Catching up with… Aaron Gillespie’s Bionic Man series

Bionic Man Issue 20 cover by Mayhew

If you like action-centric stories then in 2013 you couldn’t get much better than Dynamite Publishing’s Bionic Man series.  Beginning first as co-writer with Phil Hester then continuing the series as solo writer, Aaron Gillespie quickly made Steve Austin his own, bringing forward the best of the 1970s TV series and updating Austin, O.S.I. chief Oscar Goldman, and Bionic Woman Jaime Sommers for a new generation of fans.

The Six Million Dollar Man, and Austin’s experiences as the world’s first real-life cyborg, is a great franchise for today, and Gillespie has taken advantage of modern technologies in his Issues #12 through this month’s Issue #26.  The Bionic Man has encountered everything from good uses for bluetooths to unexpected side-effects of cyber-hacking, and the introduction of hacker Floyd was one of Gillespie’s great updates to the franchise.  He knows his characters and story, enough to play with the characters in a light-hearted way, while keeping with the spirit of the original source material.

Bionic Man 15 cover

Some of the best additions to Austin’s story include Floyd hacking into his brain computer and appearing as a pink My Little Pony inspired avatar that keeps perplexing the cyborg spy.  It’s a great (and hilarious) device to allow the characters to give jabs at each other, and it provides a relaxed moment for Jaime Sommers’ lost memories of her relationship with Steve to slowly begin to return.

Gillespie didn’t flinch away from multiple uses of the Maskatron–a character not from the TV series itself but popular toys released at the time of the series.  In fact in this series it is a Maskatron villain that is behind Jaime’s accident that brings her to become the Bionic Woman in the first place.  It is clear this writer wrote these retro-inspired plots for the same reason fans of the original would want to read them–because they are simply cool ideas worth exploring.

Bionic Man 16 Mayhew

To top it off, no Bionic Man fan would be disappointed with the return of Bigfoot, first made popular in the TV series as played by the late Andre the Giant.  Gillespie really fleshed out the Bigfoot story this year in a multi-issue arc.  The monthly comic was also chock full of modern intrigue, from a third world dictator, to a rogue O.S.I. official, to a nuclear bomb threat and a terrorist defeated by Austin and Sommers at the White House grounds.

Artists Ed Tadeo and Ray Villegas provided action-packed scenes with plenty of bionics and borg circuitry, and managed to create a look with the wardrobe for Austin and Sommers that was reminiscent of their 1970s incarnations.

Bionic Man 25

And if that weren’t enough, after some earlier cool covers by Alex Ross, some of this year’s most striking covers in any series were provided by Mike Mayhew, defining the tough guy look for the series in Mayhew’s unique clean and eye-popping drawing style.

What’s next for the Bionic Man series?  Issue #26 featured a final panel with the word “End”–we haven’t seen solicitations for Issue #27, so it may be that the new The Six Million Dollar Man Season 6 comic book series will replace the current series beginning March 12, 2014.  If so, Gillespie has set the bar for Bionic Man storytelling and the new writer will be challenged to create some equally compelling plots.

C.J. Bunce

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