Monday, December 23, 2013

The Senses-Shattering Saga of the Metal Men! Part 16!

Whoomp-whoomp! More Metal Men action comin' atcha! This is a Platinum focused issue (though you could argue most of them are, she seems to get the plot going more than half the time), again centered around her romantic foibles in re: Doc.

I sort of wanted to skip this one based on the cover, I didn't think there was anything too interesting about it, and then I turned the page and remembered why I was doing this in the first place. Oh, and let's not dwell on the obvious implications of Doc desiring a hot robot woman.

This is probably the most straightforward first-page splash in Metal Men history, and that's a pretty stiff competition. The whole "marriage" element is a little silly -- it's as if Platinum thinks any ceremony without a minister/judge/ship's captain/mayor/Elvis is at all legally binding. Anyway, a familiar scene as the issue starts out: Doc is hanging out with a hot woman, Platinum goes bananas and scares her off.

The other Metal Men follow the seething Platinum, and they see a bunch of Air Force planes stuck in a giant spider web. God, the tonal shifts in this comic can give a guy whiplash.

"The million Mongolian mysteries" is certainly a new one, and I sort of hope that phrase actually saw somewhat regular use at some point in our history. For the record, something tells me Gold is the speaker for that balloon.

Doc and the Metal Men encounter the webs later a few times -- each time they disappear, taking whatever they had trapped along with them. Oh, and Doc has a flying car separate from the flying saucer (or "Jetaway" as it's been called in the last few issues). I sort of wonder what the adult inhabitants of this city think of Doc, I'm sure there's at least one guy who sees him fly over traffic and thinks "Lookit that bum."

Retreating to the lab. there's a silly comical interlude with Platinum making a love potion, and I'm mostly including that detail for this panel of Platinum in an apron. There was also a "downtime" panel with Iron and Lead, of all people, playing chess. Oh, yeah that must have been a real meeting of the minds.

This subplot doesn't really do anywhere, it's just a one-off gag. Not to be improper, but you really have to wonder what Kanigher's deal was with women, there was clearly some kind of dysfunction in that area of his life. That or he watched too much Bewitched. Anyway, the next time a web shows up, Doc decides to just drive into it, reasoning that they'll be taken wherever the other stuff was.

I think "the giant spider web was actually a space warp" perfectly encapsulates the craziness of your typical Metal Men story. The planetoid with all the stolen crap on it is inhabited by robots (duh), but they're all robot spiders who immediately start attacking the people who were in those planes, trains, etc.

The Metal Men are soon overwhelmed and ensnared by the spiders' ruler, a huge 'black widow'. She, as you've no doubt guessed, hypnotizes Doc into seeing her as a beautiful robot woman whom he wants to marry. Why a robot? There's nothing in Doc's history that suggests he's into robots like that, he dates human women very consistently. Eh, it's still hypnosis. And to state the obvious: yes, the black widow's plan is to eat him.

Platinum and Nameless (really) manage to get everyone free by acting like they're into some of the male robot spiders, who dissolve the web to get some girlie action. I'm not joking, Nameless used her feminine wiles (ahaha) -- and this isn't even the first time, if you'll remember the climax of the BOLTS encounter. Maybe it's a robot thing; after all, unique among the Metal Men, she doesn't look at all like a pained human.

After being freed and taking out their captors, the Metal Men have a pretty easy time saving Doc, there's nothing really exciting about it at all. The issue ends with Platinum doing the hypnotic suggestion thing to a still-dazed Doc, because if your crush doesn't like you, brainwashing is the only way to go.

Oh, yeah, that's appropriate.

Incidentally, the "stealing crap from Earth" thing -- at no point is it explained why the spiders were doing that. Well, not directly, it's implied that they might be eating the people inside the buildings and stuff they steal, but it's not stated outright except in the case of the black widow. I bet this is going to make the letter column in a few issues, in any case.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It All Started with the Big Bang! Part 16 (Issue #31)

The Knight Watchman is really Big Bang's flagship character, as there are tons of stories starring him. This issue tackles a pretty obvious situation if you're doing a Silver-Age Batman thing: Bat-Mite-induced shenanigans.

I'm not going to pretend like the Knight Watchman "really" dies: he doesn't, it's a trick of some sort. This isn't a spoiler, it's common sense. Besides, why would anything be as it seems when you're dealing with the equivalent of Bat-Mite, Knight-Sprite?

The story opens with Kid Galahad finishing his homework and hearing the call to adventure over the police radio. Some parade balloons came to life and are running amok. He goes on this one solo, as Reid Randall, the Knight Watchman, was at a business meeting at the time. Being giant balloons, he pops them without trouble.

