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NOW! Comics Astro Boy - Issue Three

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Well, dear readers, I've acquired a few more material issues of the series...this time, five in all, and plenty to do ongoing reviews with! They bounce between bad and good and back again, as what seems to be Ken Steacy's tendency. As far as I can tell from the Letters section, the series is definitely based off of the 60's series, and the only think they took from the 80's series is Rebecca's/Astro's Mom's design. It appears they watched a few episodes of the newer series, declared it infamy, then forgot about it. (We'll get to this later on.) The 1960's anime series wouldn't be released on video until the early 1990's, so none of the comic readers could go check if any of the trash they'd just read was canon.
 
I don't hate all the issues I've bought...but a good fraction of them are TERRIBLE. Particularly today's issue. Ken Steacy and Michael Dimpsey take the chance quality we saw in issue two, drag it behind the woodshed, shoot it to death, skin it, set the pelt on fire, and attach the corpse to strings to wave it around like a horrible, mutilated puppet. Astro appears in less than six pages of this issue, and the rest is a bunch of soldiers talking about killing things. And this really bothers me because Osamu Tezuka was extremely anti-war. A story says that Tezuka was harassed by an American soldier when Tezuka was a kid, sparking his hate of soldiers and war. And in this issue...well, you'll soon see what was wrong.
 
But most of the characters are the same this time; Rebecca still looks like Bulma, I.Q. Plenty is still annoying, and Boynton still has a beak bigger than that of the Vlasic Stork. Today, we'll meet the "American" version of Duke Red...

I really want to get past this first part of the comic quickly...it starts off with a bunch of soldiers panicking, cowering into a trench and watching as a pointy-headed blur - whom we all know well - flies around threateningly. And then...
 
Astro's attempt to knock off the soldier's stupid little hat worked quite well.
 
Why would Astro do this?! He never endangers humans, unless they've torched a school or robbed a conveniently-placed bank! This looks a lot like a part in the 1980's intro, but NOW! Comics didn't consider that series a part of the official continuum...but making an entire gun fetish issue was. Go figure.
 
"Sarge, does Joe look like Jonathon Crane or what?"
 
The three main soldiers are hiding in a hole, talking about how "the military's latest hunk of indestructability (sic) is on the fritz!" Aside from that line being really un-catchy and lame, I think Boynton borrowed money from the army, thus making Astro their property. But where on earth have they been staking out...?
 
Boynton soon realized the Mormons were on his block.
 
Yes, that's Boynton's house. Yes, it's surrounded by tanks, has gaping holes blown in the ground, and soldiers armed and hiding in someone's house. This, dear reader, is called POOPING ON MY CHILDHOOD.
 
"My forehead may be pink, but your eyes are the size of kiwis!"
 
After making me cry, the scene cuts to at the "Institute of Science", where the military has taken over the building. Rebecca reveals that the army has shut down the entire institute, to which Lance's head explodes. Also, Becky, that sounds like an interesting date there. If my memories of a "civic centre" are correct, you can watch annoying kids in a pool, and buy mice made of walnut shells from old ladies. The movies ain't nothing next to that, huh?
Anyway, the scene cuts again to the Board of Directors, where a meeting is being led by none other than...
 
Tezuka looked up at one of his sons and wondered where, just where, it could have all gone wrong.
 
DUKE RE-- I MEAN, TAS TAMIL!
The Bird Man is angry that Boynton is in total control of the Institute, claiming that he makes the entire building look bad. Also, "cybotics" caused a huge divide among the scientific community, because "robotics" isn't a fancy enough word. Tas begins to promote himself as the next director of science (minister of science?), when I.Q. Plenty comes in with the hockey stick and the talking dog nobody likes.
 
Is this artwork not stunning?
 
He takes over Tas's chair, because apparently "pushy and intrusive" seemed like a good election plan at the time. Speaking of which, does I.Q. look like John McCain in that first panel? He certainly does to me.
As I.Q. gets his ass comfortable, a mysterious mystery man comes in and shocks the populace...
 
Boynton sure has a lot of creepers on his Board...is that Tezuka's hand spilling the glass?
 
No, Spud. No, that is NOT dramatic. Any Astro Boy fan with a quarter of a brain can recognize that silhouette as Dr. Pachydermus J. Elefun, owner of the craziest dub name ever. Also, he seems to like calling his fellow man "my dear", like last time. Why are they being so mysterious with Elefun? Even people who watch just one episode know who he is.
Okay, fun's over. Ken Steacy wants to talk about the army again.
 
"Did we just level a Top F*O*O*D*S outlet here?"
 
Apparentely, the soldiers are losing the fight, despite how many technologically-ghastly reinforcements they send in. Keep in mind that this is a suburban neighborhood, and it hasn't been explained what is going on. Are they trying to steal back Astro? Did Astro do something in the neighborhood? This is turning more and more into something to cater to David Gonterman. Not much happens on this page, but the soldiers make some lame cracks about losing, then they find the troops regrouping, and a "Bright Box", which looks like the IBM monitor I'm using right now.
 
You could always plug it in.
 
