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VANDROID (graphic novel review)

Review by Atlee Greene

Writer: Tommy Lee Edwards & Noah Smith
Artist: Dan McQuaid
Colorist: Melissa Edwards
Lettering: John Workman
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $17.99

I didn’t know what to expect when Vandroid was placed into my lap.

On the surface, it looks like a cheesy, direct-to-home video movie from the 80’s. However, upon examining the pages of this brash and colorful adventure, I soon realized that this is indeed a B-movie from the 80’s filled with all of the over-the-top, high-octane action, cheesy one-liners and totally rad characters.

Let me explain.

In 1984, a movie studio called Palm Springs Entertainment started production on a movie called Vandroid.

A fire destroyed the studio and permanently halted production on the film.

As luck would have it, the script survived and the creative team comprised of Tommy Lee Edwards, Noah Smith, Dan McDaid, Melissa Edwards, John Workman and Nic Nicola bring this tale to life through the pages of Dark Horse Comics

The story is centered on two high tech genius former best friends, Chuck Carducci and Taylor Grey. Taylor, a narcissistic and highly successful programmer has created the ultimate A.I. program that is too self-aware. Chuck, a down on his luck divorcee starving artist type has a good heart but can’t get out of his own way.

Taylor contacts Chuck to ask if he will create an android body for his program, Chuck agrees, and that’s when all hell breaks loose.

The nonsensical plot throws a lot at the reader and never lets up. However, it’s easy to follow and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

A high strung Hollywood Texan named Dick Daniels is the evil mastermind who calls the shots. He has every gang in LA. on speed dial and his overall goal is to become even richer and he doesn’t care who he has to step on to get there. Taylor is much of the same, but his sniveling cowardice makes you want to see his head explode when it’s revealed how he sent Chuck down the river.

Wanting to see someone’s head explode is kind of harsh, but for someone who has watched his fair share of Charles Bronson and American Kickboxer films, I’m really not asking for much considering the circumstances. Dan McQuaid delivers the goods with bone crushing visuals. The coloring of Melissa Edwards provides the illustrations with a futuristic vibe of sorts. Their overall collaboration of visual storytelling looks like a futuristic version of the 1980’s.

Just imagine if the VCR and Beta Max were still the dominate names in home video entertainment.

I think that’s what gives this good book such a unique charm. The mustache twirling bad guys coupled with the ultimate good guy badass operate in a world where everything is complex and simple at the same time. Vandroid, the A.I., seems like he is just going to be this out of control mess until a simple plot device involving Chuck’s memoirs makes him more human and he begins to understand the conditions around him.

If you’re a child of the 80’s, the cheesy dialog and rad one liners, along with the pop culture references, such as riding on the back pegs of a Diamondback bicycle are sure to conjure up some fond memories.

My only complaint is that the story moves a little slow at first and that almost made me wonder why I was even reading this if nothing of consequence takes place. The good stuff comes in with its guns blazing and all of time spent on exposition was worth the wait. I might have been disappointed if I bought the first couple of single issues, which is why the collected graphic novel format of all five issues is a better fit for this story.

Vandroid was a bitchin’ ride of high-tech, floppy disk grandeur, and made me harken back to such films as The Running Man, Terminator and a little bit of Mad Max.

There is just something about the tongue and cheek nature of a torn up robot saying he has “a few screws loose” in response to being called crazy that will always bring a smile to my face.

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