Brian Wood & Jorge Coelho’s Complete Cyberpunk Satire Collected In Robocop: Citizen’s Arrest
by Brendan M. Allen
Brian Wood, the visionary writer behind DMZ and Briggs Land, and Jorge Coelho (Venom, Rocket Raccoon) present a provocative vision of a future where justice is crowdsourced… and lethal. It’s been decades since the RoboCop program first began. Corporations have taken over the schools and the government, and law enforcement is the biggest private contract of all. Traditional police forces no longer exist as all citizens are encouraged, and rewarded, to spy on their neighbors. There is only one authority on the streets: RoboCop.
Thirty years ago, Detroit made a bold decision to privatize law enforcement. Outsourcing public safety to Omni Consumer Products gave birth to the disastrous ED-209 program and RoboCop, a cyborg fashioned from the remains of fallen police officer Alex Murphy. While he exposed and foiled OCP’s nefarious plans to raze Detroit to the ground, somehow RoboCop was left holding the bag. Thirty years later, OCP is somehow back in the power seat with a new set of androids.
Big Brother is alive and well, but instead of having their privacy violated against their will by telescreens, the populace is willingly narcing each other off for fun and profit. The new R/COP mobile app charges citizens a small fee to report crimes as they happen, and allows the civic-minded reporter to receive up to five times their investment if the tip results in arrest. Sounds well and good, but what about false tips? That deposit could be considered a small price to pay to put your bitchy neighbor or that guy who cut you off in traffic through a couple days of pure hell.
Where does Alex Murphy fit into all this? He doesn’t exactly. He’s been permanently “retired.” He sits at home, marginalized, disarmed, and all but forgotten. Meanwhile, OCP’s new toys roam the streets enforcing the new Orwellian status quo that relies on crowd-sourcing and mob rule.
Brian Wood’s cyberpunk vision pulls in several familiar themes from the 1987 film. Insane levels of commercialization, militarization of police, privatizing public services, and deliberate misrepresentation by the media are all themes that were relevant in the eighties, and have become even more so with the modern enhancement of internet and social media. Basically, the media, government, and OCP are all in bed to keep the general populace distracted enough to keep them all rich and comfortable.
Jorge Coelho’s stylized linework and Doug Garbark’s palette are a great fit for dystopian Detroit. Settings have their own distinct identities and palettes, with glaring differences between the run-down, economically downtrodden neighborhoods, the upscale gentrified areas, and the impossibly clean, vinyl news studio. Character designs are realistic and believable, and Murphy retains enough of Peter Weller’s facial structure to visually tie the comic to the ‘87 film.
Citizen’s Arrest feels like a natural extension of the source material. This sentimental cyberpunk satire hits all the nostalgic beats when RoboCop brings his old fashioned moral code and futuristic brand of justice to a whole new scene.
RoboCop: Citizens Arrest SC, collects the complete 5-issue series, published by Boom! Studios, released 21 November 2018. Written by Brian Wood, illustrated by Jorge Coelho, color by Doug Garbark, letters by Ed Dukeshire, cover by Nimit Malavia, back cover by Pius Bak.