Friday, August 30, 2013

It came from the Dollar Bin! DNAgents #1!

I admit to knowing not so much about Eclipse comics other than the fact that it was awesome; I wasn't really around for its heyday, though I've read several Eclipse comics including Miracleman and Airboy. All I really know about it is that it was the first real challenger to Marvel and DC in the post-Big Two era, where they were otherwise completely unchallenged in terms of popularity. If that's not true, please don't tell me, I want to believe. 

Also, if Valiant is back, how much longer until Eclipse follows suit? We're already into 90s nostalgia what with Image's reboots of Supreme, Glory, Youngblood, and Bloodstrike, and Eclipse was mostly popular in the late 80s -- how did they get skipped over? 

Anyway, DNAgents was a really huge title for Eclipse. Never read this before, but I saw a tight Dave Stevens cover for it once. And as I understand it, they were a lot like the New Teen Titans and the X-Men of the 80s.

Gotta love the little Salacious Crumb guy with that huge SMG. Left to right, that's Surge, Amber, Sham (little guy), Tank (guess, dummy), and Rainbow -- and their whole deal is a really familiar premise to me, because they're refugees from a secret government project. This is a premise I have seen tons of times in the comic medium, and it's also a concept I'll never get sick of. 

As for their powers, Surge shoots electricity, Amber projects these electromagnetic discs and can fly on one like Static, Tank is strong, tough, and has guns on his wrists, Sham has shapeshifting powers and commando training, and Rainbow is a telepath who can project illusions.

The story begins in earnest when the kids are shown in their suspension tubes industrialist Lucius Krell, who funded the project in the first place. Lucky for him he has access to them, as his daughter was kidnapped and these guys could totally bring her back. At this point, they're just over five years old, but look like teenagers, and have only been out of the tubes five or six times (including the time they got fitted for their costumes). 

Oh, and they're both awake and naked in those tubes, duh. Amber is self-conscious and tries to cover herself up a la The Birth of Venus, but the thought clearly never entered Sham or Rainbow's minds. Fortunately (or not, if you're a weirdo), there's no real nudity. Wait, is this a non-Code approved comic that tackles vaguely mature story elements but doesn't have gratuitous sex, violence, and cursing? Holy crap Eclipse still has the Big Two beat on that one. 

Later, Krell's company, Matrix, tries to wrest control of the DNAgents from him, saying he's overstepping his boundaries by using them for his personal dirty work. Later still, the group lands in Acapulco and gets their mission started. It's not long before they run into trouble.

Sham tries to jump to Surge's aid, but is stopped by Amber. He's obviously insecure about his lack of direct combat capabilities, and as such fills the role of the mopey kid every teen team seems to have. Also, Surge is having way too much fun blasting these soldiers out of the sky.

Tank eventually notices that these are obviously experienced mercenaries who can't hit anything, even the 7-foot giant. It turns out these soldiers (who withdraw after a certain amount of time has passed) are working for the Matrix corporation. Though the DNAgents don't learn this, Rainbow does note that those hoverbikes are prototypes developed by Matrix, and telepathically communicates as much back to base. There's some fretting about corporate espionage or a leak, but blah blah -- the DNAgents caught a prisoner, who is interrogated by Rainbow.

He gives up the location of Krell's daughter Angela, but is soon recovered by an ally. There's more stuff about the conspiracy within Matrix, including an inside man working directly with mission control.

I haven't known Surge for too long, but I feel like I understand him very well already. Not that it's hard, he seems like a pretty simple guy to get. Anyway, when he wanted to bum rush the guys holding Angela in a building, I wasn't surprised. I also wasn't that surprised when he blasted his way through a wall to get in. Surge is kind of awesome like that. I think the naive hotheaded leader is another one of those "ahead of its time" facets of this comic, as it happens.

The DNAgents mop up the kidnappers quick, but Sham isn't too happy about his contribution to the effort (or lack thereof). Angela doesn't appreciate how they endangered her back there, a sentiment Surge responds to with the grace and maturity I've come to expect from him.

