Friday, August 18, 2006
Comics review: Iron Man, Extremis by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov
Last time I reviewed the relaunch of Captain America by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. This time around we're going to look at another relaunch of an iconic marvel hero: Iron Man.
I'm reviewing the tradeback collecting Iron Man #s 1-6, the first of the relaunched line, all written by Warren Ellis.
Like the Cap relaunch, this is an attempt to update a classic marvel character that seemed to have been showing some age of late. In a way I think this problem affects Iron Man more than Cap. Sure, some writers seem to have a hard time making Cap compelling, focusing more on his rogues gallery because they see him as a stiff, but Cap's time period of WWII is still one that resonates strongly with Americans.
Iron Man, on the other hand, was always a creature of the cold war. A defense contractor of the type made rich, powerful and vital to national security by the arms race, an early target of Soviet spy Black Widow, Iron Man's most memorable rogues are all drawn from that period's bipolar tension: Titanium Man, Mandarin (one Russian, one Chinese).
So while Captain America's war still resonates, Iron Man's us vs. them world seems almost quaint in today's world of a giant superpower surrounded by a gnat-like swarm of rogue states, non-state groups seeking weapons of mass destruction and crazed loners that might fell the superpower by a thousand tiny stings.
Worse, Iron Man's problems ran deeper than his roots in the cold war. His armor hadn't been seriously upgraded since the 70's and technology had actually caught up with him. While his armor had been computerized, it seemed this had happened as an afterthought.
The technology seemed current when it used to feel ahead of the curve.
In other words, on top of telling a compelling story, Warren Ellis' task was to update the man and the armor.
I feel like he scored on both counts. Not only does this tale reboot Iron Man's origin, moving it from Viet Nam to the Gulf War 1, but it also takes the man in the iron mask wireless in a big way.
This is a spoiler-free zone but let me say that you should watch for the phrase "I can see through satellites". Not a big story moment, but one that shows what Warren Ellis, known for crafting good stories with a sci-fi edge in books like Global Frequency has in mind for making the new Iron Man's tech next generation.
While this book didn't grab me as much as the Captain America relaunch, I still felt the series was back to the level of quality it had in the 80's during David Micheline's seminal run and had all the same hallmarks that I think are essential for Iron Man: the man in the suit was compelling, the book was funny and the book was loaded with cool toys.