Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Marvel Adventures: Iron Man #6

Like its Marvel Adventures peers, MA: Iron Man provides an excuse for its creators to tell a straightforward story featuring one of the Marvel Universe’s heavy hitters, sans the decades of continuity and storyline ramifications that usually come along with the character. It’s a straightforward adventure book without any ties to the latest mega-crossover or epic multi-part storyline, which is a nice concept. If you’re sick of the whole “Tony Stark is the asshole leader of SHIELD who keeps trying to intimidate his peers” angle that’s been running in the other books, and just want to see a genius strap on a robotic suit of armor and fire a few laser beams, this is your book.

Unfortunately, this return to the simpler times of a self contained story and a lack of weighty continuity also drags along its own set of clich├ęs and stereotypical plot devices. After blasting himself into orbit in a joint effort with NASA, Stark spends most of the opening pages dictating the story’s premise, via radio, to the technicians in Houston. Sure, that’s one way to quickly bring the readers up to speed, but wouldn’t the scientists on the ground already realize the point of their mission? Later, he casually explains the physics behind his decision to use booster rockets in zero gravity… while in a firefight with the Living Laser. While a lot of this book’s charm lies with its attempts to deliver a no-strings-attached retro storytelling experience, that’s also where I found many of its drawbacks. Comics may have taken a few steps backwards over the last few years in their repeated attempts to tell lengthier stories with more consequences, but they’ve also taken just as many steps forward with the quality of that storytelling.

Even overlooking these more traditional flaws, the story is pretty rough around the edges. The Living Laser succumbs to the most basic of super-villain shortcomings, explaining his master plan to Iron Man and then giving his enemy time to thwart it. Writer Fred Van Lente’s take on the Laser’s powers is tough to follow and largely without reason. While the story takes a few interesting twists and turns, it’s very B-Grade stuff. Even the surprise conclusion comes out of nowhere, spoiling what could have been a much more impactful moment by failing to give it the proper amount of build. In a way, the noble concept of a series built entirely on single-issue arcs is eventually its own downfall.

James Cordeiro’s artistic offerings fall in line with Van Lente’s lower-mid level storytelling. His work is there – it tells the story, puts the right characters in the right places as dictated by the plot, but never takes any risks or delivers anything unexpected. Iron Man seems quite pedestrian under Cordeiro’s supervision – not nearly the scientific marvel one would expect him to be. Shell head should be a constant visual delight, with the textures and paneling of his armor affording the artist dozens of opportunities to play with reflections, lighting and posturing. Here, he’s just a guy with a weird mask and a vaguely robotic appearance in outer space. This artwork is barely average, if it’s even that.

Rather than focusing on the things it can do, Marvel Adventures: Iron Man seems to highlight the things that it can’t. This book should not only be something that casual fans can pick up, but something they’ll want to. The kind of story Fred Van Lente wants to tell in this issue needed several issues to reach a proper conclusion, and crammed into such a tiny package it repeatedly stumbles. Where the major appeal of the series is its lack of deep continuity, the writer introduces new continuity to stand in its place. He fills the issue with needless explanation and a page-long introduction covering the Living Laser’s origin, when all he really needed was a setting, a villain and a firefight. Skip this.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2.5

No comments: