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Isaac Asimov's I-Bots, Tekno Comix
developed by Howard Chaykin; scripted by Steven Grant; pencilled by George Perez
GCD (vol. 1); GCD (vol. 2)

Based on a concept by Isaac Asimov, this series ran for 16 issues, from 1995-97. It's set sometime in the not-too-distant future. There was this scientist named Zac Robillard, who developed something called a technosome, a sort of programmable chromosome, which led to the creation of artificial life-forms called I-Bots (the "I" stands for "independent"). They looked human, but were technically robots, even though they had their own minds, emotions, and personalities. There were five of them: Psy-4 (pronounced "Cypher") had the ability to mentally interface with computers, Killaine was a very strong and agile Amazon-like warrior, Itazura was a very nimble fighter (and also prone to making wisecracks), Radiant was a blind woman with the ability to control various forms of radiation, and Stonewall was basically invulnerable. But the project that created them was destroyed, leading to Robillard's death... though his consciousness took on a new life within the internet. Robillard's work had been funded by a corporation called WorldTech, which was run by an unscrupulous woman named Annabelle Brennan. She became the major antagonist in the series, though the I-Bots had plenty of enemies. Their main ally was Senator Kevin Brennan (Annabelle's cousin).

Um... it's hard to know quite what to say. I didn't always follow everything that happened as well as I'd like, because it was kind of complicated. There was some kind of ancient cabal run by a bunch of people who at present were basically heads floating in jars hooked up to complicated machinery. Or something. But they were connected to the internet and secretly controlled the world, or something. And Annabelle was their servant, or something, though she didn't really get along with them. And there were various other groups out there... some of which were secretly controlled by the cabal... And in fact I'm not sure, but it could be that every villain the I-Bots faced were either part of or had some connection to the cabal. Or not. Also there were a couple issues that crossed over with another Tekno series, "Lady Justice." And toward the end of the series, there was a second group of I-Bots created, but I don't want to get into that. They were just there for the last three issues. There was also a normal robot that had accidentally developed self-awareness because of a brief contact it had had with Psy-4. It then styled itself as a Batman-like superhero (which was probably my favorite part of the entire series), but he was really only around for two of the last three issues.

I should say one major plot point was how the public perceived the I-Bots. At the start of the series, they embraced them as superheroes, but when it was revealed that they were artificially created life-forms, they became suspicious, and many people wanted the I-Bots to be destroyed. The I-Bots themselves were willing to go along with whatever the U.N. decided, on that issue, even if it meant terminating their own existence. (Their programming included something akin to the First Law of Asimov's famous laws of robotics, though they had greater free will than normal robots; but if they killed a human being, it would cause them to die as a result. Not that they had any desire to kill anyone, anyway.) Aside from that, the I-Bots struggled to learn to understand their own existence and how they fit into the world. And they didn't always get along with each other.

Anyway... the series had some interesting concepts, but I don't really think it was as well executed as it could have been. I have minor quibbles like the fact that Robillard's name was sometimes spelled "Zac" and sometimes "Zack," or that Annabelle's last name was sometimes given as "Brennan" and sometimes "Donohoe." More importantly, I don't think the dialog was always as clever as it was meant to be. There was lots of slang made up for the story, some of which was okay and some of which was kinda lame. Most of the humor seemed to have the sort of corniness you'd expect from comic books from several decades earlier than this one. And I didn't feel like most of the characters' personalities were well developed. Itazura was the one who seemed most clearly defined, but that's just because he was a smart-ass. Psy-4 seemed to struggle most with figuring out who he was, and how he fit in not only with the world, but with his teammates. (There was some question as to whether he was the "leader," which at first he denied being, but that didn't stop him from acting like he was. None of the others ever seemed to think of him that way, though.) But Stonewall probably seemed closest to the type I could get to like, if the series had lasted longer. As it was, the series really only had two kinds of characters: those I disliked, and those I didn't dislike. I couldn't say I really "liked" any of them, but at least I didn't dislike any of the I-Bots. Still... as I said, the storylines could be a bit confusing, so that didn't really help my appreciation of the series any. It did have potential, though... and then it just ended, when Tekno quit publishing comic books altogether. I'm happy at least that the story arc was completed, but the overall story of the I-Bots seemed far from over, which is annoying. Still, it's not like I really care that much, in retrospect.


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