By Ben Hatke
Author’s website: http://www.benhatke.com/
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Scott
Little Robot is a delight to read. A graphic adventure, designed for all ages of the mechanically inclined, Ben Hatke weaves a flight of fancy worthy of any graphic novel collection. The adventures of a boy and his robot, who longs for robot company, is charming and flows gracefully panel to panel; page to page.
The art is gorgeous, with a graceful watercolor effect that literally flows through the panels. Done in a very European/Neo-North American style, Ben Hatke delivers the very fine line between character and caricature. The warm glow of the pages; the rise and fall in action sequences and “quiet moments;” pace the graphics in such a way that you have to keep on reading.
The minimal word balloons are appropriate and when used convey a lot of the characters emotions and character. Moreover the art shows the story, and it allows immediate immersion in this strange and mystical world with a elegance that defies description. A fine line determines the character art and it made me think of Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes fame), and the French virtuoso Jean Girrard (a.k.a. Mobius) almost immediately. The characters are drawn in a very Watterson style, but the beautiful watercolor effect shows the Mobius stylized European influence, especially in the African savannah backgrounds.
Paced through the visuals, the dialogue is minimal, which adds to the charm of the characters. A small boy, the robot, the giant machinery (which are depicted in a very realistic, but stylized way), the robot collector, the repair robot; all are characterized more by their actions; the small word count per character simply amplifies this effect. The characters shine through in this story and are vibrant and tastefully depicted in this graphic novel.
Divided into chapters is an understatement when it comes to Little Robot. Each chapter is a self-contained vignette, easy to put down and pick up or even read out of order (which I did after reading it through). This isn’t saying the plot doesn’t flow at a natural pace, but rather that the division of the plot into compounded “units” build on each other and are divided in a perfect way, isolating the most important visuals to a scene and the most important scenes to the chapter; the chapters constituting this phenomenal piece of work.
Overall, the end effect is remarkable. This is a light but poignant read that will send readers messages of hope, and doing the right things, making amends for your mistakes. I’d recommend Little Robot to almost anyone. Whether you are new to the genre or enjoy the works of Watterson and/or the European watercolor style of Mobius as a connoisseur, Little Robot has a message that anyone can carry home. It easily merits the full 5 stars given. Kudos to Ben Hatke for a remarkable piece of work.