Metal Men #9 review

Now that’s a fantastic cover, as illustrator Shane Davis and colourist Jason Wright homage a poster for 1933’s King Kong.

Platinum as Fay Wray and the rest of the Metal Men as biplanes is as goofy as heck, and it works.

As the latest chapter in this 12-issue maxi-series begins, the tone is anything but goofy, with the Nth Metal Men leading Tina and Gold to the STAR Labs site which was his entry point to earth from the Dark Multiverse. They reckon he has some ‘splaining to do.

But before answers come, a wild card appears, freezing Tina and Gold in time, and incapacitating the Nth Metal Man.

Men call him… the Phantom Stranger. Magic vs metal.

Meanwhile, in Manhattan, the rest of the Metal Men are dealing with an attack by their old foe Chemo, a gigantic, walking bag of poisons, suddenly speaking in melodramatic threats.

This is another wonderful issue. I feared the series would be cancelled after writer Dan DiDio left his day job at DC, but happily it looks set to go the distance. It’s weird to me that a book whose big plot point – the Nth Metal Man – spins out of the unreadable (literally, check out those fonts) Dark Knights: Metal series is so much darn fun, but then again, DiDio pulled off the same trick with the underrated Sideways.

The arrival of the Phantom Stranger to explain that Nth is giving off psychic energy that influences people – even artificial ones – to make bad decisions is appreciated; it always seemed odd that someone as sharp as Tina would fall in with a guy who never looks less than super-shifty.

Then again, just because he’s giving off Bad Idea Bears vibes, doesn’t mean it’s deliberate. And should we judge by appearances? Maybe artist and co-plotter Shane Davis is deliberately wrongfooting us with Nth’s soulless, dead eyes?

Certainly Davis, aided by the polished work of colourist Jason Wright, delivers page after page of beautiful superhero comics – there’s nothing in the DC Universe to compare with the Metal Men moving from panel to panel, ever-morphing, their facial expressions as much fun as their colourful forms. Davis deserves extra credit for consistent, detailed backgrounds that make things feel that much more real.

The conflicts with Chemo are massive fun, with scripter DiDio giving us some good gags, including a pun that will have Marvel fans giggling. Also, he shows just how smart these very human robots can be. And there’s a very topical footnote attributed to the excellent editor Jessica Chen.

As the battle for Manhattan goes on, Metal Men creator Doc Will Magnus has an epiphany, and it’s beautifully captured by the artists. Adding to the visual joy is the lettering of Travis Lanham, who varies fonts and colours but never loses legibility.

As a digital buyer I don’t have the option, but had I visited the comic shop you can bet I’d have grabbed a second copy – just look at this card stock variant from Brian Bolland, complete with classic logo!

While this series has featured one very grim image – repeated in flashback here – the DiDio/Davis Metal Men remains an antidote to the grimness of much of mainstream comics today – it’s unalloyed fun.

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