Bionic Review: Dynamite Comics’ The Bionic Man (2011)

Bionic Review

SMDM Book

Richard Anderson, the man who played Oscar Goldman in The Six Million Dollar Man TV series tried for years to get a Bionic Man movie off the ground.  Many different writers took a stab at a script.  In the mid-90s, Kevin Smith famously wrote a script for a Bionic Man movie that was a reboot of the TV series.  I was very excited about this prospect as, at the time, I was a big fan of Kevin Smith and loved the idea of him re-imagining the Steve Austin universe (of which I was a big fan). Unfortunately, nothing ever happened on that project.  It just disappeared.  Then, in March 2011, Kevin Smith announced that his unproduced script would be re-adapted into a comic book series for Dynamite comics.  The comic’s script would be written by Phil Hester and be based on Smith’s movie script.  The book’s interiors would be drawn by Jonathan Lau, it would have Alex Ross variant covers and the name would be Kevin Smith’s The Bionic Man.  The first issue would be released in August 2011.

Kevin Smith's Bionic Man 1 Kevin Smith's Bionic Man 4

Up to this point I have read the first 14 issues of Dynamite’s The Bionic Man. The first 10 issues contain the story arc that is taken directly from Kevin Smith’s unproduced script.

Essential Plot:  It starts off very similar to the original TV show/novel.  The events have been updated a bit and a few things changed.  We actually start off, not with Steve Austin, but with a break in at a government laboratory.  An unknown assailant kills all the scientists and steals what looks like a bionic arm.  Then we cut to Steve Austin at home.  He’s still a test pilot.  He’s engaged to Jaime Sommers.  Austin is about to retire as a test pilot and marry Jaime.  He just has one more test flight to make.  And what happens is exactly what you expect.  Something goes wrong with the flight, Austin crashes and loses both of his legs, his right arm and his left eye.  In this story he’s good friends with a younger version of Oscar Goldman.  They convince Steve to become a part of their bionics experiment, so the government pronounces him dead and begin the operations to graft on the bionic limbs.  There are several issues devoted to Steve’s recovery and coming to grips with the fact that he’s now part machine.  In issue #7 Jaime returns as Steve unexpectedly finds himself at her house and reveals to her that he’s not, in fact, dead.  In this issue we also discover that the earlier mysterious assailant from issue #1 has ties to Austin and the bionic program, so the rest of the story arc is discovering information about this assailant and Steve going after him to put a stop to his plans.

The next issue after the Smith arc, #11, was a standalone issue.  Steve goes back to his parents’ ranch for some soul searching.  We meet his parents and see that his father is dying.

Issue #12 begins the first new wholly original story arc.  It’s written by Phil Hester and Aaron Gillespie and drawn by Ed Tadeo.  This story introduces the fan favorite bionic Bigfoot from the TV show into the new bionic universe.  Austin discovers some unscrupulous people are attaching bionic parts to Bigfoot creatures so he teams up with one of them to help.

Characters:  The story and the characterizations are good.  Smith and Hester essentially stayed true to the characters in the TV show, which was the point, even while they updated everything else.  The dynamic between Goldman and Austin is still somewhat antagonistic but it has the added dimension of them being friends before Austin becomes bionic.  We really don’t see Rudy Wells or Jaime Sommers that much at all in this story arc.

SMDM art 2

Story:  I really enjoyed much of the dialogue and many inside references to the TV shows (a bionic dog named Max shows up in a clear reference to The Bionic Woman TV show, SEVERAL references to the tagline “better, stronger, faster…”, etc).  I enjoyed reading the Kevin Smith issues and if this is what Smith’s movie would have been like, I think I would have enjoyed watching it.

The standalone issue #11 is a short, sweet little aside, meant to “cleanse the palate” for the next story line.  It’s also this issue that Kevin Smith’s name is dropped from the cover.  It’s an okay stopover that doesn’t really do anything except sort of transition us to the next story line.

The beginning of the Bigfoot story is interesting and I liked it, but I didn’t love it.  There’s no surprise reveal, by the way, that it’s Bigfoot creatures.  It’s just assumed that, in this world, Bigfoot exists, and it’s actually a large population of them and no one is shocked to learn they are there.  Like I said, interesting so far, but also sort of strange.  I’m a bit surprised this second story arc isn’t Jaime’s origin about how she became the Bionic Woman.  Especially considering The Bionic Woman gets her own title in March 2012.

SMDM art 1

Art:  First of all, the Alex Ross covers are fantastic.  The Lau interiors for the first 10 issues are mostly good, if a bit cartoon-y.  Austin is crazily muscled in a very cartoon-y and nearly unrealistic way.  This is odd since Lee Majors wasn’t overly muscled.  He was lean and in good shape but not overly muscled like this comic.  I think I like the idea of the Bionic Man being less assuming and more lean than what is pictured here.  But that’s a design problem.  Overall, I like the interior art very much.  It’s very dynamic and displays action very well.  Ed Tadeo takes over for the Bigfoot story and seems to be less cartoon-y than Lau, but still carries over in a similar style.  Tadeo will also do some of Dynamite’s The Bionic Woman comic interiors.

Differences from the TV show: There is one main difference from the TV show. The number of bionic enhancements. Austin has the same injuries out of the initial crash in this comic as in the TV show; both legs, right arm and left eye, as well as some ribs and skull injuries. However OSI actually removes the one good eye and one good arm so Austin eventually winds up with two bionic eyes and two bionic arms. For years I’ve thought that’s what should have been done in the TV show. Just for balance and weight distributions I thought the left arm should have also been bionically replaced. Smith actually does that here and I applaud it. Makes a bit more sense. Plus, the power levels have been ratcheted up a bit from what was in the TV show. Another aspect that’s different is that Steve is given the ability to essentially “shape shift” his appearance to look like someone else.  It’s used a few times, but not overly so.  I’m not sure what I think about it yet.  The plot point about Goldman and Austin being friends before the accident is different from the show.  Austin was actually friends with Dr Rudy Wells first in both the TV show and the original novel.

Overall:  I very much like this comic and I’ll keep on reading.  They do a good job of updating Steve Austin and the idea of the Six Million Dollar Man.

You can buy Kevin Smith’s 10 issue story arc in a collected trade called Some Assembly Required:


Kevin Smith’s The Bionic Man Volume 1: Some Assembly Required

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4 Responses to “Bionic Review: Dynamite Comics’ The Bionic Man (2011)”

  1. Ten issues (and, what, $40?) to read a story that lasts 100 minutes on screen? That’s why I don’t read new comics.

    • Okaaaaaay, well, if you buy the trade I linked to, it’s less than $20 which is about what you’d pay in a theater including concessions.

      I’m sure you can find the run and/or the trade on eBay as well. There are other options out there if you are willing to look and if price is your only deterrent.

  2. suziquazar Says:

    I have no idea how I missed these! Thanks for the review. I loved the show when it came out. One thing I noticed in the early episodes was how dark Austin’s outlook was. He seemed almost suicidal at times, taking missions he didn’t care if he came back from. Tense stuff.

  3. Wyrd Ways Rock Show Says:

    I’d say there’s probably more than 100 minutes of reading in the collected 10 issues. Makes it even better value for money.

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