Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Senses-Shattering Saga of the Metal Men, Part 2!

One thing that you learn in reading early Metal Men is that, unlike a lot of its contemporary books, it had an ongoing storyline. Sure, the plot threads were often nonsensical, but there was a plot that flowed from issue to issue; the "one-and-done" stories of the day are nowhere to be found except for like the first issue I guess. While this is of some historical curiosity, it kind of puts a damper on my plan to NOT do every last issue but the first (or their appearances in Showcase) -- there's a whole arc about the Metal Men in space, and this is the issue that really kicks it off. It also ties into the previous story, which ended with the "death" of Platinum, as it deals with her coming back.

Naturally, the first page is another angle of the cover, and it represents a scene later in the story. Lead has this amazing expression of utter befuddlement on his face, which is all too appropriate for endearing dummy he is.
As it happens, I pointedly refuse to play their game and call Platinum "Tina" -- I kind of get it, it's a way of humanizing the Metal Man who wants to be human the most, but until Iron is "Ron", Mercury is "Merc", and Lead is "Eddie", "Tina" will always just be Platinum to me.

Surprisingly enough, the story opens with the Metal Men and Doc flooded by postcards -- due to overwhelming fan response, Doc is keeping his word and rebuilding Platinum. Naturally, Mercury is none too pleased about this, but to be honest he's not pleased about much. Doc flashes back to last issue's climax, where Platinum sacrificed herself to destroy the evil robot Doc she created and his nuclear Metal Man Plutonium. And you know what, the art (and even the words) for the flashback are all new; today they would have just been copied and pasted from the previous issue. 

This also sort of retcons the events slightly, as in this version the rocket makes it to the moon before Plutonium blows, as opposed to having him explode on the way. This is a significant detail, no doubt added so they could spin a larger story arc out of it. Also of note: Doc says that Platinum's tearful farewell to him "wrung [his] heart", which I think is pretty sweet. He might come around to her yet!

Back in the present, Tin is tearing up from the memory of losing Platinum, and Gold insists that Doc bring her back. Doc remarks "bringing Platinum back" would be an arduous task, and would first require the Metal Men to search the surface of the moon for traces of her. No, instead he'll simply create a new Platinum -- ideally, the one he set out to create in the first place, one with a personality more in line with the other Metal Men and who isn't in love with him.

However, the emotional reunion of the Metal Men and Platinum isn't quite what anyone expected -- she has no emotions except disdain, chiding the Metal Men for their sentimentality. Even Doc is taken aback at this; much as Platinum drove him crazy, he didn't want her to be cold and abrasive. And where the original Platinum loved Doc, this one thinks him a fool for creating such flawed robots.

She insists on being taken on a "trial run" so she can show off her capabilities, and expects Doc to scrap the existing Metal Men once he sees what she can do. Doc is still flabbergasted, stammering like Tin in the face of this new Platinum, but agrees to her suggestion. Mercury, the hothead whose relationship with Platinum has always been rocky, is naturally furious, and goes on an angry rant about the new Platinum as soon as she and Doc are out of earshot. I have to say, Mercury and Platinum are probably the Metal Men who are the easiest to write, as their personalities are both very "in-your-face". I think that's why at this early stage, they're getting all the big character moments. 

For once, other Metal Men share Mercury's concern, if not his anger -- Tin and Lead, despite Gold's assurances, are both worried that Platinum really will show them up and Doc will scrap them. Mercury's boiling anger is quelled as he's chilled by the thought.

One act break provided by ads later, the Metal Men watch Platinum and Doc from a camera feed in their waiting room, and see them board Doc's flying saucer. And, I'm just going to come out an say it, Platinum is a plain bitch; she treats Doc like absolute garbage. This comes to a head when Doc falls from the saucer over a large river, and Platinum doesn't try to catch him until he commands her to -- by the time her extended arms reach him, he's already underwater. However, she doesn't pull him up; he realizes that she just followed the command to catch him, and isn't going to do anything else. Vulcans, man. As his breath begins to run out, he's saved by Iron and Mercury, who followed Doc and Platinum in case something went wrong. 

Oh, and it looks like Doc has a couple saucers, because Lead, Gold, and Tin are waiting above the river to meet Iron and Mercury. However, they've run afoul of Platinum, who isn't willing to let anyone interfere with the orders Doc gave her.

This is probably going to teach Doc a lesson about appreciating Platinum as she was and not trying to make anything else of her, but I'm going to go ahead and guess that he's not going to do that when all is said and done. 

So Doc gets her to let everyone go and they all head back to the lab. Doc asks Platinum to jump down a chute, and she obliges, falling right into a smelting pool and melting away into nothing. I found this way, way too comical. Soon, the overjoyed Metal Men and Doc are headed for the moon to recover whatever they can of the real Platinum. So much happens in a Silver Age comic, jeez there's enough material in any one issue of Metal Men for five issues of a modern comic. 

So they go to the moon, find what they need, and return in the span of two pages, because it's the Silver Age. 

And Platinum's back! Doc still isn't crazy about her affection for him, but anything's better than the Platinum they had earlier this issue. So Platinum starts bugging Doc about cooking for him, because, again, Silver Age. He decides to let her, thinking if he indulges her she'll tire of acting like a human woman eventually. However, as she's frying up an egg, it stars growing and growing until it fills up the whole kitchen! Doc says it's an amoeba, and thinks they brought some unpredictable microorganisms back from the moon by mistake.

However, Lead can't hold up against the amoeba's onslaught (though I would blame that on his leaving a huge gap between the top of his wall and the ceiling), and nearly flattens the other Metal Men as he topples over. Lead is engulfed by the creature; Tin respects his sacrifice, and wishes he were capable of such bravery. This pattern repeats itself a few times, with a Metal Man trying to cover the others' escape but being absorbed by the amoeba, and Tin thinking about how he wants to be useful to the team.

The Metal Men, minus Lead, Iron, and Mercury, escape to one of Doc's saucers. However, the fiery jets used to take off cause the amoeba to a swarm of giant microorganisms. I'm just along for the ride at this point, there's not a lot I'm unwilling to accept. They're forced to herd them into a large canister (formed by Tin) and send them back to the moon using an experimental catapult spacecraft. The spaceship misses the moon, and Doc is forced to send the microorganisms (and Tin) into a cosmic ray storm, which will likely kill the creatures -- and Tin as well! Tin faces this fate with courage. Platinum calls him the bravest of them all as she and Doc head back for Earth.

See, this is a book that doesn't pull any punches. Ongoing story, frequent deaths of most of the main cast, it's really something apart from your standard superhero fare of the period. Obviously, the stakes aren't very high, because the Metal Men are robots and can be repaired or rebuilt, but this issue ended with Iron, Lead, and Mercury dead and Tin careening through space -- that's ballsy.

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