Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Bionic Man #7 – A Review

Based on a story by Kevin Smith
Script by Kevin Smith with Phil Hester
Art by Jonathan Lau
Colors by Ivan Nunes
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Publisher: Dynamite
Price: $3.99

Every month the Dynamite Dispatches text page highlights a few stellar on-line reviews of their titles.  However, it looks like they don’t know Comics And… exists, since they seem to have missed my glowing review of issue #4 back around Thanksgiving. (I realize it’s probably better for their marketing to spotlight the latest number one issues instead.)  While I’m certainly not going to pimp my stuff to them (you can though), I’m also not going to stop talking about this series.  It’s FANTASTIC and the latest issue was chocked full of more AWESOMENESS!

Man, right when I think this story arc is about to end, we get another chapter.  And to date we’ve had no fill-in artists – just the same high quality month after month (reminds me of BOOM! Studios’ Planet of the Apes).  It just keeps going and going – must be the miniaturized nuclear powered engines – and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Now look as this beautiful opening splash page. (Lee, see if you can hook me up to purchase this original art – I’m serious.) There is so much going on here and it’s portrayed in a way that can only be done in comics, which is cool since I think this story was originally a pitch for an update of the TV series.  I count eleven images on this page, nine of which occur inside Steve’s silhouette.  Following up immediately from last issue we’re seeing Jamie’s reaction to seeing Steve alive after grieving for him for nearly a year.  It’s an absolutely brilliant composition from the alternating views of the two characters to the dramatic fainting at the bottom with Steve lovingly reaching out to cradle her head. That was just the first page!

Next, we get six more pages of them talking to one another and reconnecting.  It’s wonderful and intimate.  I especially liked Jamie’s story about her mother and father and how he reacted to getting a pace maker. Their reunion is short-lived when Oscar shows up with a couple of vans and a helicopter to take Steve back to O.S.I.  Jamie gives him a well-deserved SWAP across the face for lying to her about Steve’s death.

The rest of the book is primarily an extended flash-back sequence, describing the origins of the crazed cyborg, Hull, who has been ripping people apart (literally) since the series began, but Steve just found out that he wasn’t the first Bionic Man.  It’s a very engaging story and very tragic.  This guy used to be a real American hero, until he was nearly butchered by The Republican Guard for trying to save some tortured Iraqi dissidents right before Operation Iraqi Freedom.  I loved the real-world context and the reminder that things weren’t exactly copasetic for everyone over there.  He was rebuilt with experimental bionics, but he would have died without any intervention.  He was doing fine at first (just like Steve), but then the nuclear waste in his body started affecting his brain and began altering his perceptions. (This problem has been fixed for Steve – he gets a system flush twice a month.)  Now Hull is going around acquiring the latest cyborg technology and working with some Russian outfit that’s been mass producing cyborgs.

This backstory was all told to Steve by Oscar and the O.S.I director (rhymes with “Witchy Woman”) inside a conference room.  She wants Steve to “liquidate” Hull and Steve is NOT happy about it.  She has an interesting take on his objection: “I’d hardly call it killing, Colonel Austin.  You’d be shutting down a device that has malfunctioned.” KRAK! And the large table is split in two by Steve’s smashing right fist.  The note papers are still flying when she commands Oscar to inform him of the “conditions of his refurbishment” – the fail safe device.  She then totally disables Steve with a flick of a switch and promises to let his nuclear waste eat his brain until he complies with her orders.  It’s another great splash page – this time a powerful single image (I’d scan it but you need to go out and buy the book yourself).  The only slight drawback to the issue was that Alex Ross’ excellent cover gave away the ending.  But it wasn’t too bad, because you knew this was coming eventually and the execution was superb.

GRADE A+: The BEST single issue comic I’ve read all year and one of the BEST series on the stands today. It’s an engaging story that proudly emulates the best qualities of the original TV series, with genuine characters, realistic dialogue, and outstanding art.  NOT TO BE MISSED!!!
We’re getting a Bionic Woman series by Paul Tobin soon.  If it’s indeed the same Jamie, then I’m guessing that O.S.I. possibly rigs an “accident” (since she knows too much now) to either get rid of her or get her under their thumb.  I really have no clue, but I trust that Paul will do an outstanding job. I can’t wait! 

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