The first annual for Bionic Man (wait… is it really an annual until you’ve done it at least twice?), The Bionic Man Annual #1 is an interesting read. Its a self-contained story that is worth reading, but seems to hold little, if anything, with the main Bionic Man story.
The official description from Dynamite:
Three words: Venus Death Probe.
When a clandestine Chinese spacecraft crash lands north of Alaska, its a race against time between China and the United States–each anxious to salvage valuable high-tech secrets–to hunt down an errant rover built to survive the greenhouse hell of the Venusian atmosphere! OSI Agent Steve Austin tests the limits of his bionics as he hunts down an independent-minded machine determined to complete its mission no matter where it has landed!
This is basically more of a one-shot or a spotlight than an annual. The Bionic Man Annual #1 is a self contained story focused primarily around the titular Bionic Man, Steve Austin, but it does hold some stronger political themes. The themes focus between China and America, giving it various political undertones. Again, this isn’t much to do with the main title itself, which has focused on Russia and other places, but seldom China.
Despite this, the writing is fluid and fast paced enough. There’s no great mystery or exploration here, yet Scott Beatty’s writing keeps things going. There’s little in the way of developments, however, when it comes to Austin. He says some stuff, jumps out of plane and does a lot of running. Its all been done before, so I’m not sure where the ‘unique’ quality of this lies as an annual, rather than just a special issue of the regular Bionic Man.
The art and visual look is, however, much different. Dietrich Smith‘s pencils are different than what regular Bionic Man readers are use to. In some cases, this works, adding more definition in contrast to the main titles ‘sketchy’ approach. Yet it doesn’t always capture Austin’s face. At many points, he struggles to resemble his typical appearance. If it wasn’t for the bionics, it would be even harder to guess.
All in all, this is an interesting read for those who appreciate more Bionic Man. I’m still not sold on releasing this every year however, as it doesn’t add enough to make it worth the wait.