When the group returns, they get rejected by their father figure Dr. Harden, who doesn't think of them as real human beings. There's good news, though; they're to be enrolled in a local college for some crazy sitcom reason! Oh and unbeknownst to them Krell staged this whole thing to test them; his daughter wasn't in on it but she was never in any danger.

The DNAgents arrive at Beechgrove University. There's a pretty funny scene where a student mistakes the gaggle of weirdos for transfers from Berkeley. Tank already has a girlfriend in a bimbo who mistook him for a football player. Oh, and Surge has a bodyguard job to get to later, which causes him to be targeted by an assassin. Everyone else gets settled into their dorms, and Sham shows his powers, finally. It only makes sense that he hardly gets to do anything, since that's part of his characterization and all.

Sham and Tank are called to help Surge, who survived an assassination attempt (method: cut brake lines on huge truck), but needs help stabilizing a building that was damaged by the attack. Incidentally, Sham and Tank are obviously best pals, and if anything I get a kind of Reed Richard/Ben Grimm vibe from them, though admittedly I don't think Sham's much of a "big brain".

They have to support the building and replace a busted pillar; Tank's not strong enough without his costume to hold it for longer than, like, a minute, so it's handy that Amber and Rainbow show up to lend a hand, with Amber using her discs to keep two girders in place and Surge welding them together with his hands. that's when the team's handler shows up to introduce Surge to his charge: Angela.

That probably seems comical enough, but the issue closes with the assassin thinking to himself about how he'll get Surge and Angela sooner or later.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Creature Commandos! Part 11 (WWT #115)

Yeah, #115. The CCs (for the first time since becoming a regular feature) weren't in #113 at all, losing out to a half-issue length GI Robot story. And, uh, I actually don't have #114.

This is technically an issue-length GI Robot story with the CCs putting in some token appearances here and there. I should probably tackle GI Robot properly sooner or later, he's pretty cool himself. You may remember that he sacrificed himself to stop the Atlantean Aztec robots, but this is his successor JAKE-2, who first appeared in WWT #113. 

Anyway, as the story opens, US Marines are pinned down on some Pacific island by a Japanese cruiser, and have nothing to throw back at them after the Japanese cut their supply lines. Well, that's not exactly true, as Sgt. Coker points out -- they've got JAKE. JAKE sinks the ship using his secondary submarine programming and weaponry, but not before taking critical damage.

Coker recovers JAKE and pulls him onto the beach, but nothing he can do is going to revive him -- not even a laughable attempt at mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I get it, though, Coker was treating him just like he would a human being. Without a mechanic on the island, Coker's forced to hitch a ride on a supply plane and head to London, where JAKE can be repaired by the scientists who created him.  

While Jake is laid up (in a hospital, no less), the Creature Commandos come to visit him. By this point, Lucky is capable of grunting and growling, so I guess those repaired vocal cords he got after his suicide attempt are finally kicking in. Coker never met the CCs, as you may recall, but he doesn't seem at all disturbed by them, probably because he's seen crap just as weird. Oh, and Shrieve isn't there, or in the story at all, probably because there's no room for his negativity right now.

Note that Rhodes wraps her hair up in public, still ashamed of her deformity, while Griffith, Lucky, and Velcro walk around monstrous. Also, wow does Velcro not look good in khaki. JAKE wakes up in front of them, and later that night Coker takes him for a night on the town. People seem pretty accepting of JAKE, treating him like a regular joe, though he's booted from a bar because he's only about one year old. Just as they're about to take in a show, a German air raid hits. JAKE doesn't hesitate for a second before using his finger guns to bring down an enemy fighter.

His heroism earns he and Coker a week's leave in Scotland. On the way, they pick up a pretty, blind young hitch-hiker who directs them to her home, which is a huge palace. It turns out she's a princess, cousin to the King of England, holing out in a Scottish castle to avoid the Blitz. She also looks nothing like the woman on the cover, because of course she doesn't. Oh, and she takes a quick shine to JAKE, whom she thinks is silent out of shyness.

I'm guessing JAKE is warm to the touch and doesn't feel like metal, or else this whole plot falls apart.

