Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Repulsor Ray of Hope

Right, then. Today's slice of verbosity is all about Iron Man #7, which came out last week, and how I learned to stop worrying and like this comic.

New creative team Daniel and Charles Knauf come on board to right the Iron Man ship, with Patrick Zircher and Scott Hanna doing the penciling and inking respectively.

I flip open the Adi Granov cover (the one that makes Nick Fury look like Charlton Heston) and discover, to my surprise, the following text at the very top of page one:

"When billionaire industrialist Tony Stark dons sophisticated steel-mesh armor of his own design, he becomes a living high-tech weapon--the world's greatest human fighting machine, the Invincible Iron Man!"

That, my friends, is a warm blanket and a snifter of brandy to a hypothermic man on a cold night.

For those of you who might not know, that blurb was, until quasi-recently, at the top of almost every single issue of Iron Man, in some shape or form. As his armor changed over the years, it would refer to "solar-charged steel-mesh armor", or "kinetically powered armor", or whatnot. You get the idea.

But that blurb's been gone for a few years. And it's back.

And that's a good thing.

(Side note: His armor isn't steel mesh anymore, but the blurb says that it is...do you think...naaaah. Probably just another editorial slip.)

(Additional side note: But I can hope.)

The issue begins with a Mysterious Hooded Figure™ in London selecting a name from a list of targets on a computer. We then cut the target being vaporized by, we're led to believe from an eyewitness, Iron Man. And no, none of us really think it's him for a minute, because we've seen Evil Iron Man Impersonator Story more often than Wolverine guest appearances.

Cut to New York, where Iron Man is throwing down with classic Iron baddie Crimson Dynamo. During the fight, Tony multitasks by simultaneously designing a railgun, making a hostile takeover, and bidding on antique armor. He can do this thanks to his Stupid New Powers™, that apparently enable a higher astral electronic consciousness or some shit. And yes, it's just as stupid as it sounds.

He ends the fight by killing Crimson Dynamo, then brings him back to life by zapping his heart with electricity.

The Not Avengers show up at this point, and Our Man Tony gets a dressing-down from Captain America, who disapproves of the "stop someone's heart then bring them back to life" method of stopping supervillains. Party pooper.

Then Tony gets a meeting with Nick Fury (when the hell did he come out of retirement again?), who asks A) why Tone's been such an asswipe lately, and B) what his latest superfunded top secret Stark International program is all about.

Tony denies anything wrong, we see that the secret program is about making Iron Man-ny type robots, and Mysterious Hooded Figure™ selects another target.


My thoughts when reading this comic the first time:

"Aw shit, they kept the Stupid New Powers."
"That's the single most ridiculous 'multitasking' scene I've ever read."
"What a stupid, pointless fight with Crimson Dynamo."
"Ah, someone wearing Iron Man armor impersonating IM to incriminate him. After 4,569 times, that stunt never gets old. Wait. Yes, it does."
"Nick Fury?!? The hell?"
"Iron Man robots to safeguard the world? Wasn't this a 'What If' story?"

Then I thought about it some more.

There are signs, dear reader, that Iron Man is becoming a comic worth reading again. And they are promising signs indeed.

EXHIBIT A: Tony's Stupid New Powers™ have made him arrogant, bored, and righteous. It's made clear that Cap and others are starting to notice this, and that they don't like it one bit. They're starting to see him as a danger. And that's something interesting (and actually logical in context).

EXHIBIT B: The parallels between the Stupid New Powers™ and Tony's alcohol problem. Read the following exchange:

DUGAN: "He's undergone a complete personality change. Stark's become reclusive, secretive---"
TONY: "And late."
NICK FURY: "Is that you talking, or the Extremis [powers]?"
TONY: "What do you people want me to do? Pretend I can't handle it? Pretend I need help? Should I start operating at 50% just so you and Cap and everyone else can feel good about themselves?"

If that doesn't sound like an addictive personality in denial, then I don't know what does.

EXHIBIT C: Tony tells us that even he doesn't know why he lied to Fury about the project, when Nick's the only one he can trust. More shades of denial, and he's isolating himself from the rest of the Marvel U. This leads me to believe that after all the Civil War nonsense we may get him the hell out of the Not Avengers and focused on some redemption and operating solo(Which would be a good thing--I want him out of NA until Bendis is done writing it).

So yeah, there are some potentially very interesting things that could come out of this new team and arc. Based on solicits, I also think that it may be relatively Civil War-free as well, which would be an added bonus.

As for the trite elements I mentioned at the beginning of all this?

Well, when you bring on a new-to-comics team to right a property that's been mishandled and screwed around with, there are three things that typically happen in the first couple of issues:

1) Fight with classic villain to establish cred with longtime fans
2) Establish how the rest of the comics universe currently views said character
3) Introduce mysterious new foe(s) to mark your particular contribution to the mythos.

Daniel and Charles Knauf checked all three of those boxes this issue. There's something to be said for getting it all out of the way at once. The guys have planted some interesting seeds, and I dearly hope they follow up on them.

Oh, and Zircher and Hanna's art is quite appropriate, I think, and I find myself liking it more than Steve McNiven's, whom it reminds me of (and whose art I don't enjoy as much as a lot of others do).

But I keep coming back to the blurb at the beginning, the blurb that perfectly encapsulates why Iron Man has always been my favorite hero:

"The world's greatest human fighting machine"

At his core, he's a human hero wearing a machine built for destruction, which is a neat contradiction in itself. And if you read just a little bit more into it, get just a tad more didactic, you can also view "fighting" as "at odds with"; Tony struggles to maintain the line between man and machine, but now he's crossed that line and dark times are ahead.

So, in the end, the Stupid New Powers™ may actually help the character, assuming that A) they're eventually done away with, and soon-ish, and B) the writers are headed where I think they're headed. We shall see.

(And no, I don't think for one second that Warren Ellis had any of this in mind when he wrote IM. I think Warren thought he was being clever. Whoops.)

And that's how I convinced myself that this issue was, in the end, a good comic. Tomorrow: Review-a-palooza!

3 Comments:

Blogger Spencer Carnage said...

Yeah, where the fuck did Nick Fury come from? They could have made it Maria Hill, which would explain the secretive nature of Tony. In the NA: Illuminati, they spoke of using an LMD for Fury to get Hulk into space, but to bring him back at this point with no explanation is lame. You could say that this is before Secret War, however if the New Avengers show up, its definitely not. They spent so much time and effort dancing around the fact that Nick Fury was gone before they revealed that he was gone/leaving in very much delayed Secret War # 5, and now they're bringing him back without so much a word about it.

That's hella wack, yo.

2:24 PM  
Blogger CalvinPitt said...

Regarding Fury and whether he should be there or not, I can only repeat what I said in the store today: "Marvel is f#$%ing everything up these days."

But lo, Chris did appear, and give us hope, that perhaps, they may start to get things right.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous carla said...

If that doesn't sound like an addictive personality in denial, then I don't know what does.

YES! YESYESYES! I swear, hand to God that was the only thing that kept this book on my pull list. Since these goddamned new powers stuck around, why not see the as just 'power', something a control freak and addict like Tony can abuse just as he did alcohol. I so hope we're just not smarter than the writers here...

8:27 PM  

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