Perhaps my favourite thing about Forever Evil has been these tie-ins, where Geoff Johns has basically brought back a bunch of great characters into the New DC Universe. In this issue, he gives that treatment to the Metal Men, and it is excellent. I’m not exactly a huge Metal Men expert, but to me, this was the return of the classic team and Johns really does them justice. The next time someone calls Geoff Johns’ work too dark and grim, show them this issue, it might change their mind.
Most of this issue is set in the recent past, but it starts in the present, with Cyborg begging Will Magnus to help him fight the Crime Syndicate by bringing back the Metal Men, but Magnus refuses, and the flashback explains why. Will Magnus was a robotics prodigy who was working for the US Government as part of a ‘race’ with other scientists to create the first Robot soldiers that the Army could use in environments where sending in human soldiers would be too dangerous. Magnus has spent 600 million dollars on his project, but has locked his doors and won’t show the higher-ups what he’s been up. The Secretary Of Defence is knocking on his door and he still doesn’t answer. I like Johns’ take on Will Magnus here, he’s a bit crazy, but not quite as crazy as the version that was in New 52, which, although a great character, was perhaps a bit too far. Magnus’ central characterisation seems to be that he’s always been let down by his fellow humans (his parents used his superior intelligence to help them commit crimes for example) and that he believes Robots can be better than us, which is a cool approach for the character, and nice contrast with the Metal Men’s desire to be human.
Will places the ‘responsometers’ into vats of molten metal, and the Metal Men are born! They start out looking like uniform drones, but soon morph into their familiar, unique appearances and personalities. As I said, I’m not hugely knowledgeable about the Metal Men, but they seem pretty damn similar to their classic incarnations. Metal-based heroes having personalities that are similar to their metals is the kind of thing Geoff Johns would come up with on his own (Central City is fast! Coast City is fearless! Etc) so it makes sense for him to stick to that. I suppose Mercury is the most different, as he acts like a bit of a human-hating Robot-supremacist, but it looks like it’s mostly a put-on. Will tries to order his creations around, but they refuse, they have free will and are their own people, why should they follow orders? It’s here that the Secretary Of Defense blasts down Will’s door to see his creations. The Metal Men revert to their default looks to try and hide their sentience from the Government, but when it’s suggested that they are sent on an Assassination mission, they refuse and flee, leaving Will back at square one.
An interesting mystery is also set up here, as we see someone steal a prototype responsometer and drop it in some hazardous waste to create the villain ‘Chemo’. Who this was, I have no idea, but it could be important in the future, could it have been The Outsider? Will Chemo return as a member of the Secret Society?
Will’s flashback ends with the Metal Men revealing that they ran away to Will’s apartment to hide out, and Will realising that he doesn’t need to fix them. But then, Chemo attacks, and the Metal Men fight to stop him, disobeying their orders and saving everyone else instead of worrying about themselves. Basically, showing true humanity and heroism. In the end, they sacrifice themselves to stop Chemo, leaving Dr Magnus desolate. He can’t bring them back because he doesn’t want to see them die again. It’s pretty tragic really, but as expected, Cyborg is able to talk him around and convince him to bring them back. This was a really good issue that did a fantastic job at showing what a great concept the Metal Men are. Yes, they are kind of goofy, but they are true heroes, and I can’t wait to see them back permanently.
Ivan Reis’ art was the usual excellence, although it did get a bit rushed towards the end, and there was one rather awkward panel that focused on Platinum’s ass. I don’t normally mind a bit of cheesecake, but at least it’s usually a human and not a robot! Forever Evil might be a dark story, but by the end of it, I think the DCU might actually be in a brighter place with all of these classic heroes returning.