Meanwhile, Hitler is painting at his alpine retreat in Berchtesgarten, while underlings look on. They compliment his skill while whispering to one another about how bad he is. Hitler demands his men take a high-profile prisoner with whom to exchange for Rudolf Hess, as he fears Hess will spill state secrets at any moment.

Soon, the CCs show up to join JAKE and Coker at the castle, probably because they have to be here for the big action scene coming up. Anyway, the next day they head out to a local landmark when German planes show up, no doubt after the princess for that prisoner exchange thing. As Coker and the CCs take on the German commandos, JAKE rushes to guard the princess.

It's a really great combat sequence; Coker even gets in on it, taking out an enemy with a karate chop and using his MP40 to mow down more bad guys. With the princess back at the castle, all seems well -- until the CCs and Coker see a punch of guys jumping down to the castle. Jake gets back too late, and jumps into the sea below when told that the princess was taken into a German sub. He forces it to surface by grabbing its propellers, convincing the crew there's some mechanical failure, and picks them off as they come up to investigate. He recovers the princess, who is moved to another castle -- but not before she shares a tender moment with her silent knight.

There's this question of just how much JAKE truly "feels" -- I think he feels quite a bit. His emotions may not be exactly human, as he largely lacks fear and doubt, but he's got them.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Senses-Shattering Saga of the Metal Men! Part 11

In this exciting issue, another group of villains recurs! I'd say that sort of thing should happen more often, but just think about the kinds of villains we've seen so far.

Now, the Missile Men were the bad guys of the first issue, which I didn't cover because I thought it was sort of boring. In any case, they're the identical clones of a robot named X-1, who was trying to build a mate but could only create duplicates of himself. He ended up trying to steal Platinum, duh.

There's a montage showing how beloved the Metal Men are -- they even trade autographs with the Beatles, who are starstruck upon meeting them. Everybody loves the Metal Men... so why is a US Army tank firing on them?

Not wanting to hurt anyone, the Metal Men escape in a Lead-and-Iron car, but have to fend off an air attack from a military plane first. Tin, I feel I should mention, tries to stop some missiles by forming a barrier, but they go right through him, forcing Iron to pick up the slack. I sort of wish Tin weren't so pseudo-suicidal; besides, showing off how relatively weak he is comes at the expense of showcasing his good points.

Gold thinks the only thing to do right now is to split up, giving their new enemies too many targets. Sounds a little callous to me, and like it would leave everyone vulnerable to ambush, but he's the leader so whatever. Everyone agrees to this and heads their separate ways, but Mercury soon runs into Iron again, and it's not a happy reunion.

It's revealed that the Metal Men had previously captured a lone Missile Man and brought it back to the lab. This Missile Man was a scout sent by Missile Man scientists; what connection they have to X-1 isn't clear, but these guys have their own society and have never been to Earth before. Based on the camera feed from their scout, they think Earth's inhabitants are all like the Metal Men. They also make the scout explode so its secrets can't be discovered, injuring Doc in the process.

The scout's camera was intentionally left undamaged, and upon seeing that only Doc was hurt, the Missile Men decide to take care of the tough Earthlings by making them look bad, turning Earth's other inhabitants against them. To this end, they create evil, mute duplicates of the Metal Men and send them to Earth to wreak havoc, all while the real Metal Men are mostly concerned with helping Doc's recovery. I'm sort of ashamed to say that this immediately reminded me of the "Cryptonite" infected mean Superman from Superman III. Or the mirror Ultiman from Big Bang Comics #3. Except the evil Metal Men are actually hurting people, I guess. Oh, and the story loops back to the Metal Men being attacked by that tank.

And then we're back at Mercury being splattered by Iron. Mercury warns the other Metal Men, who evidently didn't get very far after they agreed to split up, just as their evil doppelgangers show their faces. In fighting games, if the computer is the same character as you, they'll use the Player 2 color scheme, but these guys are totally identical to the originals. Now, you might think a fight between these two groups would get confusing, but not the way it's shown here.

