Review by C.J. Bunce
The highly anticipated adaptation of the Six Million Dollar Man TV series in comic book from Dynamite Comics was released this Wednesday and was not surprisingly sold out in its first print run. Titled The Bionic Man, the adaptation was written by Kevin Smith (Green Arrow, Jay and Silent Bob) with Phil Hester (Green Arrow, Green Hornet, Ant Man), based upon a screenplay Smith had written for a never-produced 1990s motion picture version of The Six Million Dollar Man. Over all, I’d say issue one is a good launch.
Starting with the numerous covers, which you cannot tell a book by, they all look great, and the ten variant covers based on four original works are all pictured inside the back page. Alex Ross provided the main cover, with Paul Renaud, Stephen Segovia and series artist Jonathan Lau providing the rarer incentive covers. I posted the covers in a prior article.
The interior art, with pencils by Jonathan Lau and coloring by Ivan Nunes, also looks great. This is an appealing looking book. Steve Austin looks pretty close to Scott Bakula as he looks today, as opposed to original series actor Lee Majors, making me think he’d be fun to watch as this updated character. Oscar Goldman, on the other hand, looks younger than Richard Anderson from the TV series, but has similar facial features to the actor and a more rumpled look about him. Recall Goldman’s incredible arsenal of suits and the inexplicable checkered suit on the action figure. Yet check out how similar they look…
Clearly this is not about adapting the original but updating it a bit. The story starts out with an apparent cyborg character gone astray, something like Rambo with a sword, yet some slasher flick stylings…
If there is anything I didn’t care for with the art in issue one, it was this over the top scene, which reminded me of the disturbing opener of Ghost Ship (not a recommended flick). All other visuals are interesting, with good continuity, and the scene of Austin’s test pilot trip of the experimental Daedalus Mach 8-capable aircraft is definitely nostalgic.
As to the story, there are minor changes to update the character, an already existing relationship with future Bionic Woman Jamie Summers, for example, but otherwise the book’s main story is tracking with the TV series pilot. Which begs the question, why does Kevin Smith’s name need to be so big on the cover? And if this is based on a screenplay by Smith, how much of the resulting story reflects Smith and how much reflects co-writer Phil Hester? At least for this first issue, I think the answer might reflect Smith a bit, based on his modern aka umm, too personal (?) look at Austin discussing a negative bathroom experience with girlfriend Jamie, and an almost pop culture adherence to the original story. Something about Smith bringing Stanley and his Monster into the first ten issues of his Green Arrow story reminded me of the second storyline of this book. Regarding the killer cyborg subplot–little is divulged, yet is he reminiscent of the Six Million Dollar Man android Maskatron? Austin is billed as the bravest man alive, yet unlike the TV version, this guy has a nervous stomach before his flight. Necessary? I don’t know, but worth pointing out and maybe Smith’s/Hester’s intention of showing thaeir Austin is footed in “modern reality.”
An oddity is the similarity of the character building for Steve Austin as compared to the treatment of the motion picture Hal Jordan in this summer’s Green Lantern movie. No doubt this is just a coincidence, but the almost slacker test pilot running late to his important test flight is now firmly, if it wasn’t before, cliche. Since neither original work had it, you get the impression that the slacker generation is creeping into the iconography and mythology of American pop culture a bit. Maybe this is just an attempt at a hot shot pilot a la Tom Cruise in Top Gun. No doubt Chuck Yeager and his Right Stuff brethren had a bit of this cockiness to be able to do what they did.
Looking forward to the character development and addition of the cybernetic enhancements that define the Bionic Man in issue #2, out next month.