DCAU #176: Prototype

IN THIS ONE... Cop in LexCorp suit goes crazy, and first appearance of John Henry Irons.

CREDITS: Written by Hilary Bader; directed by Curt Geda.

REVIEW: So you want to do a Venom story, but you don't have Venom... And you don't want to use Conduit who might have worked; who can blame you? But really, the larger point is to introduce John Henry Irons a few episodes BEFORE he becomes Steel, and so you need to tie his story up in a super-powered armor plot. Got it. At least Irons gets a little more backstory than he originally did, and is inspired much more directly by Superman and, in part, his disillusionment with LexCorp (the company that shows its hand by making their armored cop destroy dog houses and ambulances in the demo).

And it's not a bad little tale. Corey Mills has the right stuff initially, but becomes corrupted by his suit's addictive properties. There are some great moments, like the team work he exhibits while saving people from a burning building (my Lord, Metropolis is vertiginous to the point of absurdity), and there are some much weaker ones, like the silly screwdriver device you have to plug into his back to deactivate him (though the sequence leads to the shark action I've been craving since Lex installed that aquarium in his penthouse). It just seems like the relevance of his extreme violence was hampered by the cartoon's inability to kill or even maim people, or perhaps better motivation for Luthor, who stabs a potential ally in the back rather suddenly, or might actually have had something to do with the psychological "push" Corey was feeling (especially given that, visually, his shaving his head bonded him with Lex). Or maybe the idea that he had a supportive wife while doing this kind of job could have been an example to Superman re: Lois. I dunno. Missed opportunities.

Regardless of the plot's merits, the animation really bugged me this time around. It's not the action, it's the acting. The characters are made to gesticulate in the most melodramatic way, which not only looks unnatural, but is really quite distracting and annoying. There are good bits, like Corey's shaking knee when he's craving, but these are few and far between, and lost in a mess of contorted limbs and fingers. Never mind the fact that Superman spends half the episode with blind raccoon eyes.

IN THE COMICS: While the LexCorp suit pictured here is right out of the comics, where such suits were used by "Team Luthor" to fight crime in the wake of Superman's death, Corey Mills is original to the show. John Henry Irons is from the comics, however, a brilliant inventor who, during those same events, became the armored hero first known as the Man of Steel, then simply, as Steel. Just wait a couple episodes.

SOUNDS LIKE: John Henry Irons gives another role to Michael "Worf" Dorn. Officer Corey Mills is played by Xander Berkley, who most people know as either George Mason on 24 or Sheriff McAllister on The Mentalist.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Not bad, but seems rough and unfinished. No idea is really taken to its natural end.

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