Junkyard Joe #3: Even Robots Have Feelings – Comic Watch

Author(s): Geoff Johns
Artist(s): Gary Frank
Colorist(s): Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: Image
Genre: Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Thriller, War
Published Date: 12/20/2022
The tales of Mad Ghost’s Unnamed continue as the strange robot soldier named Joe further inserts himself into Muddy Davis’ retirement life. But the oddness of Joe’s presence has caught the attention of Muddy’s new neighbors, which spells danger for everyone involved. Deadly forces conspire to reclaim Joe, and nothing-and no one-will get in their way.
Junkyard Joe #3 takes a break from the mystery of why Joe has arrived at Muddy’s house and instead spends some time developing its supporting cast. New plot threads begin to be explored and we get a whole lot of exposition in this issue. 
A lot of the writing in this issue can be easily described as “classic Geoff Johns.” I don’t mean that in a negative way, but anyone familiar with his work can easily point out a hundred Johns’ tropes throughout this issue. Because of that, the storytelling feels very familiar and honest, especially in comparison to the Geiger series that this book spins off from. One of Johns’ tropes this issue heavily relies on is the overload of foreshadowing. I would go as far as to argue that this entire issue was written after the story was finished just so plot points that will appear later will be more impactful. But, as interesting as that is, I found that this overload of foreshadowing also led to some pretty sloppy exposition.
There is one point in particular when we are getting acquainted with the Munn family, Muddy’s new neighbors, where the conversation between the characters takes me out of the story. Sam Munn is talking to his daughter Emily about signing her up for an art class and brings up the fact that her old school used to offer some more advanced versions of those classes. He then adds “Back in San Francisco, I mean” as if to remind Emily of where they were living only a few days prior. Upon first reading this I found it to be quite jarring since Emily should be well aware of where she grew up. It quickly became apparent that this bit of dialogue was only thrown in here to give the reader some back story while serving as a redundancy that would irritate any scriptwriter. The lettering is even a bit odd, as this statement is made in conjunction with some other things Sam is saying; yet, that specific phrase receives its own text bubble as if to emphasize it. Now I know that it seems ridiculous to nitpick such a small moment in this thirty-two-page issue but to say that it completely took me out of the story is an understatement. I had almost forgotten about it and moved on until a point later in the book when Emily is introducing herself to her class and tells them that she is from San Francisco. If this part of her backstory was going to be revealed later then why mention it earlier in such an odd way? 
Even though the plot of this issue served mainly as expository foreshadowing, I did appreciate that Johns took the time to address current issues such as the rise of hate speech and violence towards people of Asian descent within the United States. While Johns doesn’t add anything groundbreaking to the conversation, it is nice to see that the issue is addressed in here with enough sincerity to raise awareness and to say that it’s wrong. 
Gary Frank captures human expression better than any artist in the business. In this book, he is put to the test by writing about an expressionless robot. Yet, even with that roadblock, Frank still is able to put so much life into the character of Junkyard Joe. Toward the end of the issue, Muddy accidentally drops his late wife’s coffee mug and Joe reacts like a soldier with PTSD. Frank may just be drawing a robot going on a rampage but he is still able to depict all that rage and fear that is contained inside the expressionless face. This immediately reminded me of the end of Return of the Jedi where you can see the anguish behind Darth Vader even though he’s just shown as a man in a mask. Frank acts not only as the artist in this book but also as its cinematographer when depicting scenes like this. 
I look forward to seeing where this story goes. The story is intriguing and I hope this team continues the discussion of life as an Asian-American. I can look past the clunky dialogue and exposition, especially when I get to see the beautiful images that Gary Frank draws on these pages. 

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