Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Problem With Iron Man

So then, introductions are out of the way. Fantastic.

Remember in the first post when I decried sites and blogs that just continually bitch about things? I'm going to sound like one of those guys in this post. Please keep in mind that the following is done in the spirit of HELPING comics and IMPROVING them. 'Cause, remember, Two Guys Buying Comics is all about the good. And if we focus now and again on the bad, it's only because we want a lot of good. Happiness all around! Kay? Kay.

I'm gonna throw this out there: I'm a huge fan of Iron Man. I mean, a BIG fan. The armor, the Stark, the Avenger, the repulsor beams....it all just really does it for me. Which is why I'm pissed.

See, Iron Man is one of Stan Lee's classic "flawed hero" models. Tony Stark: Super-cool ultra rich genius playboy...who has a bad heart. (Or did, until nineteen million writers retconned THAT little idea right out of continuity.)

And is given to drink to excess. (Again, depending on who's at the "Screw Up Iron Man This Month" podium, this is also subject to change.)

And who really, when it comes right down to it, is kind of a jerk. Or should be. After all, he didn't become a worldwide captain of industry and successful business man by sending fruit baskets to potential corporate rivals. (Then again, maybe he did, which would make him an ULTRA-jerk. Put that on the List of Thousands of Ideas They Could Use to Make Iron Man Interesting Again But For Some Reason Don't.)

And who has two ridiculously named supporting characters in Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts. (Though for all the plot time they've had in the last few years they might as well be dead and gone.)

(That's not funny. ---Hawkeye)

The problem? Unfortunately, I would much rather read about a ruthless, semi-alcoholic, physically weak, conflicted man in charge of one of the most powerful weapons in the world than....Iron Man.

By now, you may be getting a sense of why I'm pissed. For a couple of years now, Marvel has had absolutely no idea what to do with Iron Man. There have been some _horrible_ Iron Man comics in the not too distant past (I'm lookin' at you, Mike Grell). He exposed his secret identity to the world (classic "We've Run Out Of Ideas For This Character" move). His heart was fixed, then not fixed. Then fixed, then not fixed. Then he was paralyzed. Whatever. I'm pretty sure that was fixed too. And the most interesting idea they had in a good long while ---making Tony Stark the Secretary of Defense --- lasted, what, four issues? Sigh. Deep, heavy sigh. I yearn for the halcyon days of Armor Wars, the Silver Centurion, and, what the heck, Armor Wars II. Hell, the whole Sentient Armor (yup) storyline was freakin' Shakespeare compared to the last two years of IM's regular title.

So they rebooted. And quite frankly, I'm nervous about it. I have the highest hopes as an Iron Fan that Ol' Shellhead will be restored to former glories. But I ain't holding my breath.

But wait! There's some good news in here! (See? All about the optimism.) Out of the 5 comics you can buy that have Iron Man appearances, 3 are really good! That's a 60% approval rating for IM comics!

What is offered for fans of the Golden Avenger these days? Let's run it down:

  • Iron Man --- this is the "regular" "monthly" solo title. I put those two words in quotes because since relaunching in, what, December of 2004 there have been exactly FOUR issues. Nine months, FOUR issues. I can only assume that the people behind this are using some screwy Mayan calendar that measures months in tree rings. The art, by Adi Granov, is really nice to look at. The writing, by Warren Ellis, is...meh. For now, just understand that the theoretical place you would go to get a heaping help o' Iron Man --- his "regular" "monthly" solo title --- is about as dependable as a cabbie with Alzheimer's.

  • New Avengers --- I really like this series. I do. Iron Man is, of course, just one of a large cast here --- though he actually gets a lot of page time. If you can get past the continuing references to his being broke yet still having 2 Quinjets, Stark Tower, and an ungodly number of patents bringing in money, it's some cool Iron Man stuff in here. Of course, it's just as much about the other Avengers (and rightfully so), so you don't get as much Tony Stark-osity as you might like, but hey. It's a good comic. You should buy it.

  • House of M: Iron Man --- this is a (thankfully only) 3 issue miniseries that's tying into Marvel's House O' M event. And it's really bad. Seriously. My guess is someone went to Marvel with a idea for a Robotech-like comic, and the Powers That Be pulled it out and changed a few words to make it all Iron Man-ny. Of course, it's an alternate reality gig, so it doesn't really matter what happens in it. Do not buy this comic unless you want a completely unrecognizable version of Iron Man and the Marvel Universe.

  • Ultimates --- the "other version" of the Avengers. Damn you Marvel, for getting me to buy two different comics with the same characters! So...much....quality! Anyhoo, Iron Man's in this one, too, only he's engaged to the Black Widow and is handing out armor suits like they were toffee at a carnival. Oh, and the armor makes him look like a GoBot. It's still a good comic.
  • Ultimate Iron Man --- Yep, another mini-series that explains the origin of the "Ultimate" version of Iron Man, which is so different from "Classic" Iron Man that they should have just made him a different character altogether. It's actually a really good story! There are only two flaws that I can see so far:
    • We're three issues in and Tony's still only 16 and there's no armor suit in sight.
    • We're three issues in and it's been 6 months since it started.

    But still, lots of love for this interesting origin of UIM. Even though we all know that he ends up with the GoBot outfit.

    So, it ain't all bad. I suppose I can live with the "Ultimate" version, but I view that guy as a totally different character than the Iron Man I've come to know and love.

    Marvel, if someone is reading this: bring back classic Tony. We want armor. We want depth of personality. We want stories set in the worlds of corporate back rooms, outer space, undersea, and monsters. Bring on the Mandarin! (I don't care if he's supposed to be dead. Give him Bucky pills or whatever you do to bring dead guys back and move on.) Bring on Crimson Dynamo! Stane! C'mon!

    Sorry, just had to get that out of the system. Next time, more comics stuff.