I wanted to say something about this on the cover but look at the busted evil Metal Men; cogs, springs? These guys have solid moving parts, they aren't just solid hunks of smart metal like the T-1000? Well, I guess it looks like Mercury is. Man, whatever. The real Metal Men make fairly quick work of their bad guy counterparts, but the Missile Men decide to make their play at that very moment. Note: The Missile Men are more like Bullet Bills than actual missiles. Platinum is knocked out by one as the others form a barrier to protect Doc. It's not going so well, possibly because their first line of defense is a Mercury-Tin volleyball net.

With Platinum and Lead incapacitated, Gold has the bright idea to magnetize Iron, which will draw the Missile Men to him for easy disposal. Mercury, Tin, and Gold wrap themselves around him (but pretend they're alloying with him) to make it so.

Wait, did I say "easy disposal"? It turns out this actually won't be so easy. Tin thinks they'd have to shake the stars to get rid of the Missile Men. Iron ends up running into a huge gas tank instead, causing a huge explosion that destroys the Missile Men and leaves only a few salvageable traces of Iron, Tin, Gold, and Mercury. 

Jeez, this one ends on a somber note: with Doc sitting morosely in the Metal Recovery Room as his prized creations are reformed. The whole third act of this issue was emotional for Doc; he refused to leave the Metal Men (esp. Platinum) behind earlier, valuing their lives when they themselves didn't.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It all started with the Big Bang! Part 11 (issue #18)

I'm skipping again, because this issue is the end of the exciting three-part epic that is the Big Bang/Savage Dragon crossover. I almost have to wonder if the Mighty Man stories in #1 and #7 were intended to foreshadow this.

Clearly the fine folks behind Big Bang (that is, Chris Ecker and Gary Carlson) knew a winner when they saw one, hence the return of the Pantheon of Heroes, whom Dragon briefly met back in #12. Also, the cover is drawn by Dave Cockrum, who was best known for his work on LoSH before that whole "Giant Size X-Men #1" thing. Oh, and if you're wondering, there is a tribute to the Legion's iconic first appearance cover (as well as that other one where the Legion of Super Villains sentences Superman to death)

But that's not actually in the story. No, the story begins just where #14 left off, with Dragon in the Time Being's palace, having discovered a room full of helpless, dying Ultimen being sapped of their powers. 

Clone Boy of the Pantheon of Heroes shows himself, explaining that the Time Being was the Pantheon's greatest enemy (so basically the Time Trapper), and that he's been playing Dragon this whole time. His plan is to destroy an Ultimen-empowered Infinity Orb to create a new Big Bang. This will create the universe all over, with the Time Being as its supreme ruler, its god. Oh, and those aren't really Ultimen; the Time Being has been forcing Clone Boy to create duplicates of the Ultimate Human Being to this end for a while now.

The Time Being walks in on this, and reveals how he expects to survive destroying the universe. See, he's not technically alive -- he's the temporal anomaly created when Grandfather Clock accidentally met himself in the past. He has the power to be anywhere and everywhere throughout time, but naturally this grew boring pretty fast.

As the Time Being prepares to end Dragon's life, Clone Boy turns himself into Ultiman in order to save his new pal. This was just an excuse to get close enough to duplicate the Time Being himself, which had the unintended side-effect of rupturing the Infinity Orb and putting the finishing touches on the Time Being's plan. The energy backlash will gradually erase the current timeline, starting with the most recent date and going backwards. Dragon escapes through the Time Being's time portal, hoping he'll be able to stop all this from happening by going to the past. However, the Time Being sends his lady friend Oblivia to follow Dragon and eliminate him.

There's a couple of completely meaningless stuff while Dragon careens through the time stream; you'll thank me for skipping it. Also, wasn't this thing supposed to be in color?

Anyway, eventually we hit... an apology and a summary of the five missing pages that didn't make the deadline. It says they'll print the missing pages in a future issue, but I couldn't find anything. Long story short, the Earth-B Blitz and Dragon head to the past before the era is erased, and meet Venus and Ultiman in the 70s. Also, Venus and Ultiman are dating or something; man, that's prescient, huh?

