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NOW! Comics Astro Boy - Issue Sixteen

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Happy February 1989...the pioneer of modern manga has passed away of stomach cancer, amidst copyright turmoil over his own creations. Let's see if Steacy can keep it together in his final issue as lead artist! Also, Brian Thomas's short story - originally made as a warm-up in 1987 and never really intended for public use - has just been printed in Speed Racer #17.
So, this issue's story is called Slaves of the Cybots. Are there any Cybot slavedrivers? Well, that's NOW!'s fancy word for "advanced robot", so no, unless mentions in passing count. So, this is kind of the Waiting For Godot version of Astro Boy.
Dammit Bob, try and live up to your name.
We open with Elefun in a radar monitoring room with a guy who vaguely resembles Dr. Bob Brilliant from Gigantor. Apparently the seventh manned space probe has gone missing in space; Elefun questions if the "telemetry" is down, but goes out to greet Astro.
Why is Elefun yelling?
The third page ushers in a drawing quality not unlike what happens when I draw with a drying pen without any pencil reference. Elefun takes Astro in to see General Hawkins, to which Astro says "Who do you want me to beat up, General?" Elefun hurriedly breaks up an argument over whether or not Hawkins funded Astro's creation just so she could have him whack people, then brings everyone's attention to the matter at hand.
Space pirates? It must have been Captain Harlock!
The group goes into the tank storage room, where Hawkins suggests Astro go in and rescue the occupants of the probe, but Astro says they got what they deserved if they were out to invade some planet. What the hell is up with Astro today? Is he pubescent now? I know it's only the afternoon of Dinomania Part Two, and Astro's only ten or eleven, but this is the most crank he's unleashed in one sitting. Before she drives off in a tank, Hawkins punches her hand, but it looks like a fist came out of her cheek and attacked a squid. Steacy, pull out from the action. You can't fit something like that in an extreme close-up.
...A whole fish?
Suddenly, we cut to a page of I.Q. Plenty and Spud, who appear for the first time in two issues. I'm sort of happy they're back, so I have someone non-existant to direct my anger at, rather than towards Steacy, a real person. All that happens is I.Q. has overheard the army's plans to go to space, and advises Spud to get ready for a "long trip", whom tries to eat I.Q.'s retarded sandwich.
Meanwhile, Astro has just informed his family that he's going to space, and Astro Girl begs him to let her go. Upon being denied for her own safety, she takes it as an affront to all of womankind. Rebecca tells her off, but Astro Girl runs off exclaiming, "If anyone wants me, I'll be in my room, sulking!" Wow, this is more sexist than the 1995 Megaman cartoon.
We could have had Brian Thomas. We could have had Kimba, Shunsaku Ban and international collaboration stories. But instead we've got seven Eds.
Astro goes to meet his crew, which has been appointed because Elefun realized it would be a bad-as-hell idea to make a tween boy control an entire rocket ship. Steacy throws him a crew all composed of clones, six of the same guy and a seventh who wants to be "different". Quoting Bob Dylan, "If you know what you're making is crap, you'd might as well load it up!"
Each of the clones does one thing, which they explain with significant hand gestures. The guys who are all identical and "normal" get the cool jobs, while the original one cleans up their poop. And stop doing that, Ted. It's like a bastardized version of Spike Spiegel's "Bang.".
Suddenly the rocket is about to launch, and Astro Girl breaks away from the crowd to go hide in a box. It's not on the ship, but somehow she knew it would be put onboard. And it's getting picked up...by KEN STEACY AND ANDREW PRATT THEMSELVES! They're in only four panels, but apparently Steacy looks like David Gonterman.
That's not funny. But saving us from more of that, I.Q. Plenty sprays knockout gas on the two, takes their uniforms, and he and Spud carry the box with Astro Girl inside up to the ship. I can only see one problems...uniform or not, people will see a talking anthropomorphic dog in a suit and will be justifiably confused.
Astro goes out to meet the press and the accompianing crowd of people seeing him off, and gets gifts. Mr. Pompus gives him homework on a microtape (how eighties!) and apparently expects it done, Kristal Kleer gives him a flower to "remind him of earth", Archie gives him a "lucky can opener", and learns his sister ran off for no reason. Also Mutex is there for no other reason but to be terrible.
Before going into the elevator, Astro stops to get some encouraging and calming words of advice from Elefun, whom tells him that there will be crazy Cybots who will want everyone dead. There's a lot of words on that page. It's for that, among other reasons, that this comic is as bad as Ctrl+Alt+Del.
Upon heading up to the ship, Astro is called aside by...wait for it...
Boynton stops by to install a "Trilithium Minicell" in Astro's chest capacity, which will triple his power if anything goes wrong with his battery. But, if using it for more than sixty seconds, the cell will proceed to "fuse your circuits!". That's our batcrap insane Boynton! Making devices that would be cool and helpful but with stupid plot restrictions!
About the above panel...this was another one of the issues I bought as a kid. I opened one of Brian Thomas's issues and was pleased to find a beautifully on-model Boynton inside. Then I pulled out this one, accidentally turned to this page, and stared at it with gaping horror for two minutes. Good times...
You can't stand up during a rocket launch! You're gonna regret
saying that when you're a bubbling metal glob at the back of the shuttle!
Astro gets onboard, and the ship prepares for launch, each number displaying in a clock radio font over a one-colour panel. Mutex gets one. Screw Mutex.
Boynton seems pretty cool about having his son shot into space.
Barbra the Reporter shrieks at us in anticipation of the next issue, which will mostly be bumbling around in space. Why are you taking them all to space two issues before the new guy takes over? Are you purposedly twisting it into a pointless story arc that Thomas will have to deal with?
I see what you did there!
In the letters section, all the letters printed are gushing about Steacy's work. Apparently Galen West here believes the method of coating a page in one colour "doesn't distract from the story or art itself at all". Are you colourblind? Do your eyes happen to be apples? Did someone pay you to send that in? These are the only possibilities I can come up with to explain your letter, Galen.
Oh, and the pages he's complementing are in issue 14, specifically the scenes with Zookeeper McGrew and staring at the pile of debris.
As Barbra yells in her final panel forever, "Don't miss our next startling issue!" What's supposed to be startling? The fact that it's illustrated by a guy who actually cares about Astro Boy? Probably, and you should tune in for the next review to see the shocking difference between Ken Steacy's writing and Brian Thomas's artwork! Spoiler alert: it makes me happy!
Instead of the wild spectrum of Tezuka's characters you could choose from, you interject yourself, your assistant and seven identical men. It's been two years into these reviews, and since then, I've learned you pretty much stole Brian Thomas's role in the comic and half-assed it ever since. Now, finally, he gets to take over...fighting with the insane space story you've set up.
So, Gendo face. Gendo face for all eternity.

All written material here is 2007-2011 Fauna Crawford, along with any images identified as such. All other copyrights belong to their respective owners and creators. Permission is required to use any original material from this site.