By Edward Gambichler
“Steve Austin…astronaut….a man barely alive..
Gentleman…..we can rebuild him.
We have the technology.
We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man.
Steve Austin….will BE that man.
Better than he was before.
Oscar Goldman, Director of OSI
No matter how many shows I’ve watched since the cancellation of “The Six Million Dollar Man” back in 1978…..there has never been another television series with an intro that gripping or that awesome. Based on the Martin Caidan novel “Cyborg”, it tells the story of test pilot Steve Austin who was seriously injured when the space capsule he was piloting, crashes on re-entry. Losing both legs, his right arm, and his left eye, he is given a second chance by the Office of Scientific Intelligence and its director, Oscar Goldman ( Steve’s best friend ). Through the miracle of advanced technology, scientists, headed by Dr. Rudy Wells, replace Austin’s damage limbs with cybernetic prosthetics which give him abilities far beyond norman men.
I can honestly say that Steve Austin and the actor that portrayed him, Lee Majors, was my first major male role model. I used to watch the show religiously, even when it jumped the shark by having Steve Austin team up with Bigfoot in a few episodes and had actress Sandy Duncan ( Broadway’s Peter Pan ) playing……an alien. Hell, I even had the 12 inch Steve Austin action figure with the rubber skinned arm you could roll up to pop out his bionic chip and a viewfinder in the back of his head to see through his “bionic” eye. Between this doll and my rev up Evel Knievel motorcycle jumper……I was in XY Chromosome Heaven.
The pilot episode spawned a five season T.V. series, a “Bionic Woman” series ( with Steve’s amnesiac fiance Jamie Sommers ) two T.V. movies ( one starring a young Sandra Bullock ) and now……a comic series. Produced by Dynamite Entertainment and titled “The Bionic Man”, it is based on a story by writer-director Kevin Smith ( Clerks ) and co-scripted by his Green Arrow collaborator writer-artist Phil Hester. I’m now four issues in and I have to say I like this modern reboot. It hits all the right notes as far as my nostalgia for the show is concerned and the explanation behind the bionics procedure is thorough and scientifically sound.
All the main characters, Austin, Goldman, and Dr. Wells feel right in both look and tone. The difference this time around is the black ops edge given to the O.S.I. It is a marked departure from the public government office depicted in the show. The main villain, the cyborg Hull, has an ominous connection to O.S.I. and the early stages of the bionic program and he is set up as real lethal threat. Make no mistake. This is not a Fembot Austin will have to deal with. On a lighter note, issue number four features a hospital visit by an old character from the Bionic series canon and the retconning of his origin is brilliant. The artwork by penciller Jonathan Lau is detailed and lush and the covers by Alex Ross are nothing less than perfection. The only question I have is if Kevin Smith is actually currently involved with this title or just given story credit and lending his name to the project. Much of the technical jargon in the description of the bionic procedure is not something I could see Smith coming up with and I wonder how much of the writing is Smith and how much is Hester.