Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Senses-Shattering Saga of the Metal Men! Part 17! (Metal Men #21)

It's been a crazy few months, but I'm back! I'll try to post semi-regularly, but we'll see how that turns out. 

I've decided to skip ahead and pay attention to the better/more notable/more wacked out Metal Men stories as I come across them. It's a good thing they ditched the old "each issue feeds directly into the next one" gimmick (and it's weird to think that that was a gimmick back then), because that means there's no issue-to-issue continuity to worry about.

Metal Men #21 features another set of "evil Metal Men", which you may recall has been done about five or six times already, including the appearances of the Gas Gang. Still, it doesn't sound right for me to fault Bob Kanigher just because he likes to recycle.

The cover exaggerates the Plastic Perils' strength, and kind of messes up their character models too. Usually it's not a big deal when a Silver Age cover stretches the truth, but I'm used to the Metal Men being straight with me about this stuff. 

Okay, this is the most detestable villain we've seen yet, and it's only because he's a pompous little dick. 

Anyway, the story opens on Platinum bemoaning the fact that Doc has been making out with a new squeeze in his office all day. And the Metal Men open up a bunch of fan mail. For some reason Bob Kanigher was really into the idea that the characters themselves receive all the mail sent their comic's way -- it came up many times in his Wonder Woman stories.

Anyway, surprisingly enough the Metal Men single out the letters that are negative in tone. These real letters, with the writers named and everything, criticize the direction the comic's taken over the last several issues on a number of points. They're also really belligerent and entitled, in case you were wondering whether the comic book fandom has always been awful. The big criticisms are that the Metal Men fight too many robots, and more specifically that of late they're just fighting robot versions of monsters that, say, the Doom Patrol would fight otherwise.

They spend the first act of the issue looking in vain for some non-robot menace they can tackle, and even go to places like Central City and Gotham City. For some reason when they go to these places they're surprised when the Flash or Batman takes care of the problem, as though it's weird for Batman to punch a bad guy in Gotham at night.

For some reason when you look for trouble in Central City, the Flash tends to take care of it before you can. I'm sort of wondering why they came here in the first place, other than for the chance to basically tell kids to read the Flash. 

They take a few similar trips to Gotham City and.... Washington DC? That's where Wonder Woman lives? Anyway, they also go there and the local heroes take care of business ably, leaving the Metal Men high and dry.

Like a latter-day episode of the Simpsons, the plot switches a quarter of the way through. In this case, the shift occurs when the dejected Metal Men espy an armored car smashing its way onto their compound. 

It's a mad asshole/scientist named Dr. Bravo, who has created his Plastic Perils to rob places and junk. You know, The Graduate told me plastics was a profitable biz in those days, you'd think he wouldn't need to steal.

The Plastic Perils have pretty lazy character design -- they all have the exact same body mold, but come in different colors. And that isn't even kept consistent! Granted, I can't think of many ways to make them "read" as being made of plastic besides making them look like M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, which is basically what happened here. They also don't have any personality, but let's be real that's true of the Gas Gang, for instance, too.

Now, I'm honestly not sure if the Plastic Perils really count as "not robots" for the purposes of this story -- I mean, the members of the Gas Gang were considered robots, after all. Granted, they aren't anything like a robot spider, dinosaur, or centaur, so I'm sure kids reading this were welcome for any kind of change. And a group alike to the Metal Men but evil is kind of a classic concept anyway; I admit that I'm still not tired of that plot.

So Bravo's Plastic Perils beat the Metal Men, but he says he's not done looting and dares them to stop his crime spree. There's a brief stopover at the lab, where Doc is still making time with his latest fling.

The Metal Men split up to cover more ground, and while they each encounter the Plastic Perils they also all lose handily to them

This whole sequence takes me back to the past because it serves to teach kids about the various types of plastic, which is reflected in the powers of the various Plastic Perils. For instance, Dr Bravo goes on about the properties of Polyethylene as a gang of "Polys" defeat Lead -- they do this by luring him into the nearby ocean, because Polyethylene floats and lead, uh, doesn't.

Oh, and while this isn't the first time the Metal Men have turned into a gun, this is the first time they've been a goddamn tommy gun. Also wondering how inert tin leaves the barrel without any propellant or primer. And yes, even this failed to beat the Plastic Perils (or at least this specific one, Methacrylate).

Because Bravo constantly mocked them for lacking knowledge on the properties of various plastics, the Metal Men, still without Doc's help as he seems to still be smooching his lady, decide to do some research. Hey, kids: with the books in your local library, you can be a hero, too! Anyway they melt the Plastic Perils with molten slag scooped from a smelting pool and doled out by giant-ladle Platinum -- thus serving to also teach kids that plastic doesn't handle extreme heat very well. Big deal, I learned that one summer when I left my Thing action figure in the car.

Oh and Dr. Bravo gets scooped up by Platinum and probably dies seconds later.

Back at the lab, it turns out Doc wasn't in his office at all this whole time -- what the Metal Men saw was a cardboard stand-up of Doc kissing some woman, intended to make the Metal Men think he's busy so he can, uh, actually be busy doing work. Sometimes I wonder about this guy.