As a child of the 70's I was a big fan of all things Bionic Man. Thinking back on it, I actually think he was the ultimate 70's superhero. . .a creation of science with the soul of a man. I was glad to see that this series kept the story in the 70's. I have the modern "reboot" series and it just doesn't have the same feel. Science today is taken for granted. I don't mean to make myself sound old, but at that time, Astronauts were still the great American Hero. The moon landings were still fresh in the collective memory. The world was on the edge of major change in technology. A modern Bionic man is just one high tech thing among many. But in the 70's Steve Austin wasn't just some t.v. character. . .he was OUR hero for OUR time.
So. . .did this recent (the last issue came out just a couple months ago, as of this writing) 70's Six Million Dollar Man mini hold up to the memory of that uniquely 70's superhero?
Yes and no.
THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN: FALL OF MAN
I really like that this story takes place right where it should. . .the late 1970's. A lot of times, writers will try to move characters forward into modern times, but there are certain characters who need to stay put. Lone Ranger and Zorro need to be in the 1800's. The Shadow is best in the 1930's. Green Hornet in the 1940-50's. The Bionic man is best in the 1970's as a high tech anomaly in a world on the edge of becoming high tech.
Really, the fact that Steve Austin IS an unexplained anomaly is the point of this story so far. Nobody really knows why out of all the subjects for the top secret project that made him the Bionic Man he is the only one that was successful. When Austin finds out just HOW many others died during the project, he goes rogue to try and keep himself away from the government, who see him as their property and the key to building an army of bionic men.
This first issue is a great setup to what looks like it will be an interesting story.
BUT. . .
The art is barely functional and is pretty stiff in some places. The artist doesn't really capture the likeness of Lee Majors at all (except on the cover).
And then there's the ending cliffhanger. . .Steve Austin attacked by ninjas out of nowhere and saved by a billionaire with. . .laser eyes. With such a great start, I was disappointed with the silliness of the ending.
All in all, despite the clunky art and the silly cliffhanger ending, I liked this first issue. I just hope the ninjas and laser eyes don't signal a quick swerve off the rails. . .
Awwwww. . .crap. Second issue in and we're ALREADY off the rails. God help me. 3 more issues to go.
Steve Austin is offered a chance to become fully human again, but the catch is that he has to go into Soviet Germany and retrieve a Maguffin.
The whole issue is pretty much a long fight scene between Austin, clones and a giant lobster monster created in a mad scientist's laboratory. Sheesh. . .
After a great setup. Lobster Monsters?
The art still remains clunky and stiff, but beyond the mad scientist's cloned monstrosities, the thing that made me roll my eyes in this issue is how random people keep mistaking Steve Austin for David Hasselhoff and making a big deal of it. . .of course playing on the meme that Hasselhoff is a huge star in Germany. But that particular meme is from the 90's, not the 70's. Hasselhoff wasn't even famous ANYWHERE until the 80's. Every time someone yells "It's The Hoff!", it clunks like a broken gear.
From out of place memes to cloned lobster monsters, this was not a good issue at all.
This was another pretty bad issue, but that said, it DID have some good things in it.
First, I liked the whole art direction on this one. The issue is pretty much all a running battle on top of and inside of a speeding train. The artist draws cutaway panels showing the simultaneous action above and below as a fluid, moving stream of action. Unfortunately, the artist had a great idea here, but he's not really good enough to pull it completely off. Still it's a great idea and points for trying. I'll give this one an extra star.
Other than the interesting art on this one, the giant lobster monster re-appears with the mad scientist riding on it's back shooting a machine gun and shouting "Death to Capitalism!" Oh. . .and more out of place Hasselhoff memery.
This issue was half and half good and bad.
Now that the lobster monster and Hasselhoffing shenanigans in Soviet Germany are done, the writer turns his attention toward the conspiracy to use Steve Austin as the key to creating an army of thinking bionic men. It turns out that Austin's new "friend" is actually in league with the government to find out what makes him tick. The plotting and conspiracy moves at the beginning are actually pretty good.
UNTIL. . .
We find out the woman Austin is falling in love with is a robot. And that a robot has infiltrated the O.S.I. (the organization that Austin works for). EVERYONE TURNS OUT TO BE A FRIGGIN' ROBOT! Okay, not EVERYONE, but there's quite a bit of ridiculous robotic revelation in this issue. Turns out the government has plenty of robots on hand, but they want thinking bionic men instead, so they send out the 'bots to capture Steve Austin.
All in all, it starts out nicely with conspiracy and politics, and ends up with a whole lot of robot punching.
And now, the big finish!
It's pretty much all out action as Austin escapes from captivity, friends become enemies, enemies become friends, and things explode!
All in all, this story is nicely wrapped up in this issue, with Austin and O.S.I. both coming to realize that in his case the man is what makes the machine, not the other way around. . .that the secret of the bionic man is that Steve Austin is a hero and always will be. A very nice conclusion.
Of course, prefacing it is a lot of robot punching, so there's that. . .
And there you have it, Dynamite's Six Million Dollar Man: Fall of Man.
Overall, despite the clunky art and some eye-rolling story beats (Lobster Monsters, Hasselhoffing, etc. . .) I enjoyed this mini. I'm not sure I would heartily suggest it to anybody who wasn't alive in the 70's. I think that (like I said above), Steve Austin is a man of his own time. Today, he's just another high tech hero among many, and to tell the truth, this mini wasn't impressive enough to make him stand out of the crowd like he did during the 70's.
I don't think this series did the character justice. It was okay, but never more than that.
A damn shame. The Six Million Dollar Man deserves better.
Up next. . .
A reluctant substitute Batman. A snotty brat of a Robin. A flying Batmobile.
DC's 2009 Batman and Robin run. All 26 issues. Be there or be square!
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Issue # 1