Children and robots are formally introduced as the threat they face makes itself known, born through the cruelty of the U.S. Government.
Each cover for AWA Studios’ latest series Byte-Sized looks like it would be right at home as the cover image for any DVD or VHS of an animated film of the past, and that’s a good thing. Diving into the interior of each issue comes with that same vibe and that is on purpose as the creative team is open about their goal to match vibes from many Amblin or child aimed films of the past. Especially films that had robots and kids in them.
Each issue feels like a warm comforting blanket of fun and childhood nostalgia thanks to the wonderful work of artist Nelson Blake II and colorist Snakebite Cortez, and the third issue is no different. The duo pulls off artwork that is bright and colorful in a fun animated-like style but is also heavy and leans towards child-focused horror when needed. The variety of expressions are so well detailed and give off great energy depending on the emotional need for the scene in question.
The designs of each robot are also really wonderfully done and instantly sets them apart and gives them ‘personality’ before they even begin to speak and express themselves. Once they introduce themselves, the designs become even more fitting, in a way that is almost meant to be.
Gizmo the dog is a breakout character of their own all thanks to the personality he’s been given, a lot of which comes from the expressions of fear, concern, terror, curiosity, and joy that the artists are able to nail for each of his moments.
Sal Cipriano adds to this all with lettering that stands out because it’s not like the ‘perfect’ type that one would assume to see in most books, but instead has letters that are semi-crooked and tilted. This matches the almost ‘imperfect’ shape of the balloons the words are within. It all fits this fun and animated-like world that has been built. Especially when it comes to the robots when they begin to learn to speak English and their words are all upside down and backward, showcasing how they are trying to learn just by listening. It is a really amusing and different graphic way to depict learning of a language.
Cullen Bunn has been writing horror comics for years and the experience shows as he makes this shift into the childhood horror realm. A lot of stories focused on younger characters have a hard time nailing the way that younger people think, act, and talk, but this isn’t one of those times. As previously mentioned, this story is heavily inspired by similar tales in the past including the bits where the robots are tools of the government, escape, and find young children as their allies. This is not a knock against the story because it is not about what a story is inspired by, since art has always inspired other art, it’s how one puts their own spin on it.
The choice to confine the story mostly to the home of this family and draw it out has been a smart one. The robots themselves have not been fully fleshed out until the third of four issues, but that barely registers because the pace has been so solid.
Rather than pit the kids against the government, through some agent or organization, their ‘foe’ is one of the robots from the group. Through this, there is a bit of exploration of what cruelty and trauma can do to individuals, those that are able to escape and realize that not all are like their abusers and those that instead hold onto the anger and hate and lash out at anyone. How this will all be wrapped up in just one issue is unclear, but the creative team has nailed every angle so far.
Byte-Sized #3 is on sale now from AWA Upshot at local comic shops and digitally through ComiXology.