Review by Ian Keogh
Ivan Brandon and Miles Gunter’s plot concerns a New York much as everyone knows it, but instead populated by eight million robots. There are store owner robots and supermodel robots, robot children, robot cabbies and robot dogs. Our initial focus, though, is a robot gang, who spend the nights getting stoned and the days robbing other robots to do it. And because this is so urban and real, nearly all of them swear. On every page!
As robots go, these aren’t the types that can pass for human, although they’re constructed to mimic them. The metal is up front, on display. Andy McDonald’s art is very good indeed, and the sheer time he must have spent adding all those cogs, gears and little design elements to some pages beggars belief. Did he ever wonder why, though? As the series continues he’s less impressive, and James Romberger lays out the final chapter.
The plot of the opening chapters is minimal, and concerns what would otherwise be 1990s style slackers with little conscience, unable to see past their own noses, reinforcing themselves by passing judgement on anyone not part of their enclosed world. After two chapters the focus shifts, we’re introduced to other robot citizens, and Brandon and Gunter up their game a little as far as the plot goes.
The idea of New York inhabited by robots is a viable concept. Reading the first couple of chapters the expectation is that there’ll come a point when a greater purpose is revealed, but that point never comes. Perhaps NYC Mech is satire, then, a commentary on our cultural obsessions via supplanting humans with robots? No, it isn’t. Maybe we’ll learn where the robots came from, how there are so many and how that impacts on the wider world. No. There’s not a single relevant point throughout the book where it makes the slightest difference that the cast are robots. And if you strip that element away you’re left with two very ordinary stories about people with few redeeming qualities, and an irritating narrative voice.
Anyone who does consider NYC Mech worthwhile is directed to NYC Mech: Beta Love. This material is a vast improvement. McDonald’s art is even more impressive, and there’s a greater depth to the plot.