Gargantuan adventures now await the DC Universe in the first issue of DC: Mech #1. The new story stands on the shoulders of it’s predecessors like Supeman/Batman: Public Enemies, Batman Unlimited: Mechs Vs. Monsters, Fleisher’s The Mechanical Monsters, and more. The anime inspired series is set in Kenny Porter and Baldemar Rivas’ mechanized alternate universe. I, for one, welcome our new Robot overlords with open arms! However, what is more important is keeping an open mind with the changes to characters we think we know.
The first issue follows a surprising point of view from the Justice Society of America at the end of World War II. Porter uses traumatic loss as the flashpoint between the age of superheroes and a new mecha driven era. The world building hinges on the effects of the devastation of space invaders. This is clever because the introduction of Kaiju and giant robot fiction in Japan comes from the real life 1940’s fears of nuclear power. It is kind of odd how in a world where magic and metahumans exist, they reached a conclusion that only robots could save us.
This issue also partially retells the story of Superman. In this world, Kal-El is the only hope of Krypton and New Genesis. Kal-El’s suit is designed with an idyllic savior in mind, while the mechs on Earth were established as deterrents. The mech is very clearly inspired by the Maschinemensch from the cult classic 1927 film Metropolis. It parallels the Übermensch that Superman is so often referred to in metal form. Furthermore, the suit evokes an unintentional homage to Frank Miller’s Big Guy and Rusty upon arrival.
In action, DC: Mech follows a Power Rangers/Super Sentai kind of format, where the city is attacked in some way and heroes with mechanized power suits arrive to subdue or destroy the opposition. Batman even emerges from a Batcave in space; though unclear on the origins of his gimmick in this universe. In just this issue, we find huge monster battles, themed villains, and superheroes summoning all their strength to defend the earth. It is big and bombastic, but doesn’t feel like Rivas has illustrated effective frames of action. It’s all pitch with no wind ups.
The mech designs are obviously the main event. The Flash is designed with a slim aerodynamic form like the robots of Immortal Grand Prix (IGPX) or Evangelion. Batman’s suit comes equipped with a cape and ninja tools, despite not giving credible reasons for a stealth theme. Impracticality aside, it absolutely evokes vibes of anime mech designs from Gundam or Code Geass. Much of the other robots look ripped right out of Mazinger Z with their toy-like geometric shapes.
I love the classic designs of the Justice Society up against the mostly CMYK colored bubblegum settings. Rivas often uses speedlines as shorthand for the backgrounds, giving it an anime feel and momentum. The early steampunk tone reminds me of Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow (2004), and leads to a future closer to Evangelion or the Pacific Rim series. If nitpicking, I’d say the designs of all of the present day characters and villains all look underwhelming out of their suits. This includes unflattering designs of Orion, Darkseid, Granny Goodness, and the Parademons. Speaking of villains, I don’t buy that a bunch of metahumans would pilot experimental mech to steal tech.
- You are a fan of mecha-based anime or science-fiction.
- You’ve ever wanted to see the Justice Society fight Kaiju.
- A good robot fight and space battle is all you need.
Issue one is a seemingly solid introduction to this six-part miniseries. I can feel the love for the mech genre in the artwork and the anime style writing. This issue’s biggest hurdle is using two separate flashbacks before starting the present day conflict. Even then the world building seems like justification for the robot-led society. Porter readily admits to being a fan of Gundam, and has mentioned on the Paneloids Podcast, that DC Mechs will explore a xenophobic angle. The first issue doesn’t quite get to that story, but I can see the set up. All that’s missing now is a butt rock theme song.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.