70s Venus? Obviously this business is nearly finished, then. Venus and Ultiman take Dragon to the moment of the Time Being's creation to stop him once and for all; the Brave and the Bold style Knight Watchman/Dr. Weird team-up from the end of #12. However, they're too late, and the Time Being starts wrecking everybody and everything. Oblivia shows up, too, to finish off Dragon with her kiss of death... until the Blitz pushes her into the Time Being. Her kiss erases him from existence, ensuring the universe's safety.

With that settled, Dragon has equipped himself with another Time Bomb (lifted from Grandfather Clock, no doubt) and heads back to his own time, with some stops along the way. Oh, and Venus takes Oblivia away to the Godrealm to get her help.

Here's where the cover comes in; back at the End of Time, Dragon finds, well, nothing, no sign of the Time Being's existence. He did it, he changed history... and before he can finally get home, he's attacked by the Pantheon of Heroes, as he's obviously their archenemy the Timebomber.

Dragon handles everything they throw at him until he sees Clone Boy and is momentarily floored. This gives the Pantheon the opening they needed to bring him down, and they're ready to lock him up and throw away the key once they do. Brain Boy and Tele Girl analyze him back at Pantheon HQ; it turns out that he's considered a great villain based on records of him fighting the RTA and the Badge. He's sent to trial, where he is found guilty because there is no one who can corroborate his "Time Being" story.

That is, until Ultigirl and Thunder Girl interrupt the trial, coming from the past to tell how they know Dragon's a good guy. Ultiman always told his daughter about how Dragon was a great hero, and Thunder Girl's memory was unaltered by the time shift because of her magic power source. Unwilling to doubt Ultiman's word, the judge changes the verdict to Not Guilty. Dragon is sent back home via a "time bubble" invented by Brain Boy, and finally defeats the Wicked Worm-possessed Mighty Man before hitting a bar with his cop buddies. The end... or is it?

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that really is the end of this storyline, if not the Time Being himself, because I'm close enough to positive that he never showed up again, ever.

I do know that this isn't the last time Big Bang crossed over with Savage Dragon, though; members of the RTA were present at the wedding of Barbaric and Ricochet in SD #41, and would meet Dragon again in the Wildstorm-severing Shattered Image event. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Creature Commandos! Part 10 (WWT #112)

You know, ever since Bob Kanigher became the regular writer for this feature, things have been a little weird. I mean, he did a few stories before the CCs were regular fixtures that were fairly down to earth, but remember the robots from Atlantis last issue? This one's going to be weirder than that.

And, knowing Kanigher from his Metal Men work, I imagine things will only get more and more bizarre.

Let me guess, nothing even a little like that happens in the comic? Anyway, the CCs are in Northern Africa. Man, they get around, huh? I bet we'll see them in Greenland soon enough. They're there to keep the Afrika Korps off-balance until Patton's forces show up, and right now are mopping up local scavengers targeting dead GIs in what was recently a battlefield.

Yeah, that's exactly the sensitivity I've come to expect of Shrieve. You know, I don't think I've ever seen any of these guys but Shrieve even hold a gun before. Not that I'm complaining, obviously Velcro is scarier with a gun than without, and he and Lucky are both trained soldiers anyway, but I thought their MO was unarmed close range guerrilla strikes. 

Shrieve keeps piling on the abuse because he's a horrible person, but as the mission drags on, water rations dry up. Velcro's suffering the most, though, since all he drinks is blood. Still, he manages to bring down an attacking Luftwaffe plane near the Sphinx. I guess "North Africa" specifically meant "Egypt", then. They take cover inside a pyramid and find a mummy with a snake hairdo like Rhodes'.

And then everyone but Rhodes drinks cursed mummy wine. Yeah, even Velcro, though he does complain. I guess it was established that they were all thirsty, but get real. And they shrink to six inches tall or so as soon as they leave the pyramid.

Rhodes is forced to carry the others... in her snake hair. The snakes seems fairly hostile towards the doll-sized CCs, and everybody gets bitten a time or two. Soon they come across an Afrika Korps unit maintaining its tanks, and Rhodes flips out, attacking them by herself. Luckily her horrifying appearance causes the enemies to hesitate before firing on her. Still, the tiny CCs leap to her aid in the most adorable way possible.