He says "fricking". It was right here, right at this panel, that I realized this comic was never intended for children. It's chilling.
After a whole page of trying to turn on the Bright Box, the guy who kinda looks like Jonathon Crane (I'm thinking of Batman: The Animated Series here) smacks the side of the monitor and it comes alive...revealing General Hawkins.
 
It's like Afghanistan but not really!
 
Because Ken Steacy can't imagine putting a visually-appealing woman in power, the General is a wart-faced midget woman with always a cigar, Cyril Sneer-style. She complains that they're turning "a simple mission into Global Conflict IV", which may have been a video game. Anyway, she sends in some "air support", and tells them to retrieve the Mighty Atom, which is probably a code name for Astro. It's a lovely homage, but it would probably have been better if the rest of Astro's origin hadn't been warped.
 
I'm going to paraphrase four pages, now...six planes fly in as a narrator talks about how bad the unmanned planes work. Astro comes by and destroys a few planes, to which the remaining plane shoots missiles at Astro. Astro comes at the plane and rips its main jet out, and we're left to assume he may have killed or brutally-injured six humans.
 
This damned comic would have been the cause of Tezuka's stomach cancer. God bless his soul.
 
Back on the ground, the troops watch the planes crash morbidly, and they decide to take out a super-powered laser gun and compliant headpiece. This is very, very simple, but an entire page is dedicated to describing the destructive power of the laser. And it's been nicknamed "Jack".
Because everybody finds violence fascinating, huh?
 
"Looks like an apocalyptic hellstorm outside!"
 
As the soldier and Jack search for Astro (all the while talking to Jack like it were sentient), they find Boynton peering out of his house and towards Astro. The soldier gets a target on the boy, and fires.
 
 
ಠ_ಠ
 
All the guys start cheering and telling Jack that it's "made papa proud", when some guy's face fills the panel and screams "NO!" But why? Well, it's because--
 
 
IT'S ALIIIIIIIVE!
All the soldiers panic and run all over the place as Astro goes on a destruction spree, and trashes every machine on the block. One soldier is on the ground, struggling to get up, and it may be evident that his leg is broken, when a pointy-headed silhouette looms over him...
 
"Would you be interested in biting my shiny, metal ass?"
 
"Hi! My name's Astor! I just destroyed millions of dollars in military technology, killed several of your friends, and may be schizophrenic! How ya doin'?" And then the soldier laughs, because it seemed like a good way to end the "battle" at the time.
 
Tenma/Boynton actually looks good in a dishevelled suit.
 
Then, we cut to Boynton and Astro in some purple Twilight Zone, with Astro screaming at Boynton for erasing his memories and tricking him into doing "his crimes". Actually, it's getting pretty similar to the 2003 series right now. After the above panel, Astro asks what love is.
WHAT IS LOVE
BABY DON'T HURT ME
DON'T HURT ME
NO MORE
Astro gets mad at him and claims he's "different", which really means he's caught on that he's a robot. Boynton gives him the old "I created you and you're my son" dealio, but this time, claims that he can control everything about Astro.
 
This is EXACTLY how I feel about this issue.
 
Astro gives in, and allows Boynton's control (there's no way to describe this without it sounding like a yaoi fan comic), with the line "I know...you created me..." Then he moves back and gazes up at him, tense. "...But who created you?"
 
That's it.
 
No, really.
 
But we get one last freakshow in the Letters column...there's a letter from an Australian girl named Peta Little, who has just picked up the comic and is a little confused. She describes herself as a "second-generation seven year old" when referring to her viewership - now, the 80's series was hugely popular in Australia from 1980-1982, so if Peta were 7 when she first watched it, she would be 13 or 14 when she sent the letter. Now, here's what she asks, and what NOW! Comics gives her...
 
A) Peta is mostly satisfied with the comic, but adds a few suggestions.
B) NOW! calls her "unfamiliar" with the series, and explains the episode histogram: in the 60's, Mushi Productions made 260 episodes, only 150 of which were dubbed (no, only 104 were dubbed, and there were 193 episodes). They mention the colour 1980's series had only 36 episodes (there were actually 52, edited down to 51), and "did not stand up to the now-classic original cartoons".
 
A) Peta complains that Boynton's son's name is Toby.
B) NOW! tells her that it was Astor in "the original series".
 
A) Peta asks where Jump, the Boynton family dog, has gone to.
B) NOW! tells her that Astro never had a dog and that she's bullshitting them.
 
A) Peta claims they're not drawing them "like I know him", being that Astro is little and rounded in the 80's version, instead of the pointy & creepy version we've been seeing.
B) NOW! simply says, "Astro stands four heads tall, not three".
 
"Thank you for your letter. I hope this clears up some confusion."
Yeah, uh, sure. Have you guys even SEEN the 1980's edition? It was only six years ago for you. Maybe it would clear up a little confusion on YOUR behalf. Also, if you're so defensive of the original, who justifies centering an entire issue on a bunch of dudes trying to kill Astro? And all the other stuff, too...you turned a simple episode of the 60's series into a ten-issue travesty. It is nothing other than a travesty, and I hope you hold some guilt for it.
 
 
 

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