Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Action Comics #4 Steel Back-Up

I reviewed the main story of Action Comics #4 just a couple of days ago. I figured that the back-up feature deserved its own coverage as it impacts not only this story arc but also the Superman Family and the DCnU. Because it is here that we get an in-depth look at the DCU's second super-hero Steel.

Writer Sholly Fisch does a good job of giving us some great tidbits about John Henry Irons background, enough for us to get a decent sense of who this man is and why he would slip into a metal suit and battle injustice.

And Brad Walker's art is slick here. It is detailed and has a sort of 'penciled only' appearance in some places. The bulk of the story is a brawl between Steel and 'Metallo' and Walker art has the punch to make it work.

I posted this page before but I'll say it again, this Steel suit looks sufficiently low-tech enough to be a first suit. In particular, the use of cables in the arms and legs make sense as the limbs need to be able to bend and move.

And I love that opening line. 'Superman, I'll take care of this.' Short and sweet.

There is an interesting little internal dialogue where Irons discusses his name, John Henry. Named after the American folk hero, he was teased growing up. But he took the name to heart ... never back down from a challenge.

It works doubly well here. Remember, *the* John Henry battled a machine. Here Irons is battling his own technology.

Now why he would make a big hammer for this suit I don't understand yet.

Irons might be outgunned but he is shrewder. He designed Metal Zero with a secret external USB port, a shut down device. With a flash drive, he infects Metallo with a kill-virus and shut him down. Always wise to leave a back door into your experimental tech. Maybe a bit too easy of a win?

In some ways it reminded me of Batman defeating Prometheus by downloading the fighting skill of Steven Hawking into the villain's helmet.

And this was my favorite moment when Fisch returns to the John Henry tale having Irons be a 'steel driving man' and wallop Metallo. Fantastic.

The story ends with Irons realizing that something big has happened here. He saved people. He was a hero. And maybe there is room for more heroes than just Superman in this world. Great iconic pose here but the subtle contemplative expression makes the image. Will he become Steel?

After a couple of month's of promo material, I was glad my extra buck was spent on more story. And I also am glad that this Steel fight was both showcased but also removed from the main story. Superman still needs to shine here. He needs to star in his own book. We don't know enough of Superman here to lose pages to a 'guest star'.

But this fight needed to be told in depth. We got to learn more about Irons. And we have the next hero of the DCnU. That was a win.

Overall grade: B+


valerie21601 said...

In the John Henry legend he carried a extraordinarily large hammer with him and he carried it practically everywhere with him too.

Many men in my family's past worked on the railroad crews. So I heard quite a few John Henry stories from them when I was a little girl. I wish I had been old enough to record those and other myths they would tell us.

Anj said...

Yeah, the hammer makes perfect sense for John Henry.

But why would John Henry Irons make a hammer? Unless he hammers out the plates himself.

Or maybe he just felt connected to John Henry because of who he is.

mathematicscore said...

Yeah, I would say the hammer makes sense as a whim drawn from his imagination. After all, much innovation is inspired, rather than driven by cold hard logic. I get the sense that the Steel suit is a personal project, separate from the "steel soldier" program, and as such allowed John to be creative.

Good call on the Batman/Prometheus echo. It feels right, as I've always though of Steel as a great thinker before a brute power.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see Steel in an ongoing series of his own. It seems that the majority of the Internet loves the DCnU Superman Family, but I cannot help but feel underwhelmed by the whole thing. We've seen all this stuff already during the past few years: "World Against Superman," the origin of Metallo, General Lane, etc. The upcoming two-issue fill-in story right in the middle of the first arc doesn't help matters.

A Steel series would shake things up nicely, provide additions to the supporting cast (I love Natasha Irons), and hopefully bring in some new villains that we haven't seen before. I've seen enough of General Lane, Metallo, Brainiac, and Luthor to last me a long, long time.