There was a time in Kevin Smith's career — especially in his early years — when he was heavily in demand for scripts that re-imagined old properties, like Superman, The Green Hornet and The Six Million Dollar Man. And while none of those scripts ultimately went forward as movies, Dynamite Entertainment got a lot of mileage out of Smith's Green Hornet script last year and they built a new comic book franchise around it.
Now, Dynamite and Smith are trying to catch lightning twice with The Bionic Man, a comic book adaptation of Smith's Six Million Dollar Man script by the Green Hornet creative team of Phil Hester and Jonathan Lau. On paper, it's a no brainer formula for success.
But the reality is more of a mixed bag. Hester is a very gifted writer and he's well versed in telling a story in a sequential comic. He does a good job of submersing his writing style within Smith's script to make it feel like something that Kevin Smith has written without a collaborator. And therein lies the problem. The Bionic Man has all of the poop references, the "I'm screwing your wife" taunts and the "hey, is that the hand that was just up my ass?" jokes that you could ever want.
The script has the trademarked Kevin Smith raunchiness, but it doesn't have the interesting characters that offset his toilet humor. Take our lead, Colonel Steve Austin. He's a cocky test pilot about to take his final flight and he comes off as such a stock character I'm surprised that Abin Sur didn't show up to give him a Green Lantern ring.
Austin just isn't someone we can care about because he isn't anything more than the summation of his juvenile behavior and his job. There's nothing to suggest that he has a deeper personality than his surface flyboy persona. The only interesting thing about Steve is that in this story, he's already engaged to Jamie Summers, a pivotal figure in overall mythology of the original series and the spinoff. It's actually the smartest writing decision in the entire script. This issue also has an extra six pages which helps make up for the slower pace at times.
The opening sequence of the issue suggests that there's already a Bionic enhanced villain in this world who is out to destroy the research that other scientists are trying to develop. There's even a slightly humorous sequence in which the villain essentially mugs one of the surviving guards for his sandwich; which may have played better on screen than it did in the comic itself. I believe that scene could have worked in live action, but it just didn't convey the right tone on the sequential pages.
Jonathan Lau has a good handle on the character faces, but his figures have a certain sketchy and elongated look to them that is kind of distracting. Lau's action sequences work well and he's able to convey the movements of Steve's test flight in an exciting way. There's definitely a style to his pages, it just may not be the right style for this book.
I think it's too soon to write off The Bionic Man as a failure. Future issues might be able to pull the story together as Steve Austin actually becomes The Bionic Man and takes on America's enemies.
However, for now this is just an average comic at best.
Crave Online Rating: 5/10