Friday, March 02, 2007

Man Ain't Nothing But a Man (DC comics)
52 #42 When: April 2007
Why: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka & Mark Waid How: Keith Giffen & Chris Batista

The story so far...
Lex Luthor's everyman project appears to have discovered means of granting normal human beings fantastic powers through the use of an injectable meta-gene therapy.

The only side effects appear to be the development of superpowers, and in the case of John Henry Irons, the armored hero once called Steel, this means literally becoming a man of steel.

When his powers begin to dissipate, Irons realises Luthor's meta-gene not only has finite potential, but also a potential 'off-switch', which leads to the deaths of several experiment subjects. Thus, Irons shrugs off a bitter depression, and dons the Steel armor once more to confront the evil Lex Luthor.

Previous Form:
Steel (#18): Steel has victories over well known supervillains; Plasmus and Metallo.
Lex Luthor: Luthor had a cameo during Batman's battle with the OGRE droid.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Steel 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Lex Luthor 6 (Genius)
Speed: Steel 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Steel 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Steel 2 (Average Human)
Fighting Ability: Steel 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Lex Luthor 4 (Arsenal)

The tape paints a pretty clear picture of how we rate Luthor on our scale.
As a guy who's arguably a top-tier DC villain, Luthor rates deceptively low, but regular visitors to the blog will be accustomed to how characters are capable of playing above their weight.

Luthor's speciality is in his intelligence, and that's how he's able to duke it out with the likes of Superman. The only problem with that is that in the bredth of his abilities, there isn't a lot more to pad out his potential in a fight.

Luthor's advantages are in his technology, like the powersuit, which was deemed too irregularly used to effect his strength rating. Likewise, his seemingly endless access to hired minions and other external aids are perhaps his greatest tools in a confrontation with any character, without even getting into something like his masterminding the gathering of The Society.

Steel's a character of great determination and intelligence, but against the likes of Luthor his greatest advantage may come down to brute strength.

Against the likes of Luthor, regardless of what arsenal has been called upon, Steel's potential to be a raging bull would probably be the key to victory, gaining the momentum-based victory.

The Math: Steel (Meta Class)
The Pick: Steel

What went down...
Having fought his way through Everyman and had his armor shattered whilst wearing it, Steel barges his way into Luthor's top story office with the use of his unique sledgehammer.

There, Luthor waits confidently with Natasha Irons, Steel's neice, beaten and well restrained. Her cries of warning are too late, as John Henry walks straight into a Superman style blast of heat vision.

Luthor, only coming to terms with his newly aquired powers, shifts to X-ray vision, gleefully enjoying his new abilities whilst examining his own skeleton.

Steel, unwavering, leaps back at Luthor literally steaming from the previous attack, with the fire sprinklers activating above.

He drives his hammer down atop the skull of the villainous former-President, but it is for moot.
The force of the blow piledrivers Luthor into the very floor, but as Luthor himself exclaims, he feels no pain from the potentially lethal blow.

Thigh-deep in the floor, Luthor wrenches the hammer from Steel's hands with but one of his own, and drives the handle shaft through Steel's exposed mid-section, impaling him on his own weapon.

As Dr. John Henry Irons pulls the hammer from his own gut, Luthor hovers out of his rut, striking his opponent with a fist packing super strength.

He swats Steel with an open backhand, taking delight in sending him through the wall, despite having only barely touched him.

Luthor professes his maniacal plans of world domination to the restrained Natasha Irons, noting the absence of the world's greatest heroes as opportunity to capitalise on the vaccuum of uncoordinated heroes.

To Luthor's surprise and chagrin, Steel again staggers back into the field-- a changed man. Luthor's self-obssession has full restored the man who built the armor, and John Henry Irons is again a man who recognises the value and reason for men who would be called super heroes. Men who fight for something more than themselves.

Luthor compells Steel to give up, "You have four broken ribs and a ruptured appendix. Your small intestine is leaking fecal matter into your bloodstream. Trust me... I have X-ray vision."

Despite his greivous injuries, Steel shows the determination of his namesake, holding his ground.

Luthor flies at the hero, who hurls his hammer seemingly in vain, as Luthor uses his explosive heat vision to blast a hole through the ceiling.
The hammer, as it turns out, actually strikes the mechanical chair which holds Steel's neice hostage. Set free, the female who once donned Steel armor of her own is able to recognise that Luthor's 'failsafe' for disrupting the exo-gene powers was an electrical pulse, and deduces that the atomic power source housed within Steel's hammer could permanently render the powers inert.