This is the first time Lucky uses a gun (no, he wasn't firing at the start of the story), and it's also the best time anyone has ever used a gun. Shrieve, Velcro, and Griffith man a machine gun as well, but that's more comical looking than this majestic spectacle. Although they use the machine gun to puncture cans of tank fuel, blowing the tanks sky high and clearing out the camp once and for all.

Miles away, Patton looks out at a battlefield and remarks that Rommel was sunk by the loss of a Panzer unit, thanking whatever brave soldiers are responsible. Anyway, cut back to the CCs, who return to normal dude size (or Lucky size, as the case may be).

I'm gonna come out and say it: Bob Kanigher is often a lazy writer. That thing about Platinum's faulty responsometer attracting lightning in the last Metal Men post I did, for instance, only came up like two pages before it proved an important plot point, and maybe four pages before the end of the story. It's pretty convenient that Rhodes had the cure to Dollman Syndrome growing out of her head, and that the story is resolved in literally the last panel.

Now, don't get me wrong; "lazy" doesn't mean "not amazing", it just means he didn't give a damn. And, to be honest, he's kind of got me beat there, since I'm sitting here complaining about how believable a story about monster soldiers is.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It came from the Dollar Bin! H-E-R-O #1 & #2!

Dial H for Hero is dear to my heart because I got a few of the Chris and Vicky, 80s issues at a secondhand book store when I was a kid. The concept fascinated me, and as any idiot can tell you, the possibilities are endless (though Siskoid notes that most dialed heroes aren't good enough to exist outside the context of the dial).

H-E-R-O was something of a dream come true for me, and to this day it remains one of my favorite comic series. I'm no fan of the New 52 Dial H, for lots of reasons (though I do like the Nelson Jent character), but that's not what we're here for today.

H-E-R-O follows the lives of people who get their hands on the HERO Dial. It's not like previous Dial H for Hero concepts, where one or two people have permanent possession of it; no, this one changes hands all the time. Exhibit A is Jerry, whose story lasts the first four issues (and doesn't even really end there).

Jerry is a hapless nobody; the biggest event in his life is the time he saw Superman, something that drove him into depression because "he's everything and I'm nothing!" Well, that's not the biggest, but his story is relayed to us via his call to a suicide hotline. 

Jerry lives in Heaton, Penn., a former industry town now known for rampant unemployment and crime. He works at an ice cream shop for minimum wage, and the only light in his life is a cute co-worker named Molly. But... she was a huge fan of Superman and always wanted to talk about the time Jerry saw him.

A lot of people would probably say Jerry misses the point of Superman, but not me; his reaction is a perfectly rational and very human one. Of course, he's suffered from depression for a while, so that may have something to do with it. 

But Jerry doesn't want to kill himself because he can't be Superman -- it's because even with powers he still can't measure up. See, he found something a customer must have forgotten one day while doing dishes. It was the dial, duh.  He seemed to almost subconsciously understand what it was, and later that night went up to the roof of his apartment building and, well, dialed it. 

I have few complaints about this series, but one is that Doug the suicide hotline guy doesn't buy Jerry's story at all and thinks he's either delusional or on drugs. Uh, what? This guy seriously doesn't believe someone could have superpowers in the DC universe?  Anyway, Jerry turns into Afterburner, a guy who is a whole lot like Superman and basically your stock superhero. He saves a kid on a bike from being run over by a drunk driver, but the kid isn't grateful because nobody asked for his help and now his bike's destroyed. 

That's item #1 on the "I'm not good enough" list for Jerry, though he didn't think much of it at the time. Brushing it off, he goes to take care of the drunk driver, who is still speeding down the road. He flies in front of the huge truck, holds out a hand, and... is flung far away and seriously injured by the ensuing collision.

Turns out Afterburner isn't as invulnerable as he looks. Usually the dial provides instant knowledge of your dialed hero's powers, but I imagine Jerry let his preconceived notions get the better of him.

