Since its release some 30 years ago, the original RoboCop has become a cultural milestone. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, scripted by Edward Neumeier and starring Peter Weller, RoboCop (1987) is at once a gripping revenge drama, a scathing satire on corporate America, a bitter relfection on our own consumer culture as well as a contemporary Jesus allegory (seriously, listen to the DVD/Blu-ray commentary); certainly a great deal more than the mindless action film its title would lead us to believe.
And yet, mindless action under the banner of RoboCop is regrettably all that would follow in the wake of the film’s success. Spawning two theatrical sequels, two separate cartoon series, two separate live-action TV shows as well as a slew of comic books, not much even comes close to RoboCop‘s grand original. Even the big budget, big screen, 2014 remake featuring Oscar winning actors Michael Keaton and Gary Oldma, pales in comparison to its ’80s predecessor. Enter BOOM! Studios and their latest entry featuring our eponymous cyborg hero, RoboCop: Citizens Arrest.
Writen by Brian Wood and illustrated by Jorge Coelho, Citizens Arrest opens in much the same way any Robo-related property opens, with a satiric, almost Fox News-esque media promo that functions as both exposition and world building. Set three decades after the events of the original RoboCop, Omni Consumer Products (better known as OCP) is about to unveil the new future in law enforcement: R/cop, a mobile app that turns Detroit into an Orwellian state wherein the populace is encouraged to squeal on their fellow man with the ease of a few taps. At the onset, we’re also introduced to laid off Detroit Metro police officer Leo Reza. Reza, well meaning family man with limited medical benefits to cover the birth of his first son, soon crosses paths with the original RoboCop, Alex Murphy, little more than a shell of his former self.
Much of Citizens Arrest is unintentionally laughable. The new R/cop enforcement android looks like a cross between the Battlestar Galactica Cylons and DuckTales‘ Gizmoduck (replete with Robo’s good natured, politically correct disposition wholly syphoned from RoboCop 2). The entire RoboCop-as-an-app premise comes off as all too trendy and reeks of Terminator: Genisys, wherein Skynet was also turned into an app. Much of the plot seems all too reminiscent of RoboCop 3, wherein OCP plans to forcefully remove the poorer residents of Old Detroit (here referred to as “The Ruins”). Perhaps the greatest of grievances stems from our pewter protagonist himself, who lives on, “retired,” in shoreside Detroit, wearing hooded jackets over his metal exterior and frequenting local dive bars. Nefarious companies such as OCP may decommission or dismantle Robo; they may even leave his organic tissue on life support in a vegetative state in some basement lab. But retirement…?
Issue 1 of RoboCop: Citizens Arrest fails to differ enough from what has been done prior and its few deviations from the usual format come off as missteps entirely. Elements similar to RoboCop‘s brand of edgy genre satire can be viewed in other works such as Starship Troopers. On the comic book page, Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Millar’s Dark Knight Returns come to mind. For a worthwhile dive into the dystopian Detroit that RoboCop EU has to offer, BOOM! Studios’ Robocop: Dead or Alive remains a far more satisfying entry. But as for Citizens Arrest, I for one call for a full prosecution.