Blah blah -- it's the work of Knight-Sprite, a cartoonish jester with near-limitless power, who likes to mess around with the Dauntless Duo.

He's actually more of a Mxyzptlk type than a Bat-Mite; Bat-Mite was a well-meaning Batman fanboy, whereas Knight-Sprite is pretty mean spirited. For instance, he sends Kid Galahad to another dimension just so he'll stay out of his way. Alone in Dimension X, Kid Galahad braves some native wildlife before meeting up with the Knight Watchman, whom he guesses was also sent there by Knight-Sprite

Woah, did I just hit on a Garden of Eden thing, or am I doing that "reading too much into their relationship" thing people do with Batman and Robin? Galahad is in trouble due to the alien snake from the story splash, and the Knight Watchman dies saving him from it. Specifically his head gets split open under his hood when the snake bucks him against a tree -- a pretty nasty death for, you know, the kind of story this is trying to be.

 I'm no expert on Silver Age issue numbers or covers, but that's a pretty direct reference to a famous Batman cover, with the roles reversed. Anyway, this took a dark turn, huh? Kid Galahad demands Knight-Sprite send him back to the regular world, and this is all reminding me of the TNG episode "Tapestry", when Picard is in the altered present as a crappy science officer and yells at Q about how this wasn't part of the deal.

Knight-Sprite sends Galahad back to the regular world, and Galahad somberly realizes that the Dimension X thing was all real after noticing scratches on his arm from the snake attack. He swears to live up to the Knight Watchman's legacy as a solo 11-13 year old hero.

Almost immediately he sees a crime in progress, with crooks he recognizes hiding out in a warehouse. He busts in to take them out, but since he's outnumbered 4-to-1 and half their size, it doesn't go so well for him. That's when dun dun duuuuun the Knight Watchman arrives on the scene.

After the gangsters are dealt with, and KW and Galahad exchange "What?!"s, Knight-Sprite shows up to set the record straight -- the Watchman in Dimension X was a copy retrieved from Galahad's mind. He didn't say anything about it because it was pretty much identical to the real deal, and thus he figured it wasn't worth mentioning. It's sort of a cute detail, he really didn't understand why he might have been expected to say it wasn't the real Knight Watchman.

Oh, and when they get home, there's a surprise birthday party for Jerry, because I guess it was his birthday all along and nobody mentioned that. Reid converted their basement into a basketball court as a gift, which seems a little ostentatious but I guess he's sort of rich.

Moving on, we've got the stunning origin of Gorilla Cop! That's right, Big Bang even has its own version of Detective freakin' Chimp. While Detective Chimp was a regular chimp granted intelligence by the fountain of youth or something, Gorilla Cop was a regular cop turned into a gorilla by an "evo-ray".

Sam Douglas is a regular beat cop; he's best pals with his old partner Artie and has a swell girlfriend named Kim, whom Artie is secretly hot for. Sam investigates a light in an abandoned warehouse and is captured by Dr. LA Mental, whose "evo-ray" needs to absorb evolutionary energy by devolving people into gorillas in order to evolve someone further.

Sam is turned into a gorilla by the ray, and is about to be put in a drug-induced rage like Mental's other victims when Artie bursts in. Mental flees, leaving Sam in possession of his faculties (apparently the evo-ray doesn't devolve brains, even though Mental's plan hinges on it evolving his own). Sam can't speak, but tries to tell Artie who he is by flashing his gold tooth, which the evo-ray naturally shaped into a simian canine what do you want from me

That's not quite as silly as it sounds -- after all, Artie saw Sam go into the warehouse and never come out.
This story moves along at a blistering pace from here on out -- Sam (who I'm just gonna call Gorilla Cop from now on) sneaks back into the lab that night to see if he can figure out how to change back or something like that. He discovers an unconscious Artie, Mental, and his girlfriend Kim in a cage. It's not really clear why Mental captured Kim -- I guess he figured Gorilla Cop would come back and wanted leverage. He's used the ray to evolve into the super-intelligent, psychic space guy seen above, but Gorilla Cop deftly smashes the ray gun, causing it to backfire on Mental and devolve him into nothing (while dooming himself to life as a gorilla; compare Hummingbird's origin) Oh, and he can talk now, because he tried really hard.

