Review: Metal Men: Full Metal Jacket trade paperback (DC Comics)


I hadn’t paid much mind to Len Wein and Yildiray Cinar’s Metal Men feature in the Legends of Tomorrow anthology circa the end of the New 52 and the beginning of Rebirth. I’m circling back to Metal Men: Full Metal Jacket now only because it was specifically referenced in Dan DiDio’s Metal Men: Elements of Change, among few series to get such an overt mention. That in and of itself is interesting, because Jacket does find itself specifically at the end of the New 52 — featuring a young Will Magnus in googles a la his Forever Evil-era Justice League Vol. 5: Forever Heroes appearance — even as the Rebirth-era Elements returns the classic pipe-smoking Magnus. So even before it was a thing, you could say DiDio’s Elements miniseries embraces DC’s new “everything happened in every era” aesthetic.

All apologies if either Jacket or Elements is your favorite Metal Men work, but personally I’m still struggling to find a good, definitive, moving Metal Men story (maybe in Wednesday Comics? Sorry to say I never read it). DiDio’s Elements was fine but not groundbreaking, a mild tour through the Metal Men-verse that shied away from any of its most controversial potential conclusions. Late comics great Wein’s Full Metal Jacket is even lighter, following a standard comics structure of the characters moving to a location, fighting a foe, moving to another location, fighting another foe, and repeat. There’s much to love in the conception of the Metal Men, but hardly anything for the reader to be invested in page by page here.

[Review contains spoilers]

Notably Elements and Jacket come to their tensions around the Metal Men in two different ways. DiDio’s Elements, perhaps in a more modern fashion (or coming from a writer more of the modern era), meta-examines Will Magnus' relationship with the Metal Men — that he’s battling his own demons through their personalities, that he keeps them subservient until they finally break free of him. In contrast, Wein’s Jacket keeps the partnership between Magnus and the Metal Men intact, and instead the “fear” here is society’s fear of technology — that a hacker takes control of various robotic forces in the DC Universe, causing a public backlash against all cybernetics including the Metal Men. Wein’s issues came out in 2016, DiDio’s starting in 2019, so hardly are the books separated by different eras, but I do think there’s some reflection of each writer’s sensibilities in their stories.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Jacket cameos, among others, Robotman Cliff Steele and Cyborg Vic Stone. Steele, on the topic of strange New 52 iterations, seems to be the character from Matt Kindt’s 2011 contribution to the My Greatest Adventure miniseries, a Robotman only loosely connected to the Doom Patrol and who’s also apparently a lawyer, a curious divergence from the usual foul-mouthed race car driver. Cyborg is reciprocating the Metal Men’s appearance both in the aforementioned Cyborg-spotlight Forever Evil tie-in and Cyborg Vol. 1: Unplugged, the first volume of Cyborg’s concurrent New 52 title. It had actually seemed as though DC was positioning Magnus and the Metal Men to be supporting characters in their mid-2010s attempts to see Cyborg headline his own series; one might to an extent characterize this Legends tale as a Cyborg-adjacent spin-off.

Among villains in Wein’s Jacket are Metal Men stalwarts the Missile Men and Chemo, both of whom also appear in DiDio’s Elements, suggesting there’s not really all that much in the Metal Men’s rogues gallery to choose from. (A further ouroboros, both the Forever Evil story and Jacket involve the Metal Men sacrificing themselves to stop Chemo and then being reborn, making it momentarily difficult to determine which came first.) The hacker turns out to be Calculator, which is clever, though I was disappointed there wasn’t more resonance in that he initally calls himself “Nameless,” a moniker with some meaning for the Metal Men (DiDio uses the classic Metal Man Nameless herself in Elements). The mastermind is Mother Machine from the New 52 Blackhawks series, and it’s her appearance in Elements that ties this book and that one together.



Some of you will cheer and some of you will jeer, but honestly what I’d like is Tom King takes on the Metal Men, another 12-issue epic following similar “reimagine a character in the most heartbreaking of ways” stories like Mister Miracle and Adam Strange in Strange Adventures. Yes, I know, to an extent the Metal Men are the last vestiges of what’s good and pure in the DC Universe, but also, Metal Men: Full Metal Jacket was hardly going to make someone on the fence a fan (and DC has a lot of work to do if a Metal Men movie is soon to become a reality). I can’t see the Metal Men taken seriously until someone actually takes them seriously — not angst-ridden, necessarily, but more than this — and I haven’t seen that yet.

[Includes original covers, pencils and concept art]

Comments ( 2 )

  1. You read the Giffen Maguire Metal Men? It's fun.

    1. No, missed it unfortunately. I did very much like the Giffen Doom Patrol series that it was part of. One day hopefully both will see a reprint.


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