Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Death of Three Robots

Four months after Shogun Warriors came to an end, Doug Moench used an issue of Fantastic Four to give those characters some closure.

Fantastic Four #226 (January 1981) starts with a giant robot stealing a train (the whole train, mind you) full of gold off a track in eastern Europe. When Reed and his family hear about this on the TV news, their thoughts go to the Shogun Warriors--the only giant robots they currently know are extant. Have the Shoguns gone bad?

Of course, they never use the phrase "Shogun Warriors." Marvel no longer had the rights to the characters. The human pilots--Savage, Genji and Carson--were Marvel creations and could apear, but the actual robots could not.

That's what makes this well-written story is actually pretty clever. Not being able to show the robots means a final Shogun story is potentially disappointing or anti-climatic. In fact, we find out that all three robots have already been destroyed by a new renegade robot. We don't see more than bits of debris--not enough of them to risk copyright violation. How can this not be disappointing?

Well, first, the story is a good one. Part of the set up is Franklin reenacting David and Goliath with some action figures, then getting miffed when his dad doesn't pay any attention to this. This seems like a throwaway bit of characterizations, but its setting up future plot point.

Savage, Genji and Carson show up at the Baxter Building to report the destruction of their robots. All three are feeling down--suddenly, the most important part of their lives have been forever taken from them.

But there's no time for whining. The renegade robot is robbing a bank in Japan. The location is near the Shogun's sanctuary (destroyed during the course of their own book). Along with the three former robot pilots, the FF flies off to deal with this.

At first, the robot is too tough a nut to crack, fighting past both the FF and the local military. The pilots, meanwhile, have entered the sanctuary to find out what's going on. The robot shows up and helpfully explains everything.
The robot's pilot is a random guy who stumbled across the ruins of the sanctuary. He found a partially constructed robot and figured out how to finish building it. He also found information about the Shoguns, so made a point of destroying them.

His motive? He pretty much just enjoys being a bully.

The FF regroup and attack again, but are still having trouble finding a weak spot.
But then, Reed proves he was paying attention to Franklin's David and Goliath game. Trying the same ancient tactic, he plants a big rock right between the robot's eyes. This dazes it long enough for the FF to get the upper hand and allow the three pilots to get inside and jump the big bully. Everyone then gets clear just before the robot self-destructs.

The story as a whole is a good one, with Bill Sienkiewicz giving us effective art work. The foreshadowing with Franklin's story is something a lot of readers will probably pick up on, but it still works nicely.

And the last page gives us effective closure for Savage, Genji and Carson despite the absence of the robots. The three had been feeling collectively depressed because they no long had their own giant robots. But all three realize they have productive lives to live. One does not need a giant robot to be a hero. As Richard Carson says: "Heroism is a relative thing--and it can be done in little ways on a small scale--on a human scale."

Not that one would turn down a chance to own a giant robot should the opportunity arise. If anyone has a spare giant robot they are looking to get rid of, I'll take it.

Next week, we'll visit with "the first modern detective."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...