Writer: Dan DiDio
Artist: Shane Davis
Colorist: Jason Wright
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover Artists: Shane Davis, Michelle Delecki
Editor: Jessica Chen
Publisher: DC Comics
What is it to be alive? To have a heart? To feel wholly content with your own abilities and contributions?
Metal Men aims to answer just that in more ways than one.
Written by DC top brass, Dan DiDio, and drawn by talent extraordinaire Shane Davis, Metal Men #1 is a sturdy reintroduction to a band of familiar faces. It “soft resets” the characters and their dynamics while laying the foundation to propel them forward in an interesting way. DiDio’s sporadic forays into writing have, more often than not, produced stellar results, and this time is no different.
Metal Men #1 presents a creator struggling with the worth of his creation and the worth of himself. DiDio paints a Will Magnus who’s spiraling down a rabbithole of his own psychosis. He’s reminiscing about things gone wrong and reflecting on his own failures. He’s angry and frustrated. He’s reached a dead end in some of his scientific pursuits and ponders whether it’s time to come clean to the world about the limitations of his genius. There’s a tinge of self-contempt that he freely wallows in that hits all too close to home for anyone who’s attempted anything remotely challenging in their lives. It oozes from his dialogue, and DiDio knows exactly how much of that ooze to dish out.
Pairing nicely with that delicious ooze is the always exemplary Shane Davis. Davis’s art is concentrated and intimate. A significant portion of his panel layouts are dedicated to close-up shots of the characters showing their inner turmoil. It’s a revealing glimpse into the degradation of Magnus’s mind and the desperation of the Metal Men. Davis is fantastic at showing the way an emotion can mold a face, and in Metal Men, he revels in it.
This issue also very cleverly sets up a threat by building off of recent events in the DC Universe. It’s an intriguing angle and an organic way to introduce a villain for the Metal Men while continuing to build out the ramifications of DC’s Metal storyline. A good chunk of the middle of the issue presents the readers with catching-up exposition, and it’s a good reminder of what makes these characters so engaging. Even though it’s more of a “bringing-the-read-up-to-speed” recap, DiDio explores the creator vs. creation angle, and in doing so, immediately injects relatable drama into the issue. It’s tragic and relatable: the failings of the father and the rebellion of the children. In this context, DiDio gives Will Magnus a particularly fun level of arrogance. Magnus holds his own achievements in contempt because they don’t measure up to his own lofty expectations. How could they though? The Metal Men are just husks with parameters. No real soul or life.
Magnus makes no qualms about telling them this and, in doing so, exposes the delicate feelings of self-worth that we all struggle with. But not the Metal Men’s self-worth; Will Magnus’s own. He’s battling the inadequacy he feels, and he translates that to a bitterness towards the Metal Men. He’s cold and detached, viewing them through the lens of harsh practicality. And this is where the Metal Men moniker is flipped. Magnus is nothing more than a man made of metal. A calculating and hardened opportunist that views his Metal Men as nothing more than objects that can be set, reset, and changed if their actions don’t align with his motivations. That is, until he needs them again to battle a threat and lift Magnus back into purposefulness and the spotlight.
Metal Men #1 is the perfect doorway to a larger story. It reintroduces the characters quickly but thoroughly while constructing an engaging throughline that’s sure to boil over at some point between the creator and his creations.
While the Tin Man of Oz may have found his heart, these men made of metal are still searching for theirs.