Mario & Gilbert Hernandez - Citizen Rex (3 stars)

Science fiction satire in the latest comic collection from the creators of Love & Rockets

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Mario & Gilbert Hernandez - Citizen Rex

(Dark Horse)

Co-creator Mario opens this hardcover collection of the six-issue comic originally published in 2009 with an amusing anecdote about meeting a geek at a science fiction convention who had the cheek to write off Los Bros Hernandez’ pioneering and ongoing opus Love & Rockets as ‘nothing but a soap opera’. At the time, Mario thought, ‘So is most science fiction, really.’ He does not go on to say whether that encounter influenced the development of Citizen Rex (then in its early stages), but the joke is surely not lost on him (nor is it on the reader) that his and brother Gilbert’s strip turned out to be a sci-fi satire loaded with soap operatics.

Set way in the future, Citizen Rex imagines a world where a scandal involving the creation (and eventual deactivation) of a life-like robot has polarised society, which has both embraced the use of servile machines and given birth to a violent anti-robot movement. When bratty gossip blogger Sergio Bauntin decides to investigate the disappearance of the robot celebrity CTZ-RX-1, he unwittingly uncovers a body modification trade in which black market cyber-surgery has replaced plastic surgery as the self-improvement option of choice, a lucrative but illegal business that the city’s corrupt power brokers want kept quiet.

Citizen Rex isn’t the Hernandez brothers first venture into science fiction (Mario co-created the dystopian thriller Mister X with Jaime and much of L&R riffs on sci-fi), so much of the book’s retro-futuristic trappings are familiar: flying cars, rocket ships, ray guns, robots that look like vacuum cleaners. And as always, the brothers’ focus is on complex and comic character interaction (ie it’s a soap opera). There’s also the usual strain of irreverent humour and punk rock-styled attitude, although Citizen Rex differentiates itself from other Hernandez brothers efforts with its allegorical story about what it means to be man and to be man-made. And that’s pure science fiction. That convention geek ought to be happy with Citizen Rex.

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