Men of Metal
Jack Kirby; Kenneth Bulmer/Jesus Blasco
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Buy *Men of Metal (Silver Star: Graphite Edition & The Steel Claw: The Vanishing Man)* online

Men of Metal (Silver Star: Graphite Edition and The Steel Claw: The Vanishing Man)
Jack Kirby; Kenneth Bulmer/Jesus Blasco
Two Morrows Publishing/Titan Books
160/112 pages
March/January 2006
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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As one of the emerging breed of “homo geneticus” extra-normal beings, Morgan Miller dons the outfit of the Silver Star to seek out those like him and battle against the dreaded Darius Drumm. While Darius wields awesome power, Miller must rely on his brain and the help of Norma Richmond, another person blessed with superior powers.

Though Jack “King” Kirby originally intended to turn this project into a movie, he settled for a “visual novel” that never actually got published until TwoMorrows Publishing decided to deliver this “Graphite Edition,” an inside joke to the fact that most of the graphic novel is penciled. Mainstream comics are penciled, then inked to provide better definition, then colored (whether it be black and white or a full color scale).

Silver Star is mostly penciled with the occasional page including ink. The lack of definition doesn’t particularly detract from the work and in fact adds elements of authenticity. Kirby is renowned in the comic book industry for a great many projects and characters including Captain America, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Incredible Hulk and many others. This “visual novel” was compiled with the use of photocopies of work Kirby made to preserve his material before it was inked.

Kirby’s novel offers some great insights into style and American culture at the time. Following in the tradition of many before him, he uses a decent share of alliteration in naming characters - Morgan Miller, Darius Drumm, Silver Star. The super-powered beings refer to themselves as “super normals,” a term that seems to contradict itself - or at least call to mind that, during the late 1970s and early 1980s, social tolerance seemed to be on a downward tilt.

TwoMorrows Publishing always goes the extra mile with their books, emphasizing each publication as a significant contribution to comic history and this selection is no different. In addition to a detailed introduction about Kirby and his work on this project, this graphic novel also includes a great sketch gallery and the ten-page screenplay for the Silver Star film.

If silver doesn’t suit your fancy, how about some steel? The Steel Claw was a semi-weekly series in English newspapers that ran from 1962 to 1973, with 472 double-page episodes during its run. Unlike contemporary comic strips which only run two rows (and, on the rare occasion, three rows), a single comic strip could cover an entire page.

Given a metal claw after losing his hand, Louis Crandell works as a lab assistant to Professor Barringer. When an accident occurs, Crandell awakens on the floor to discover that whenever he touches electricity, all of him disappears - except his claw. Amazed by his new powers, Crandell commits several crimes, realizing how easy it is and how much power he yields. His antics eventually lead him to New York City, where he terrorizes the city and threatens to destroy it. Eventually his plans are foiled, and he slowly finds his way back to the side of good.

While on some level the plots are formulaic and clichéd, it’s remember that this series came to an end over thirty years ago. Some of the melodramatic elements are necessary for an ongoing strip since the writers only have a short period of time to explain, entertain, and entice readers back for more stories. The writers’ concise summations or introductions at the beginning of each new strip perfectly manage all the relevant points for the strip.

This collection includes three story arcs as well as a great introduction on both the series and the artists. The series comes across as a bit edgier than its contemporary James Bond and certainly keeps readers interest from beginning to end.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Lance Eaton, 2006

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