Whether your memories of futuristic robot boxing come from the classic "Twilight Zone" episode, "Steel" or director Sean Levy's entertaining 2007 sci-fi flick, “"Real Steel," there no denying that watching androids slugging it out with other fighting machines or brave humans is a rousing spectacle few can resist.
Tapping into our natural gladiatorial urges is a new five-issue comic book miniseries from Image/Top Cow that puts agile robotic athletes into the ring with enhanced Homo sapiens brawlers to determine the ultimate champion.
"Metal Society (opens in new tab)" is written by Zack Kaplan ("Eclipse," "Port of Earth") and adorned with dynamic illustrations from rising Brazilian artist Guilherme Balbi ("Aliens," "Avatar"). Filling out the rest of the talented art team are colorist by Marco Lesko ("Blade Runner," "Chariot"), and lettering by Troy Peteri ("Port of Earth," "A Man Among Ye").
The premiere issue just dropped earlier this month and it comes out swinging, with a compelling tale of mega sporting events presented in a monstrous arena and live-cast around the globe to determine the superior species. In a far-future world of highly evolved robots, extinct humans have been brought back to life for manual labor and to earn the right to enter society via brutal boxing contests.
Described as "Blade Runner" meets "Rocky," "Metal Society" delivers a serious uppercut of thrilling MMA-style combat when a tribalistic cultural clash erupts, causing a fierce female fighter named Rosa Genthree and a displaced robot to duke it out to find out which is the dominant race: man or machine?
Check out our five-page peek at the debut issue below:
"I think the inspirations came from themes and things going on in modern society that I was excited to explore," Kaplan tells Space.com. "We've all heard the joke that robots are going take our jobs one day. It seems like technology is moving fast with A.I. and automation and it's a real up-and-coming existential situation that we face. I thought it was interesting to turn it all on its head and use a robot drama to show robots afraid that humans are coming for their jobs in a way.
“'Metal Society' takes us into this future world where robots rule the planet, humans have blown their chance. Robots bring humans back to life and they're doing the jobs robots don't want to do. There's an inherent sociological tension there. That allows me to explore topical situations about tribalisms and how we seem to be more divided as human beings than ever before. We've seen sci-fi stories that look at robots boxing before, but this was a chance to do it in a more elevated, more thought-provoking way."
Kaplan admits that "Metal Society" was a very ambitious project to find just the right artist for.
"We're doing this whole world creation of a future that is completely inhabited by all sorts of different robots and futuristic cities, but also the human world where it's grittier and more Earth-felt," he added. "So there's a contrast within this mega-world, a lot of character work, the movement and energy of the boxing drama, and so it was a tall order. Guilherme Balbi is relatively new to comics and he had this great blend of sci-fi environments with strong character work. He was excited to come aboard.
"To round out the creative vision, we brought on colorist Marco Lesko, who is doing the colors on Titan Comics' 'Blade Runner' series. He was comfortable with these dystopian kind of tones and putting this evocative emotion behind it. Then we've got robots talking, humans talking, and announcers shouting, and our letterer Troy Peteri does an amazing job of balancing all the lettering styles required. We tried very hard to play with layout and the comics medium so that we could really bring the reader into the world."
Image/Top Cow’s “"Metal Society #1 (opens in new tab)" is available now at comic shops and digital platforms with brilliant variant covers by Qistina Khalidah, Alan Quah, Mateus Manhanini, Fernando Blanco, and Marc Silvestri & Alex Sinclair. "Metal Society #2 (opens in new tab)" enters the ring on June 8.