An unexpected betrayal has left Steve Austin alone against possibly his greatest nemesis: a body of water!
I’ll be honest, I haven’t laughed this hard at the opening of a comic book in a long time, and so much of what works about it is that there’s no actual dialogue over it, not even narration. It also takes into consideration something the original show never would have: that Steve Austin would likely have a hell of a time trying to swim with a body full of machinery and metal.
David Hahn’s artwork brilliantly sells each new predicament for our heroes, perfectly complementing Christopher Hastings’ breakneck scripting. Steve’s facial expressions as he finds himself stuck at the bottom of the ocean range from defeated to annoyed and back to a kind of amused self-confidence. In the scene where Niko rides on Steve’s back while he sprints across the airfield, the fear on Niko’s face mixes perfectly with Steve’s blind determination. There’s a kind of looseness to them in the thick of battle, as both of them roll with each new wrinkle in their plans.
Beyond the humorous opening, we immediately get so much more of a glimpse into agent Niko Abe’s character than we have so far. We get that she takes her job seriously and tries not to open up, but the mission has finally become personal. It’s nice to see Niko getting a little more to mull over, rather than simply being the straight man for Steve’s wacky cyborg antics.
Speaking of cyborg antics, Steve is still malfunctioning. This wrinkle makes not only for some fun slapstick moments, but also for a bit of tension. It’s unclear how much control Steve has back over his many functions. He’s like a swiss army knife on shuffle. Not only is there a chance he won’t be able to do what he needs to do, but there’s a chance he could make things worse for his and Niko’s mission with one little slip-up.
Speaking of the mission, there’s a twist in everyone’s plans that comes in this issue that I won’t spoil here. What I will say is that there is a part of me that felt, while reading this, that this may have over-complicated the story just a tad. However, it also allows the story to play with Cold War-era biases in interesting ways, which makes for some new and exciting character moments that I wasn’t expecting.
This series continues to do everything you’d want a licensed book to do: it takes the concept of the original property and cranks everything up to a beautifully ludicrous degree. The stunts are bigger than television and the action is larger than life.
So, yes, while the action took a backseat in this one and it does feel like perhaps the plot has involved maybe one double-cross too many, it’s still a really fun read. In particular, if the last page doesn’t make you laugh, then we may never understand each other. I’m excited to see how Steve pulls himself out of this one in next month’s finale!