Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Senses-Shattering Saga of the Metal Men Special Edition! Brave and the Bold #55!

It's been a while, and I figured I'd jump back into this with the Metal Men, but to help me get excited about writing I'm gonna go off the main title and do the first of the team's many, many BatB appearances.

For whatever reason, the Metal Men were among the most frequent guest stars in Brave and the Bold, second only to the Green Arrow. They featuring in 8 issues, 6 of them with Batman (the other non-Bats team-up was #66, with Metamorpho. More on that guy to come, by the way)

The Atom's a character I sort of didn't get the appeal of before I actually read his material, but once I got into that... well, it's hard to dislike Gardner Fox and Gil Kane, you know? You can argue that maybe the Flash or the Martian Manhunter could've also defeated the Bug-Eyed Bandit, but I still say the Atom's pretty cool.

Sadly, as you'll see, the issue doesn't really give you that impression; the Atom plays seventh fiddle to the Metal Men throughout. And yeah, that's right, it's an Evil Metal Men plot, seen previously in (link to prev issue post here) and to a certain extent with the Gas Gang as well. I find it weird that most of the time there's some evil counterpart to the Metal Men, it's usually Doc himself who is behind it in one way or another. I wonder about that guy sometimes.

As the story opens, the Metal Men are entertaining some children, and I don't know about you but it seems like that's all they do in their spare time. I get that maybe their talents would also be wasted if they were just Doc's lab assistants or something, but there's got to be something else for them to do.

What soon follows is, oddly, an unintentionally hilarious series of deaths-by-accident. Most of these are caused by momentary dizziness -- Platinum falls onto some electrical generator, Gold into a vat of aqua regia, etc. Upon examining their lifeless husks, Doc discovers that their atomic structures have each been altered in some way that prevents him from reviving them as he usually might.

In the grand list of Metal Men deaths, this issue has a lot of the more embarrassing ones. Lead takes the cake in that department, as he actually explodes while reaching for something on a high shelf -- Doc says he stretched past his limit, but no matter how you justify it it isn't Lead's proudest moment.

When all the Metal Men are gone, Doc's pretty broken up about it, and he actually says they were like his children. The children he neglects, withholds affection from, and in one case always flings verbal insults and emotional abuse at, but still, children. Anyway, as you an no doubt imagine, it's all the work of Uranium.

Yeah, Agantha. What's wrong with "Agatha", if you really have to give her a "real" name? 

So, it's flashback time! Uranium was the original Metal Man, created before the others. But he was crazy -- he liked to blow stuff up with bombs and screw up Doc's experiments by bombarding them with radiation. Doc turned him into regular uranium, but when the government used him for an atomic test he came back to life (it's a comic book, get over it). Uranium forces Doc to work for him, because he's into irony.

Doc manages to send a coded signal to the Atom, whom he knows I guess, for help. Thus enters the Atom, just under halfway through the story. He infiltrates Uranium's lab, uncovers the means by which he corrupted the Metal Men's atomic structures and even figured out how to fix it without running into any real trouble.

The Atom repairs the Metal Men successfully, and this marks the end of his significance to the story, sadly. Yeah, from here on out it's basically a regular Metal Men story. Oh, the Atom gets a few lines later, but they could have just as easily gone to Doc. I like the Atom , I think he got a raw deal here. The Metal Men start a scrap with Uranium and Silver (not dignifying the name 'Agantha', sorry), with Platinum mostly taking care of Silver by herself. Also, duh, something silly happens.

This is Uranium's special power; unlike the others, even Silver, he doesn't seem to be able to take other shapes or anything like that. Instead he has some radioactive bullet dudes in his chest. I'm beginning to see why Doc wasn't in love with this design. When Lead starts blocking the rays, Uranium thinks it's time to jet and runs away. Mercury gives chase after some quick modifications courtesy of Doc and the Atom.

Uranium is ultimately left a glowing pile of radium after his rays bounce back at him twice. See, the Atom had the idea to amalgamate Mercury with Lead in order to confer Lead's resistance to radiation to Mercury, as a way to trick Uranium into blasting away, blah blah. I don't know a lot about chemistry, so I learned that uranium turns into radium under certain circumstances, at least. 

As team-ups go, this wasn't great; the Atom saved the Metal Men in the middle, and all, but his contribution to the story is pretty light and he could be written out of it with little effort. Of course, the whole "team up" angle was sort of new at this point, having started with #50; it's likely they were just getting into the swing of things. Even so, I think the story did a weak job of pitching the Atom to kids who picked it up for the Metal Men.