Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ultimate Iron-Man Volume 2 Issues 1-5 Review

Well I’m still in a Marvel state of mind so today’s review will cover Ultimate Iron Man Volume 2. Let’s get this out of the way already: ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m not a fan of Iron Man.’ Before we get into the plot I want to take a minute to talk about two things that bugged me. First off it’s a five issue mini-series just like the first volume, however for the first three issues of the series it is boldly displayed on the cover that it is ___ of FOUR and only on the fourth issue does it say that there is another issue coming out. When the story was first published I can imagine that being quite annoying, especially since I find it annoying and it’s been over three years since the 2006-2007 series first ran.

Another thing that bugged me was the art. I’ve never been a fan of this particular style (the first run of the Buffy comic series also dabbled in this style near the end of the run.) It makes it difficult to appreciate it the way it’s meant to be because it ends up being all over the place. One panel can look amazing and the next really gritty in a way that almost makes it look like it’s done by a different artist who is trying to simulate the style of the original. Granted this could possibly be the fault of the colorist and inker, in fact I’d place it more on their shoulders since it looks to be over stylized and textured when they’re trying to define where light meets shadow.

While the art appears to be a downgrade from the first volume the story is actually better. They still play up the dynamics between Tony and Obadiah but the whole soap opera aspect of the drama between their parents and the generation long family feud and attempted company stealing and the gold digging ways of Howard’s ex-wife Loni are gone. Instead we get new characters like Deloris and Whiplash, foreign terrorist plots, stolen nuclear weapons, Tony and Obadiah getting kidnapped and an assassination attempt on the imprisoned Howard Stark. There is definitely more action in the second volume than there was in the first, this is obviously because the focus clearly shifted from interpersonal struggle and family dynamic into dealing with the consequences of those things.

One thing I’m not too sure about though is the change in Tony’s origin. I know that Marvel launched the Ultimate line in an attempt to make their characters more accessible and relevant to the next generation of comic book fans, but that model doesn’t hold water here. In Tony’s ‘canon’ origin he has a heart defect that is made worse by his alcoholism, in Ultimate we have the very beginnings of Tony and his battle with the bottle – it can’t be that big of an issue since he’s still a teenager in the second volume – Tony’s heart defect is a thing of the past, instead replaced by altered DNA as a result of a lab accident.  I don’t know about you but I know a lot more people with heart problems than I do know people who had their DNA altered when their mother accidentally ingested blood from a genetically altered test monkey. How is that more ‘relevant’ and ‘accessible’ than someone with a heart problem? Seriously, can some one explain that to me?

I liked the twists and turns the plot, when the series was over I was left wanting to know what would happen with Tony and to see how the new dynamic would play out between Obadiah and Tony once Obadiah experiences his change of heart. Nifara’s death was abrupt and not really expected – it certainly shows that this isn’t your daddy’s Marvel comics, if you’re being held hostage you won’t get shot in the hand and then say ‘oww’ and act like nothing happened; in fact you’re more likely to be shot at pointblank range right between the eyes.

The main villain of the piece isn’t Deloris or even Whiplash; instead it turns out to be Loni. This somehow manages to work and not work at the same time. I can easily buy that Loni would be willing to sacrifice her own son and let him die in order to get money and power; I can buy her misguided passion fueling her hate for both of her ex-husbands for their inability to satiate her bank account. However I just can’t buy that she’s essentially the head of a terrorist cell and manipulating multiple factions just so she can get a hold of the armor suit and nuclear weapons. That’s where it lost me; a gold digger with aspirations of world domination is a little too hard to buy. Although the art makes her look a lot more like a generic knock off of Black Widow than how she looked in the first volume, the drastic change in appearance just ends up serving as more of a disconnect from the persona the character had in the first run.

This run had a little bit more flaws and ups and downs than the first run did but it still left me wanting more. I wanted to read more stories of the teenage Tony Stark. I wanted to see Rhodes’ reaction to Tony telling him that Loni brutally murdered Nifara. That’s saying a lot considering that I’m not a fan.

Rating: B-

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