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Action Comics Vol 2 23.4: Metallo

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"Full Metal Jacket": In the cold and the dark, a man made of metal walks and walks. He has seen grunts crack under less isolation than this, but he is not just any grunt...


Quote1 So this is how it is now? He's the hero? And I'm the monster? Well... I can live with that. Quote2
-- John Corben



Appearing in "Full Metal Jacket"

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Synopsis for "Full Metal Jacket"

In the cold and the dark, a man made of metal walks and walks. He has seen grunts crack under less isolation than this, but he is not just any grunt...

John Corben, Codename Metal-Zero, was the first subject of Project Steel Soldier. During the Brainiac Incident, he was mind-controlled by aliens, beaten up by Superman and left for dead. But the project takes care of its own, and General Sam Lane has ensured that his cybernetics have been upgraded over the years in hopes of bringing him back. To the rest of the project though, he is a relic, one they refer to by the jokey nickname "Metallo".

Eighteen months ago, Myers, an officer, suggests to Lane that they accept the inevitable, strip out the sensitive systems and transfer Corben to long-term care at Walter Reed Hospital. Lane responds that that they will try one more upgrade today: a new power core, using an alien isotope the government calls "kryptonite". With the help of Brizeula, a sergeant, the operation is a success, and Metal-Zero is brought back.

Unfortunately, despite admirable combat score, Corben is judged mentally unstable and Captain Lazar worries about what could happen if he were put in the field. General Lane, however, defends Corben, and overrules Lazar, pointing out that American soldiers in hostile environments need the kind of expertise and firepower that Project: Steel Soldier can provide. Metal-Zero is greenlit.

In the cities of the Middle East, Metal-Zero is deployed. His sensors allow him to ferret out individual insurgents in buildings containing hundreds of people. However, time and again he opts for the most violent and explosive solutions possible. The nickname Metallo becomes less jokey and less used. When he blows up a hospital to destroy a weapons cache - and is caught on videophone by locals - Lane's hands are tied. Putting Metal-Zero on an unmanned aircraft, he sets it to fly over the ocean and detonates it remotely. Nothing human could survive.

But Metal-Zero is no longer human. Though his cyborg weight prevents him from swimming, his armored chassis withstands the pressure, technologies extract oxygen from the seawater, and his kryptonite reactor allows him to walk out of the ocean. He emerges on a beach 98km from Project Steel Soldier HQ, and walks the rest of the way.

Decimating the garrison, he demands to see Sam Lane. When the general comes out to save his troops, Corben unloads the conspiracy theory he formed during his coma and his long walk: General Lane in collaborating with Lois Lane and Superman to humiliate him, turn him into a monster, and then destroy him and replace him with Superman. Lane dismisses this, saying that for years he has supported Corben, to the army and to Lois. But Corben did not follow orders, so Lane was forced to follow his. And even if Lane trusted Superman, the Justice League is missing, presumed dead.

Shocked that Superman is dead, robbing him of his revenge, Corben is unprepared for a surprise - Project: Steel Soldier has progressed since Corben. The latest cyborg, Metal-Two-Point-Oh, attacks Corben. Corben recognises him as Sergeant Brizeula, his main competitor for the original Metal-Zero slot. Defeat seems like a forgone conclusion: though Brizeula's cybernetics are advanced enough that they could one day be removed, the chassis is superior in every way.

Unfortunately, Corben is prepared to use every weapon at his disposal. Attacking Brizeula with a flamethrower to the face, he grabs a flagpole and skewers Brizeula. With his dying breath, the sergeant waves his brothers-in-arms to safety, and arms a self-destruct, restating his orders: bring down Corben, under any circumstances. The resulting blast consumes both cyborgs.

Later that day, Lane and Myers are overseeing salvage. Myers worries that Lane is contemplating the recovery of Corben, but Lane corrects him: he needs to confirm John Corben's death. If he survived, the project - and the world - are in dire jeopardy.

But Metal-Zero has survived. Teleported out of the blast by the Secret Society, he is given a sales pitch by Scarecrow: John Corben has been cut off from his humanity and written off by his unit. He is completely without a support structure. The Secret Society can provide him with repairs, brothers-in-arms, and a goal.

Considering the deal, John Corben agrees. Metal-Zero is dead. He is Metallo.



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