Review: Machine Man #1

Machine Man #1 cover
Cover by Jack Kirby

Machine Man #1
Published and © by Marvel, April 1978

Title: “Machine Man”
Synopsis: Machine Man tries to find a place to call home – but the military has other ideas!

Writer: Jack Kirby
Penciler: Kirby
Inker: Mike Royer

Review: Machine Man is perhaps the most curious of Jack Kirby’s late-’70s creations for Marvel. The concept is actually fairly stock – a robot looking to find its way in the human world – but the tone is unlike anything published at the time. Kirby’s ear for dialogue had grown even more wooden, with the characters here taking on a children’s-book-like cadence. Mixed with the book’s identity-struggle theme and Kirby’s simple but prescient futurism, Machine Man’s adventures take on an almost-fable-like quality. As a Bronze Age superhero comic, this one’s a dud, but it’s a gem when taken on its own terms.

Grade: A

Second opinion: “It certainly seems to me that had Machine Man appeared in 1963 it would still be around today and it would probably be widely followed … . As a 1978-born comic, though, it has its problems.” – Mike Tiefenbacher, The Comic Reader #176, January 1980. … “Kirby’s art has become a constant act of self-plagiarism.” – Kim Thompson, The Comics Journal #39, April 1978 … “As is usual with much of Kirby’s later work for Marvel, the character was a good idea, but suffered from pedestrian treatment.” – David W. Cutler, FantaCo’s Chronicle’s Series Annual #1, 1983

Cool factor: The King exploring themes of identity and alienation, inked by Mike Royer. Good times!
Not-so-cool factor: If you’re expecting a typical Marvel comic, circa 1978, this one’s gonna hurt your head.

Character quotable: “You’re probably a psychiatrist with a yen for spot analysis – which I recommend that you stop immediately!” – Aaron Stack, the Machine Man (Note: Really, you could pick just about any speech balloon in this issue as a quotable!)

Editor’s note: This review was originally published by Comics Bronze Age on May 14, 2010.

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