Not All Robots uses the robot revolution to take aim at the danger of justifying obsolescent rage, although the comic struggles at times to keep its core message intact at times. The new series by Mark Russell and Mike Deodato Jr. is set in a futuristic society where robots carry the burden of keeping small pockets of society intact while climate change and pollution have turned everywhere else into a literal wasteland. The robots are sentient but seemingly subservient, dedicated to taking care of these pockets of humanity while openly bristling against their supposed masters. Razorball is one such robot exasperated about his dead-end "life," as he hates his job and his home life and is working on a project to literally build his own replacements.
The robots in Not All Robots #1 take their cues from incel culture and the sort of impotent rage you find on certain cable news networks often speaking about topics like "cancel culture." Razorball is angry at the futility of his situation, even though his human family (who resents him for his poor attitude) mostly keeps to themselves. He looks at coding instructions on 4chine to disable their empathy chips and listens to a friend openly opine about wiping out humanity once and for all. When Razorball sees one of his human family leave the "Inhuman Resources" building after she seems to request a replacement, a fellow robot openly mocks him and says that he's getting "cucked." Even the title of the comic refers to the tired argument that every woman on the Internet has heard when complaining about institutional sexism. These robots, at least on their surface, share many of the same feelings of impotency that white dudes on the Internet do right before they post a manifesto online and commit mass murder.
However, the analogy falters a little bit when you examine the robot's situation a bit more closely. After all, the robots were created to be subservient and carry out all of society's functions in the world of Not All Robots. Most humans seem to openly resent them, and it's not too hard to empathize with Razorball as he toils away building his own replacements. While the robots carry all the burdens of the world, they receive none of the benefits. In fact, it's not too hard to argue they are the oppressed party in the world of Not All Robots, which makes their rage seem a lot less feckless. Considering the creative team is draping the robots in the language of mass murderers both real and aspiring, it feels like a major flaw for this comic to make the soon-to-be mass murderers feel even a bit sympathetic.
Despite the muddled messaging, readers will still likely enjoy the plethora of gags that come with any Mark Russell comic. Not All Robots #1 is filled to the brim with the same sort of sardonic satire that readers loved in The Flintstones. Most of the gags come in the dialogue, from the way that a robot commentator openly mocks his human counterpart to how a "Motivational Bot" beats his robot compatriot to get better results, there are a ton of biting jokes that land with varying degrees of success. Deodato Jr. jumps into the fray with a couple of great facial expressions that do an excellent job of selling the absurdity of these situations. Many of the humans in this comic seemingly know the robot revolution is coming, judging from the looks of sheer exasperation they give when a robot's homicidal tendencies are brushed aside. My one complaint with the artwork is that the coloring appears flat and uninspired - some of this is likely deliberate to reflect the industrial bent of the future, but the comic could benefit from some better coloring choices in a few key spots.
Not All Robots #1 has all of the wit and bite readers should expect from a Mark Russell comic, even if its opening chapter struggles due to a flawed analogy. Given the creative team is choosing to riff on the very frightening reality a lot of women, people of color, and other marginalized groups face in their everyday lives, I was hoping for a bit more care to be taken in building this world. The robot revolution can be (and should be) an absolute laugh riot, but I feel the comic itself may have inadvertently mashed up its metaphors and dampened its message.
Published by AWA Studios
On August 4, 2021
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Mike Deodato Jr.
Colors by Lee Loughridge
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Mike Deodato Jr.