#1 ends there, but continuing into #2. Jerry dials back and is fine, and pulls the drunk driver from the wrecked car. He calls 911 anonymously and leaves the guy on the side of the road. He thought about how he was still the same loser even with powers, and didn't use the dial for a while, instead going about his life normal-like. 

That is, until the old lady who left the dial shows up and demands it be found and returned to her. Jerry doesn't do anything, but he had a nightmare -- as bad as his first time super was, he's afraid of being brought back down to normal, too. He decides to give the dial another go. He turns into the Bouncer, a springy, rubbery guy, and has a blast just bounding around the city. He starts using the dial for fun, for the simple experience of having these abilities.

Is it me or does Jerry have way better luck with the Dial than anyone before him? That's something you'll see in this series; there are no lame or crappy heroes, though you could argue that there are boring ones.

He started skipping his job by pretending to be sick, and devoting his life to these thrills. He also turned into a strong guy called the Wrecker and destroyed the old auto plant that ruined the city when it closed. Doug points out that none of this is really heroic, and if anything the old lady was better off with the dial, causing an incensed Jerry to hang up... only to call back moments later and admit fault. 

See, Jerry was upset because of what happened next; he needed something to focus his powers on before they drove him crazy, and he vowed to become Heaton's own superhero, just like Robby was to Littleville. Only, after a few days of watching the town like a hawk, he couldn't find any crime. Realizing he must be going about it the wrong way, he starts checking out the bad (or worse, more like) part of town.

But even as Powerhouse, he has no idea what to really do with prostitutes or drug dealers, and just makes a fool of himself. He has an extended dialogue with a drug dealer who counts all the ways Jerry can't do anything to him. This frustrates Jerry so much that he loses his temper and pops the guy in the stomach, a move he soon regrets.

Obviously the issue ends there, but (not to spoil stuff too much) Jerry's story is also obviously not over -- though I didn't get those issues at the used book store, I WILL come back to finish this story arc, which ends in H-E-R-O #4

The title of the story arc is "Powers and Abilities"; Jerry has powers that allow him to do good, but lacks the ability. Not everyone's cut out to be a superhero, and this is a great examination of how and why that is. Jerry's not a bad man, far from it, but he's clinically depressed and being a superhero can't change that or help it. He's also both clueless and sensitive, not knowing how to go about heroism and letting every little thing get to him and worsen his mood. He's very much a fascinating character, and I hope that helps you see why I love this comic so much.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Senses-Shattering Saga of the Metal Men! Part 10!

This post coincides with the premiere of a series of Metal Men shorts for Cartoon Network's DC Nation programming block. You know, the minute-if-that shorts that they play between the shows. Oh, and they're written by Evan Dorkin and Sara Dyer, whom I mostly know from the handful of Space Ghost Coast to Coast episodes they wrote. They mentioned on twitter that their 8-year-old daughter reads all kinds of comics, including classic Metal Men, making her obviously the coolest kid ever.

Platinum isn't going to be hot for Doc in the shorts, and Doc is instead disdainful of all the Metal Men for their emotions. Jeez, as if his relationship with Platinum wasn't sad enough. I do kind of wonder how Platinum will fare without her defining personality trait, but that's for another time. Or is it?

Again, brilliant in its simplicity. A lot of Silver Age comics exaggerated plot points on their covers, or made stuff up wholesale, but you don't need to embellish a single detail to make an exciting Metal Men cover -- probably because Bob Kanigher is absolutely bonkers.

Now, "monstrous bad guy wants the hot girl" is a pretty cliche story, sure. But think about it, if you could throw the Metal Men around like dolls, you don't need any of them as your servants for their powers, and while Platinum isn't about to win a Miss Personality contest, she's, you know, a girl, which is clearly important to this guy.

So the story begins with Doc hard at work in his lab, with the Metal Men wondering what he's working on. It turns out to be a new responsometer, to replace the 'defective' one Platinum has. Doc insists on this replacement, even though everybody, even Mercury, would rather Platinum stay just as she is. Nobody but Platinum says this to his face, of course, but knowing Doc I imagine he'd have put the new responsometer in just the same.