As is often the case with a Silver Age pastiche (and many real Silver Age stories), I sort of have a lot of questions -- Gorilla Cop clearly got promoted, so he's not on the beat anymore, but he's not a detective, so is he the guy behind the desk at booking or the evidence room or something now? Hell, what does this mean for his relationship with Kim, or Artie's relationship with Kim? And I'm almost positive there isn't a second Gorilla Cop story to clear any of that up, too. Wait, am I really clamoring for more of this? Big Bang Comics, the things you do to me...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

So Long, Creature Commandos! (WWT #121)

This is seriously the last full-length Creature Commandos story; they didn't appear in WWT #120 or the last issues I have, #122, where in both cases GI Robot was the headliner and was backed up by one-off stories more typical of the pre-CC days. They're also not in #123, and in the last issue, #124, they're relegated to a one-page epilogue with GI Robot

For the first time in a while, Death introduces the story to us -- and he is clearly just a guy in a skeleton costume. Is that the joke? I don't even get you sometimes, Bob Kanigher.

Because we've yet to be beaten over the head with the idea behind the CCs enough, the story opens with them visiting a carnival freakshow and upstaging the freaks. You know, I sort of have to wonder why they would go to that sort of thing -- that's, like, their people, you know? Hell, I don't know why they even go out so much, they obviously know how much they unnerve people by this point.

The freaks go so far as to gawk at the CCs and call them hideous and disgusting. No offense, but these guys have access to mirrors, right? Eventually, and I swear this is really what I'm seeing, the circus freak union seeks a court order to prevent the CCs from appearing in public.

There's a scene here I find way too great -- Velcro, Griffith, and Shrieve are all buddies when some cute ladies from the WAC walk by. But not Lucky, because he's a gentleman (as Rhodes is always saying). He could also be gay, you know. There's been a Rhodes-Lucky-potential-romance subplot going on for a while now, I think I know where this is going.

Anyway, the CCs are headed for a secret mission via sub, and there's a meaningless scene where Shrieve and Lucky clear out sea mines.

Anyway, the Reich's secret weapon against the CCs is, duh -- women. Three hot blondes claiming to be Dutch freedom fighters run into the CCs once they get to shore, and freaking duh they're actually assassins so I'm not going to pretend otherwise. I'm surprised they didn't try "use women to kill them" before, it seems like an obvious tactic. This plot is loosely recycled from an earlier GI Robot story, by the way, which is copped to in a scene where Hitler's inner circle brainstorms ways to take care of the CCs.

There's some engineered heroics with mechanical German soldiers, so the male CCs feel more connected and protective towards the ladies.

Velcro takes care of them with an airborne grenade delivery, and the team discovers their assailants were robots. Of course, you'd think the charade would fall shortly after this scene, because the girls start showing interest in our heroes. Shrieve I could understand, and maybe even Velcro if that's your thing, but come on, Griffith? Hell, I think it's out of character for Shrieve to not think something's up when a hot girl gets cozy with Griffith.

Anyway, the CCs mission is taking out a secret rocket facility, and since this is the Netherlands obviously it's disguised as a windmill.

As the CCs are distracted by the rocket fire, the assassins strike, incapacitating everyone but Lucky and Rhodes. Naturally, any danger is quickly averted when Rhodes disposes of them with a grenade. She and lucky plant charges on the rocket windmill and take it out without incident. Apparently nobody was keeping guard; I guess that's one way to keep a low profile. Later, upon examining their remains, it's clear that the would-be killers were robots all along. Rhodes is asked how she knew, since she used a grenade like Velcro did on the earlier robots

Yes, the implication is that either the male CCs never even looked into their would-be robo-assassins' eyes, or that they just didn't notice a detail like that. Why use robots in the first place, anyway? Because a real woman would be too disgusted by the CCs or something? I always have so many questions at the end of every Bob Kanigher story. You know, now that I think about it, Rhodes' snake hair hasn't come in super handy in a while -- her real contribution to the team is simply being a woman, and all that that entails.

So that's it for Weird War Tales and the Creature Commandos, at least right now. For all intents and purposes it's the final CC story, since, again, they're only on the last page of #124. They (and GI Robot) face a firing squad for... something when a last-minute reprieve is granted in the form of a special mission to pilot an ICBM to Hitler's front door. It might not necessariyl be a suicide mission, maybe they've got chutes in there. GI Robot's pet robot dog and cat (I assure you they exist) also hop aboard. The rocket goes into space, and the ending is a total "OR IS IT?!" deal. It sort of reads like Weird War Tales/Mystery Science Theater fanfiction. Oh, and Shrieve isn't there -- no, instead of Shrieve there's writer Bob Kanigher, who also boards the rocket and goes into space. How appropriate.

All in all -- some pretty good comics and also some really crazy comics. Figure when I'm finished with Big Bang I'll start doing more 'regular' blog stuff like talking about new releases and whatnot.