Storytellers: Dan Didio & Shane Davis
Inks by Davis & Michelle Delecki
Colors by Jason Wright
Letters by Travis Lanham
As you may recall from the last issue, this Metal Men series has been a little strange – playing fast and loose with canon, making interesting choices without the proper follow-through – but, as they say, a house made of even the tastiest and most delectable waffles cannot stand, and let’s be honest: This was a house made of Eggo’s.
Yes, dear readers, I’m sorry to say that Metal Men (2019) has been left in the toaster too long, and is now both freezer burned and regular burned. Didio has decided to remove the main plot from the spotlight entirely while also adding a brand-new major element that only serves to confuse the already confused and unclear narrative. But, before I can tell you about that, I’ve got to take a moment or two to talk about the art.
We’re gonna start with the coloring this time because I’ve got a bone to pick with Mr. Wright. I understand the desire to make metal shiny. I get that metal, traditionally, in many real and fictional instances, is shiny. What I don’t get is your desire to express this shininess through small, wiggly highlight FX lines. Sometimes the result is metallic, but most of the time it ends up plastic, and the rest of the time it just looks… well, it looks like someone was trying to make something look metallic, which I’m sure I don’t have to tell you is sort of the opposite of the goal. The strange image-warping effect that you use on close-ups for the Metal Men is frankly bizarre, but if I had to pinpoint the exact problem with the coloring here it would be the fact that it shows a complete lack of coordination with the inks.
The inks here are still very proficient, with nice thick interior lines on the Metal Menagerie. When Davis and Delecki (or is it a husband-and-wife Delecki team, the husband of which is also coincidentally a Davis?) decide to place something in shadow, they do it with true panache: unbroken pools of black, which is still one of my preferred styles of shadow. And it is this shadow style that I feel Wright has failed to cooperate with – if the inks don’t put something in shadow, they generally don’t shade it at all. Which is fine, that means they’ve left the task to the colorist, but when I look at this book I feel as though there aren’t nearly enough shadows where there should be. I like the high saturation of the book, but the undersides of an arm or a face should be darker than the top sides. And yes, there is some shading done by the colors along the contours of faces and clothing, but it’s along the contours, taking no consideration of the location of the light source as new angles are shown in the same scene. It lends the book a flat, placeless feeling that makes it really difficult to appreciate. The Metal Men are clearly supposed to be reflective, but the light that they’re reflecting doesn’t match the light in the location. This is one of those situations where if you’re not going to think the whole thing through, you shouldn’t get fancy with it.
There’s also an important bit with the lettering that I neglected to mention last issue – an “awakened” Metal Man speaks with a normal speech bubble, but “shackled” Metal Men and the Metal Menagerie speak with “robot” speech bubbles. It’s a small and rather obvious thing, but I think it’s also very impactful! A change in speech bubbles is, in comics, reserved to illustrate major changes in mood or fundamental state of a character, and considering the themes of the book it makes a lot of sense to employ that here. Well done!
Finally, the penciling and overall flow of the book is perhaps a notch above average, though the design of the Metal Menagerie is somewhat odd in its lack of inspiration. They’re just… metal animals. Nothing very interesting going on there, except, except except except the design of Nitrogen, who is a cartoon bear with a newsboy cap and a cigar. All the other members of the team are completely standard animal designs! So why the hell is Nitrogen the way they are?? It’s such an absurd and meaningless choice that it elevates the design from merely silly to high art purely because of context. It’s the most interesting thing that we’ve had to look at in the entire series, and it’s just a cartoony robot bear!
HHHhhhhhhhHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHWHERE Oh W H E R E did the story go??? It starts off with an out-of-nowhere attack by the Missile Men, classic Metal Men Villains that are super fun in a silver-age, Dalek-y sort of way, but why are they here? We find out, after the introduction of the Metal Menagerie and a decidedly silver-age confrontation filled with unnecessary puns and exposition, that the Missile Men have reinvaded purely because their king is unable to watch Platinum, his love, can’t find Platinum. Apparently the deal they struck with Magnus was that they’d leave the earth alone… as… as long as their king could watch Platinum from a distance 24/7??
Hah! I’m just kidding. Gotcha!
Can you imagine if that was something an actual writer put in their book??
“We’ll leave your planet alone if we can permanently stalk your ladybot?”
Can you imagine if… if that was…. actually…
Okay, folks, I’m back. Just had to get it all out.
Anyway, the introduction of the Metal Menagerie is out of nowhere, a fact which the rest of the book attempts to make sense of and fails. Magnus says “animals are more loyal,” but there’s also a bunch of entirely manufactured conflict within the Metal Menagerie between the Standard and Noble gases, which- oh yeah, I should have mentioned that the Metal Menagerie is actually the gas gang, also classic foes of the Metal Men, which are now in animal shells instead of the delightfully strange robotic forms they’ve had in mags of old. It’s just… it’s strange! I recognize that the purpose of the gas gang here is to show that Magnus prefers to ignore his problems and move on to something new rather than deal with and confront his failures, and it accomplishes this, but it does so at the cost of the book’s focus. This issue can be broadly split into three-and-a-quarter sections: The Missile Men fight, an interlude with the Metal Men at a bar, Magnus and Jenet in a lab, and then a couple of pages of Chemo shenanigans at the end. The pacing here is a complete mess. I actually had to count the pages, because I was convinced that there were less than 22 of them. It feels so short! It feels like almost nothing happens! Most of it is talking, and only about a third of the talking is at all interesting or relevant, and all the action’s definitely irrelevant.
The last couple of issues have focused on Tina and the Nth Metal Men, and frankly, those were the parts of the story I was invested in. Those were the interesting artistic choices being made. The only mention of that we get here are a couple of lines that tell us that nobody knows where either of these characters are. But it’s not built up as some kind of mystery! Nobody is dwelling on it or trying to find them, and we don’t ever once see them. The scene with the Metal Men is a tiny bit interesting – watching them continue to sort out how human they are and aren’t isn’t without relevance. But the issue mostly focuses on Magnus, with a half-assed attempt at the beginnings of an unearned redemption. The other focus is the Metal Menagerie, who contribute literally nothing to the story besides a delightfully cartoony bear. I feel like when the next issue comes out, we will discover that this issue was wholly unnecessary.
Metal Men #7
Unfocused, unsatisfying, and with a distinct lack of butter and syrup.