The future is metal, according to Not All Robots #1 where humans have become so obsolete as to not be necessary.
Not All Robots #1
Mike Deodato Jr. (artist), Rahzzah (cover artist), Mark Russell (writer)
August 4, 2021
In the very not-so-distant future of 2056, humans have destroyed the world, and what remains has been housed within protective bubbles managed by highly intelligent robots. Having proven ourselves to be pretty worthless, the monstrous tentacles of capitalism continue their insidious spread but the majority of jobs are now being done by robots, leaving humans with not much else to do. Each family has been granted a robot to care for them, but relationships between humans and robots are strained. In “Talkin’ Bot,” the talk show that opens the series, two robots discuss this issue with their token human who tries to justify our continued existence and angrily points out the flaws in robot logic that is completely devoid of empathy.
Watching the latest episode are the members of the Walters family, who fretfully await the return of their disgruntled metal breadwinner Razorball. We soon learn that Razorball is the central figure in this story. He is indeed not like the other robots, because he is busy questioning the mundane existence that he and his compatriots have been reduced to — working in a mindless job and coming home to a family that pretends to care, and worse, is afraid of him. Maybe life would be better if he just deactivated his empathy chip?
The title of the series is a play on the “not all men” cry of toxic masculinity, writer Mark Russell explained in a SyFy interview, pointing to the irony of men perpetuating toxic masculinity by trying to deny it, and the radicalization this can lead to. Though the title is an on-the-nose parody of this frustrating phrase, the writing itself is much more subtle in its satirical approach.
His observations of late-stage capitalism and our gig economy also play a key role in the story, as even Razorball finds himself at risk of obsolescence with the introduction of the new, easier-on-the-eyes-and-feelings Mandroids.
The metaphor of life as we know it is a depressing one, but writer Russell injects slick humour into the dialogue that is echoed by Mike Deodato Jr’s renderings of the every day life of man and machines. The light-heartedness of their humour and puns balances the heaviness of the topics the story broaches. It’s easy to see and feel the deep resentment expressed by the characters despite the jokes through highly relatable, if not necessarily likable, characters.
Deodato Jr.’s heavy shading and the uniformity of his robotic elements against the human elements deepen the world building. Humans are just as emotional and expressive as the robots accuse them of being, while the robots are shaped within controlled lines and often repetitive spaces. Deodato Jr. also adds some interesting design elements in his panel shaping, using uniform, symmetrical boxes within each page, surrounded by squares and rectangles that intermittently fill out the gutters. The gutterwork gives each page a system-defrag-gone-wrong feel that perhaps is a foreshadowing of what’s to come.
With only five issues planned for this story, what’s to come might not be the answers we’re looking for to save us from the robopocalypse, but this darkly satirical look at life careening in this direction offers a great opportunity for reflection. We often come to these dystopian future stories in the aftermath of the robots rising up and seeking to end humanity once and for all. Here, Not All Robots is taking its time to give us the pieces that lead to that upheaval and let us decide — not necessarily who is right or wrong, but how we can do better now to avoid this frighteningly possible future.