Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Review: Steelworks #1

Steelworks #1 came out last week and was a wonderful first issue. I have to admit that I was a bit worried when actor Michael Dorn was revealed as the writer for this book because it seemed like a stunt. After all, I know him as 'actor' Michael Dorn, not writer Michael Dorn. But Dorn crafts a great tale here, doing all the things a first issue should do to grab a reader and have them want to read more. Add some lovely Sami Basri art and I am already looking forward to issue two.

We'll start with the character of John Henry Irons, Steel. We recently saw in the lead-in back-ups of Action Comics that Irons is trying to turn Metropolis into some high-tech paradise. Dorn builds on those in a way that feels more like a natural progression of Irons' character. He is an inventor. He became Steel to honor Superman and protect people. So his wanting to use his skills to invent to save Metropolis on a city-level, it reads like a progression. 

What is the interesting hook is that he wants to protect Metropolis so that the Superman family doesn't have to be active, doesn't have to save people. Now I suppose what Henry means his that he's got Metropolis so the Supers can be elsewhere. But in some places it sounds Luthor-ian, that the people need to save themselves and not rely on Superman. It makes Henry suddenly 'gray' and makes me want to see where it will all go. Still charming, still humble ... but with the potential go dark if he thinks his way is the way.

So we have an interesting direction there. But even better, Dorn wants to embrace Steel's history and DC continuity. From rapid fire recaps of his early career to his relationship with Lana to Lena Luthor, Dprn dives in deep. 

Lastly, if technology is going to be the hero, then it looks like technology will be the villain. An enemy company is the first villain. But I get the sense that the upcoming villains are also tied into the technological world. 

I have been a fan of Sami Basri since his work on the Power Girl series way back in the day. The art here is great. Basri knows how to draw super-heroes and the Super-family. I love his Supergirl, seen briefly here. But everything is polished and sharp. Basri is a great fit here.

On to the book.

I did like the opening scene with Irons discussing his plans to open Ironworks as a defensive center for the city. 

But Dorn does a good job here showing two things.

One, I loved the series of vertical panels on the left which is basically a recap of Steel's origins. 

And we get the super-family right off the bat cementing this as a book in the super-realm. Great to see Basri's take on the family. Love his Kara.

But Dorn goes even deeper than just showing us those panels of Steel's origins. He is jumping with both feet into Steel's continuity. 

We get Lana Lang back into continuity! I can't remember the last time we saw Lana in any significant way? Was it Superwoman?

And an engagement ring? I probably have to look back at the Superwoman series to see if that was part of history then.

People know I am a Lana fan so I am glad she is back. And Dorn leaning into Superwoman (as we'll see) is fascinating given the troubling continuity in that book.

Now part of me isn't exactly thrilled with this concept of Irons taking over the city in this way, protecting everyone in a way that could sound controlling. That doesn't sound like him. 

Dorn does a good job of humanizing Irons a little by having him be critical over his speech and look. 

But I do think there is a fine line between what Irons is doing and what Luthor would do. A self-activating defensive technology to keep people 'safe'? Isn't that the plot if I, Robot?

So I think it will be interesting to see how this is played out.

Natasha seems to be a voice of reason here, asking Irons if he is truly ready to leave the Steel identity behind. And is he ready to truly shut out the super-family, making Metropolis his place to defend.

This is a portion of a 2 page spread (Natasha is seen on right) where Steel talks about his desire to have humanity rise up and defend themselves without supers.

Again, squint and this is a Luthor plot. Let's rise up instead of being held down by the aliens. I really hope this is explored a bit.

But please, let Basri draw more Supergirl in this book. Great shot of her here!

Lana shows up to chat with her beau and Irons doubles down on his ability to help everyone become super.

Now that is the plotline of The Incredibles. Didn't Syndrome say 'when everyone is special, no one is special'. 

Is Irons a good guy? Can we trust that he won't cross some line? I mean he is the hero here. So I know he won't go evil. But I again hope that we see other characters call him out on this.

We do get some villainous stuff. 

This is a tech-forward book. So the owners of Amertek are unhappy about Steel bringing them down back in the day. So why not find some disgruntled ex-employees, like this guy who has wallowed in depression since he lost his job.

Using tech, this evil CEO somehow modifies this man turning him into a weapon and sending him out to attack Ironworks. 

The evil business rival? It is a little worn as a concept but if this is a sort of Iron Man book, why not. 

The powered ex-employee heads to Steelworks and attacks.

Thank goodness Natasha is still wearing the super-suit. Not a bad cliffhanger.

I really liked the ending of the book where we see threat level pages from Steelworks. I have to assume these are seeds of future storylines.

Look who we read about? The tragic Lena from Superwoman again!

I am pretty pumped that Dorn is going back to that book, an underappreciated title, and bringing it into this new continuity. 

So I think there is a lot of grist for the mill here. Steel is being a hero because he wants to defend Metropolis. But he wants to force out the Superman family. He wants to protect everyone with tech. These are lines that can be blurred. And having Irons look in the mirror and see he is acting Luthor-ish is great fodder.

Dorn seems like he loves the character and the character's history so I don't think is a stunt.

And Basri's art is smooth and beautiful.

Sign me up.

Overall grade: B


Dick McGee said...

I may be wrong but I thought Dorn contributed some writing work back in the TNG and DS9 days. If so, some writing chops there.

This could be very interesting if it spins into examining the modern Luthor approach and how it could be heroic if Luthor just wasn't such a narcissistic power-hungry lunatic. Steel could easily be used as a platform show how Luthor has some good ideas but it's him and his execution that are the problem.

Martin Gray said...

Great review, you’re so right that John’s plan seems wrongheaded - yes, give Metropolis better defences, but all he looks to be doing is making the citizens reliant on him rather than the Super Family. And the fact that he hasn’t laid out his plans for them is worrying.

The Superwoman callbacks thrilled me. Just thrilled me. I also can’t remember if Lana and John were engaged but they were extremely committed to one another.

I’d like to see Basri draw more Supergirl too… maybe she could put her science smarts to good use as an associate at Steelworks?

I don’t know if you saw my review, but am I right in thinking the circumstances of John leaving Amertek has been changed?

Anj said...

I'll head right to your review!

Been a while since I thought of John's origins.