That’s a striking cover. No Metal Men stretching and pounding elemental foes. Just Platinum, looking out at us, her mirror, as she applies lipstick, apparently for the first time. There’s a climatic moment in the classic Powell and Pressburger film when a young nun, driven mad by Himalayan isolation, embraces the womanhood she’s been forced to suppress, a slash of red lipstick symbolising her hysteria. It’s a shocking sequence and quite a bar to set for a story.
So how does the interior of the issue compare? Well, it’s no Black Narcissus but it’s another terrific issue of the Metal Men’s latest maxi-series. The rest of the team barely appear as Tina goes on a journey to learn about her beginnings, spurred on by the Nth Metal Man. The newest addition to Doc Will Magnus’ self-build brood has been upgrading Tina’s brothers, swapping out their programming for distinct personalities and tweaking their designs. Only Tina has refused the ‘upgrade’.
Donning a Mackintosh and Forties-glam hat to disguise her pointy head, Tina takes a train to a place glorying in the name of Upper Schenectady. There she meets Christina, a perhaps-single mom with a bright little boy who loves to build things… hmm, can’t imagine who his absent father is.
Christina, while courteous, isn’t overly friendly. The innocent Tina has stirred up some painful memories.
Disillusioned by the implication she’s a second-best pretend person made by a Professor Pygmalion who can’t deal with flesh and blood women, Tina makes a big decision.
Meanwhile, something is gurgling in Russia.
And the Nth Metal Man is plotting.
So far as secret origins of the Metal Men are concerned, we’ve been here before. A Nineties mini-series added an unpleasant layer of tragedy to Doc Magnus’s creations. Co-creators Dan DiDio and Shane Davis do something similar here, though with Tina only; and the jury’s out as to whether Christina’s view of her old relationship was the whole story. Is Platinum Will’s idealised version of her, or was she once truly like Tina, but a tough life has made her forget who she was? Will hardly treats Tina as a sex doll, he actively discourages her attentions, while courting STAR Labs scientist Jenet Klyburn.
Is Johnny Will’s son? And what was so important that Christina would palm Platinum off on him for awhile… I read comics, I don’t take these things at face value!
‘Tina’s Story’ could have been called ‘A Tale of Two Tinas’. I felt for both women, sisters in a sense, but a million miles apart in how they think of Will Magnus.
The promise of a visit from one of the Metal Men’s classic foes makes me very happy, and I’m interested to see what Nth’s plan is, even though it seems to be connected to the truly tiresome Dark Metal universe.
The underrated DiDio scripts while Shane Davis produces page after page of splendid visual storytelling, his talent shining as brightly as the Metal Men. He nails the emotions of Platinum and Christina, produces the perfect suburban setting to ensure the weirdness of Tina’s situation pops and gives us a brilliant spread showing the widespread discomfort at Magnus Mountain since the arrival of the Nth Metal Man. Plus, there’s some super-spiffy silhouette work.
Kudos, too, to colourist Jason Wright, who gives the robots their sheen, Will Magnus his naturalistic skin shading and Christina’s settee a rare realism in Davis’s excellently executed down-shot. And Travis Lanham brings a certain style to his lettering assignment.
If you’ve not tried this comic, give it a shot. The Metal Men have never been a massive success, but there’s something oddly attractive about them. I’ve never needed their personalities explained, a vague notion that their character reflects their base material is good enough for me – Gold is dynamic, Mercury hot-headed, Tin meek… nope, it works about as well as the idea of ‘willpower’ as an emotion, but who cares? We knew who the Metal Men were and they were fun, I don’t need Jocasta/Wasp-style ‘explanations’.
So Messrs DiDio and Davis have gone somewhere I don’t feel is necessary, but they’ve not broken any toys. The Metal Men are resilient, bouncing back is their thing. And I can’t wait to see where they bounce next.