Alex Automatic is a perplexing tale, but not in the usual sense. Its mystery is not so much the search for an answer to a burning question, but the full understanding of exactly what the hell is going on.
Initially it seems that the eponymous star is a spy technologically enhanced to an extreme extent, a debonair Six Million Dollar Man or uncharacteristically callous Inspector Gadget. However, it’s soon revealed that he is in actuality a psychopathic killing machine and the result of a clandestine government programme, and the secret agent histrionics are all in his head, his missions a series of vivid hallucinations and his life a continual fever dream. A pair of journalists break into the black ops facility housing the madman to get him out which, of course, ends up badly for everyone involved.
The deliberately retro artwork evokes that of the Golden Age, with simple character features, thick outlines and little colour gradient, which perfectly matches the throwback TV stylings of the pulp sci-fi world that exists within Alex’s mind. Variation in the style indicates the differing realities, utilising a heady chromatic intensity as Alex battles his way through the minions of a secret society in a barrage of high-tech espionage nonsense, and a muted palette to portray the dull yet considerably more brutal real world in which he unwittingly engages in torture and slaughter. Pairs of panels are juxtaposed to express the contrast, and occasionally single panels are split in half, further underscoring the fragmented perception that is his madness and his reality.
Every situation Alex finds himself in is effortlessly warped to become incorporated into his TV show adventures, his lethal skills targeting anyone who crosses his path whether they need to or not. There are moments when Alex believes himself to be acting in a blaze of suave elegance when the reality shows a broken man utterly lost within his own delusion, during which he actually looks rather pathetic.
Alex Automatic takes a great deal of concentration to follow, and at least one re-read will likely be required to ensure you haven’t missed anything, but you can be assured it all makes a warped sense in the end, and that Alex has many more adventures ahead of him, both real and imagined.
ALEX AUTOMATIC #1 / AUTHOR: FRASER CAMPBELL / ARTIST: JAMES CORCORAN, DAVID B COOPER / PUBLISHER: CABAL COMICS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW