Art by Ed Tadeo
Colors by Thiago Ribeiro
Lettering by Simon Bowland
I had considered writing about this issue a few weeks ago, but the siren call of Lego Batman 2 for the PS3 was too strong (and I didn’t have to post anything during our hiatus anyway). I was really stoked about it at the time. Now, if I can only remember what I wanted to say…
It took me a few issues to get into this series, but it’s definitely one of my favorites right now (especially since Daryl Gregory’s Planet of the Apes by BOOM! just ended). It’s been so good that I’ve done single issue reviews twice before for numbers 4 and 7 with nary a mention on Dynamite’s Featured Reviews page. Maybe the third time will be the charm, but really it doesn’t matter, because I can’t help but sing the praises of this book.
This is the first issue that doesn’t sport the Kevin Smith banner on the cover. His excellent ten part origin story ended last issue along with his co-scripting duties with Phil Hester, who is now the series writer. Unfortunately, it looks like Jonathan Lau will not return as the artist, since there is a House AD promoting his new Peter Cannon Thunderbolt series. I’m really disappointed by that change, because I really enjoyed his pencils, especially his inventive layouts.
With all the creative changes, I figured this might be the perfect jumping off point (to make room on the pull list roster), but I decided to give the new story arc a try and I was pleasantly surprised at how great it was.
The story entitled “The Back Forty” has a lot of heart to it and really evoked the personal quality that I enjoy so much in the original TV series (It’s not all about slow-motion action). Steve goes back to the ranch to visit his family, who until recently thought him dead. His father (frail and on oxygen) has terminal cancer. His mother, Helen, is getting some help with the ornery old cuss (emphasis on the cussing) from a hospice nurse. Awaiting the inevitable, she’s already packed up to move into an apartment once he’s gone. Steve’s sister, Karen (the most realistically drawn woman in the history of comics [Size 12]) lives nearby in town.
While the art by Ed Tadeo wasn’t as dynamic as Lau’s from previous issues, it was perfectly suited for this quiet poignant tale. While it is essentially a talking heads tale that doesn’t mean the issue was devoid of action -- there are still the “required” bionic moments involving a rain-drenched run, a horse rescue, and an old tree stump. But, the real drama was in the conversations as Steve’s mother deals with his more-than and less-than humanness, and he deals with his father’s illness and their continued strained relationship. Karen (Praise God for sisters) explains to him that his father is pushing Steve away, because he can’t stand to be diminished in his son’s eyes. (I can relate at my 14 year-old son is now two inches taller (6’-1”) than me and continues to grow!) It’s tragic that Steve is finally reunited with his family, wants to enjoy the limited time he has remaining with his Dad, but has to go, because it causes his Dad even more pain. He does leave a nice parting gift for his parents to enjoy.
Oscar Goldman is on only one page at the beginning, but even that brief appearance is a character rich moment when he tells a subordinate to stop monitoring “such a valuable asset”. Jamie Summers is only mentioned in passing, but this story takes place before her parachute accident and consequently her Bionic Woman series. I tried out the first issue of Bionic Woman and I didn’t pick up another. Knowing Paul Tobin’s writing capabilities, I really should check it out again. Still I feel it was a mistake to launch that series before this one caught up to that time frame. Really, they should have had her accident occur in this title prior to the spin-off, just like they did in the TV shows.
I actually watched the first Jamie Summers episode on Six Million Dollar Man before I read this story. Steve went back home to the ranch in that one too and I think it helped me appreciate the comic even more. In fact, (most of) my children and I have now watched all the Steve and Jamie cross-over episodes and have only one more reunion movie to go (where they finally get married – I hope!). I’m really excited that I’m finally watching the complete series box set that I paid an arm and a leg for (no pun intended) two years ago! Furthermore, I just ordered the new 8-inch SMDM action figures (look for pictures soon).
GRADE A+: A moving interlude, harkening back to the "heart" of the original TV series, that shouldn’t be missed. Even without Kevin Smith or Jonathan Lau, Bionic Man continues to be one of the BEST comics on the stands!
The next issue comes out TOMORROW and will feature BIG FOOT!!! I know Saturday is my normal day, but I’ll post again sometime when the mood strikes.