her own name is "neat". Behind them, Archie beats the tar out of Tamao/Tommy.
 
And then he runs around the back of the school, and this happens...
 
 
Where issue 11 ended, issue twelve immediately resumed with Archie's sobbing flab being dragged off by "Megathreat". Back at the ranch classroom, Pompus does attendance (there's a kid named Mudhead McNutt), but nobody seems to give a crap that he's gone. While Pompus leaves to sort things out, presumably to strap himself into a real Power Loader and kill child molesters, Gumshoe and the Chief are lounging in the street.
 
 
Like any sane person who just saw an eight-foot-tall robot with a boy inside it come up the street, Gumshoe pulls a gun out, only to have it melted by Megathreat. The robot proceeds to turn into a car and drive off the marina, and Gumshoe drives the police car into the water because why not. Astro hears the police report in class, so he springs into action to the situation. And by that, I mean he tells Krystal he has a headache, then quietly goes into the hall and climbs out the window.
 
AHAHAHAHAHA GUMSHOE'S AN ALCOHOLIC!
 
After saving the police car from the depths of the river, Astro begins to feel sick, which in his terms, are to glow green and have a line drawing of the nuclear symbol swim around his head. Oh those Eighties nuclear fears...
 
 
In the secret underwater lab, we see Agent R tell Megathreat to go throw Archie in a box or something, right before the kid kicks him in the leg. Agent R is a bad name because it reminds me of R Tanaka, the adorable dumb android whom I am trying to bring to light with modern anime fans. So let's call Agent R...Cloakmaster. And he's working with Mr. Megacorp, whom we saw before, to get Astro. After a videophone conversation with him, Cloakmaster wishes he had his "old desk job again". BECAUSE HE'S SOMEONE WE'VE SEEN BEFORE! THIS COMIC IS FULL OF TASTY SECRETS!
 
And then there's a page out of nowhere that has Bugsy telling a union construction worker that he wants to kick some human ass. Okay...
 
Elepun.
 
Astro wakes up in a containment lab, giving off dangerous levels of radiation. Apparently, flying underwater caused his tiny internal nuclear reactor to have PMS, and he barely avoided exploding and turning the entire comic into The Day After. So kids, that's why Sonic always dies when he hits water...his nuclear reactor malfunctions.
 
He wants to go out and save Archie, but after being told he's more toxic than a bag of rotting potatoes, Astro has a breakdown, calling himself a "menace". Elefun offers changing his systems to accomodate "hi-density battery packs", but he'll have to keep recharging often. Astro rips all the cords off himself, insisting he make the change.
 
 
In the meantime, Mr. Megacorp has just discovered his own son is being used as Astro-bait, prompting him to rage. Astro breaks into the place, prompting Cloakmaster to scream "Wowsers!", giving away who he is...Inspector Gadget.
 
Cloakmaster fires a "nuclear neutralizer" at Astro, which is instantly ineffective due to the new batteries. Pardon this sudden break, but how long did it take to replace Astro's insides? Given how the level of radiation he was giving off was deemed dangerous, wouldn't most of the metal in his mainframe have to be replaced? How long has Archie been in there, six days?
 
Cloakmaster claims Astro will never find Archie, but then Megathreat just walks into the room with him again. What does Astro do with this perfect opportunity?
 
Actually, his head should've exploded from realizing robots don't wear ties.
 
Act like it's a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. So he shoots the robot in the stomach, making him dizzy. The lab's "main support brace" begins to break, which means the concept of an underwater lab was totally lifted from Skunk's balloon lab, so Cloakmaster gets into Megathreat and goes off. Astro grabs Archie and tells him to hold his breath. He flies up through the water, then runs out of battery at the surface.
 
"Well, you're welcome, you chuckledick."
 
After being recharged, Astro doesn't get any thanks. Upon landing at the marina, Mr. Megacorp runs up and gets his son back, still smoking a cigar because he's totally Cyril Sneer. Or, the mayor candidate from The Death Balloons. This story totally drew from that episode!
 
Upon seeing Astro, Mr. Megacorp offers a ten-year-old boy a job at his industrial robot manufacturing company, which the boy declines. Mr. Megacorp and his ugly son walk off into the sunset.
 
Sorry to trouble you dudes but THAT'S SOME PRETTY GREEN WATER BEHIND YOU.
 
Astro meets up with the Man Gang and tells them that Cloakmaster's voice sounded familiar, like someone he saw "perhaps at the institute". This leaves us with the options of Boynton or Lance Lumiere, since there are no other emotionally-fragile tall, skinny men in the comic.
 
A dog should never say that.
 
At the hospital, I.Q. Plenty apparently fell in a manhole, so Spud bought him a comic book. The book's main character, Mutex, inspires I.Q. to make a wacky situation comedy that we'll see next issue! I swear, we were so close to having this issue spent completely without I.Q., and looking back at everything, this issue was pretty good as a standalone. Ken Steacy's writing his own path now, and he was getting into it enough to actually do a good job on the art. But does NOW! Comics not know how annoying I.Q. Plenty is?
 
This issue came on pretty good. It came onto me, like a middle-aged, dishevelled businesswoman in a bar who had lived better days, but looked fantastic that night. Then she tripped over a stool and fell backwards, and I had to help her to a chair. That's what this story is. She was good, but she gave up midway through. Oh, you poor metaphor woman. You'll see worse days/issues yet...
 
 
Meanwhile, the letters column heralds a list of "Astro Facts", which is stuff I knew within two weeks of becoming an Astro Boy fan when I was 13. But we get something interesting when we put two and two together...
 
 
Remember a certain stupid letter back in issue five? Well, apparently John and Rob from Tropic Comics (referring to themselves as partners, which back then meant "business partners/friends", but now means "life partners/gay") inform us that William Bernard Vogel, also known as Big, is essentially their store's mascot. They go on to fill an entire page with their story of how William was bullied in school for being fat, but kept whiskey around. Later on, he'd hide out in people's houses at night and look for food. I had this issue long before issue five, so imagine how confused I was.
 
So, our comic troll is a big fat Florida guy, and the man is a professional retard. And Tropic Comics still exists. Go email the webmaster, and ask if John and Rob still love each other.
 
In contrast to NOW's new-and-useless centerfold posters, it's time for OBLIGATORY REACTION SHOT!
 
Kenji Murasame; episode 21 of Tetsujin 28.
 
Mr. Steacy! I know what it feels like to dredge through a terrible story and struggle with doing your best art. Now you're the main writer, and you practically own Astro Boy, dude. You can make the story go anywhere! I've heard NOW! Comics was trying to aim the comic at a younger audience around this time, but having everything magically wrap up doesn't work for the rest of us.
 
If I were you, I'd be pulling out some of Tezuka's best characters and be making some awesome crossover soup. I understand no english person knew his characters in 1988, but you can always make stuff up! The character reimagining has worked so far (at least to me)! You put some good art in here, and I applaud you for that. But c'mon, you have to dream big!
 
 

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