But either something went wrong with the procedure or Doc messed up the unit itself, because when it's installed, Platinum has no feelings for Doc, but fawns over Gold.

I've probably said it before, but Doc really does have some affection for Platinum. He certainly seems upset when she beams about how amazing Gold is. As if Doc weren't having enough trouble, his latest nameless hot girlfriend leaves him when he won't stop fretting over his robots, because obviously they're much more important to him than her.

But enough of that, it's time to hit the beach! Is it me or does Doc mostly treat the Metal Men like his kids? Hell, I don't even get what he ever intended them for in the first place now that I think about it, if not to keep him company. Not that I'm complaining, of course. Anyway: Metal Men sailboat time. Yeah, sailboat, with Iron as the keel no less. 

Naturally, this provides the perfect context for their encounter with that living seamine. It's about the size of the sailboat, which makes me wonder how they got so close without anybody seeing it. On the cover it talks like it's lusting after Platinum, but it actually wants Gold. Oh, snap, and now Gold has emotional significance to Platinum -- conflict! The mine uses its chain-arms to pull the boat under. 

And this seems as good a time as any to mention that Lead got left on the beach after launching the boat with that ramp form, as evidently nobody thought they could use a rudder. 

This seems like a good time for that submarine form Gold took the last time Doc was in danger of drowning, but instead Tin turns into a diving bell and Mercury hauls them to the surface as a torpedo. Platinum and Iron stay behind to see to Gold, who is the only one the Floating Fury wants. It turns out the mine is female, which is why it wants Gold in the first place. Iron refuses to hurt a lady, so Platinum winds herself around the thing while Iron helps Gold escape to the surface.

The Floating Fury calls for backup, and another of her kind arrives, calling her its Queen. It's love at first sight when the new guy sees Platinum, meaning he's the one from the cover. Platinum gets away, and the Queen blames her for stealing Gold away. She vows to give Platinum to her lackey as punishment, while keeping Gold for herself. Also, she goes to meet Neptune, god of the sea, seeking his approval and aid. No, for real.

Yikes, he's oddly sympathetic to her plight. He also promises his personal aid, via his manipulation of the waves themselves. Basically, the Metal Men are now up against "what if Aquaman was a bomb"? And what the queen does with these new 'powers' is amazing; she commands a bunch of sharks to line up and bite each other's tails so she can use them as a giant harpoon.

Holy crap this comic is amazing. Tin quickly forms a shield to protect Doc. However, the shark-poon is not only "phantastic", but functional, as it easily pierces through Tin, who acts like he did a classic Metal Man heroic sacrifice but seems to be okay in a minute.  Iron forms another shield that the sharks bounce right off of, causing the Floating Fury to summon up a tidal wave to crush the Metal Men instead. 

Gold thinks quickly and comes up with a creative plan to save, uh, most of them; he turns into saucers for Mercury, Platinum, Tin, and Doc to sit in. Iron then tosses the saucers towards the shore, skipping them across the water like a stone. Naturally, this is another heroic sacrifice, as he's left stranded on Tin's floating corpse, rusting and sinking when the wave collapses onto him.

Everyone escapes to the flying saucer, but obviously thoughts turn to Iron and how to save him. But as they consider what they can do, a horrible storm kicks up, knocking them out of the flying saucer and into a huge whirlpool. Naturally, this is the work of the Floating Furies.

When Doc thinks he's about to drown, all he can think of is Platinum and how he wished he hadn't changed her. Aaawwwww. Also, Platinum's new responsometer is so busted that unlike the other Metal Men, she attracts lightning. This works to their advantage, as when grabbed by the Floating Furies, she deliberately allows herself to be struck by lightning, blowing the mine robots to pieces. With that done, Doc heads a successful salvage expedition to recover the remains of Platinum and Iron. After they get their repairs in the Metal Recovery Room, Doc replaces Platinum's responsometer again, returning her to normal.

All in all: oh god yes. From any kind of rational standpoint this was ridiculous, but from any other standpoint this comic rules, a lot.