On the rooftop, Steel disengages his robotic hand, which explodes around the super-durable neck of Lex Luthor, who is coming to terms with the influx of sound and sights with his new heightened senses.

No prize: Steel appears here with TWO hands, despite having blown one of them up already. FAUX PAS!He doesn't hear Natasha fiddling with her uncle's hammer on the floor below, but he does feel it, as his body comes crashing down, bound once more by the laws enforced by gravity.

With the tables turned, Luthor spouts desperate threats as the fitter, more powerful of the two men declares his moral superiority.

Steel reveals that the everyman gene treatment was toxic, and would have killed Luthor in six months had his neice not nullified it's effect.

With the Teen Titans gathered below, the giant L atop the Lexcorp building comes crashing down to the evacuated ground floor.
Standing mightily atop the building, a triumphant pair of heroes, each barers of the Steel legacy, and victors over a would-be tyrant.

The hammer...
The winner by knockout, with the assist from his neice-- Steel!

Regular readers will know I've been on a kick of more recent comics lately, and I'm pleased to finally be a part of 52. I'm not sure I could have ever pledged my dollar to a year's worth of weekly comics, but I think I picked the right time to pop in for a visit. It sounds like things are wrapping up on a strong note, and certainly when I read the solicitation for what turned out to be nearly an all-Steel issues, I was chuffed!

If you track back to the one or two previous Steel appearances on the blog, you'll discover that he's one of my favourite DC characters, inspite of his relative obscurity. As one of the lead characters in the second-tier push of 52, I'm certainly very pleased with the concept, and the push to bring a guy like this back. I just wish we could be seeing him in active duty in the other One Year Later DC Universe titles.

I picked up four issues of 52, weeks thirty-nine through forty-two, and I've certainly been impressed with the quality of the books. The back-up origin features are a nice touch, particularly with what seems to be an effort to customize the artist to fit the character. #42's Green Arrow feature with Scott McDaniel art is a notable occasion, McDaniel being the current on-going artist on the character.

The art is probably what most sceptics would have been epecting to see suffer under the load of such a heavy schedule, but it looks to me like it's been handled brilliantly. The price of rotating artists seems to be well worth it, with Keith Giffen's direction seemingly giving the series an appropriate throughline. Although, I imagine a great deal of credit has to go to the inking and colouring teams, who although different, seem to be similar enough, perhaps by design, to maintain a consistency that prevents jarring from issue to issue.

It's difficult for me to really say how I feel about the broader scope of the 52 story, having only read the two issues, thus far. I'm certainly the type of reader who has no bones about jumping into the middle of a story, but I could see how it might benefit from a recap page of some sorts. Simple decduction and a willingness to go with the story should be enough to leap in, but is probably a rare trait among modern readers, and they may find themselves uncomfortable.

The anthology style in some of the issues is interesting, and I wonder if it may have made weekly reading a little tedious. Like some popular TV shows, it feels like it's only letting out insignificant movement in the story through dribs and drabs, but certainly it delivers in an issue like forty, which dedicates a great deal of time to wrapping up one of the plots.

One would imagine the combined might of Johns, Morrison, Rucka and Waid would be enough to place the necessary value on each of the stories.
Presumably the involvement of each writer overlaps, even if they tackled their own stories, or moments throughout the saga of 52.*

I'm struggling with what I could really say here that is something you don't already know. It's very much a what-you-see kind of book, and I can't elaborate a great deal. It doesn't excel, but it is strong enough that it's difficult to criticise.

I guess I leave you with the hope that DC isn't over extending itself with the announcement of Countdown, which will run every week for a year, this time rolling down from fifty-two down to one, in reverse order.

I hope post-52 we can see John Henry Irons back in active duty as Steel, and I hope the events of the new Countdown will not affect that.
Speculation has the regularly appearing 'multiverse' theory bobbing back up for Countdown, but I'd like to think DC and the writing team that is steering the cohesive ship are wise enough to recognise the negatives that far outweigh the potential cons.

I've poo-pooed the theory in the past, and I'll continue to do so, but I wonder what Countdown will entail. Certainly the promotional artwork has a lot of people talking, and I wonder if the featured heavy-hitters of the DC universe aren't indicative of a 52 style book that recaps the journies of the major heroes who were deliberately omitted from 52. As opposed to the theory that it represents the segregation of the heroes into their own universes.

Here's hoping!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 5

* The presumption that the writers crafted an overall outline for the story as a group is the reasoning for each writer being credited for this entire issue, which features only one storyline.

1 comment:

Mike Haseloff said...

Thanks to -Brad- for contacting me about an error in the tape!
Everybody's gonna get laid with No Prizes! *music*