Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Iron Man: Legacy of Doom #1

Even the planet's brightest scientific minds aren't immune to a bout of forgetfulness from time to time. That's the premise behind Legacy of Doom – while disintegrating an old suit of Iron Man armor for recycling, Tony Stark finds an adventure he'd completely forgotten stored on one of the unit's memory chips. While an unexpected meeting with Doctor Doom may not seem like the easiest thing to disregard to you and I, in his defense, Stark is a billionaire, a CEO, an engineer, an adventurer, a scientist and an action figure all balled up into one. He's likely overlooked dozens of situations that most folks would remember to their dying day.

Still, this is Doom... in outer space. I'm sure at some point the act of fighting crime becomes mundane when you're successful enough to be named leader of the Avengers, but it's not every day you're floating in orbit with a booster rocket strapped to your ass, yukking it up with Doctor freaking Doom. Co-writers David Michelinie and Bob Layton seem to be following the same path as David Lapham's Spider-Man: With Great Power... here, in more ways than one. While the books share a historical look back on the undocumented adventures of a pair of Marvel's flagship characters, their greatest similarity lies with their uncharacteristic portrayal of those heroes' personalities. Lapham's Spider-Man was brazen, selfish and unlikable, and Michelinie & Layton's portrayal of Tony Stark is out of touch, predictable and dull. His dialog in particular is flat-out awful, seemingly pulled directly from the '60s, and left me to wish he'd been rendered silent throughout the issue. The duo unquestionably nails Doom's self-important, demeaning presence, but by comparison, Stark is always short on words.

While I'm sure the point can be made that because Legacy of Doom is set in a much earlier chapter in these characters' lives, their words and actions should match the setting. And, to a degree, I'd agree with that sentiment. But when that device stops being a curiosity and crosses over into annoyance, it loses my support. That's exactly what happens here... it's an enjoyable throwback for a few pages, but when it dawns on you that the entire series is going to be like this, your patience starts to wear thin.

Ron Lim's artistic contributions are a mixed bag, great on a few occasions and meager on several others. His work is at the very least solid and easy to read, if not always exciting. Maybe I'm allowing myself to be led astray by the dated suit of armor Tony Stark is wearing, but Lim's work comes off as a bit too retro – it's often under-detailed and sometimes borders on unfinished. His take on Doom is extremely drab, certainly not intimidating, and while his Iron Man is a fair sight better than that, shell-head isn't especially great here, either. Lim tells the story effectively, but he never really enhances the experience.

What starts as an interesting idea, a forgotten incidental adventure of Tony Stark during the glory days, quickly spirals into something that's so large in scale that ol' Ironsides would have to be suffering from a severe bout of Alzheimer's to have overlooked it. That, or his memory of the events would have to be erased, which seems to be the more logical solution of the two. But that, naturally, begs the question – if I've already deduced the story's end after a single chapter, and that end involves erasing every moment of the mini-series from the character's memory, what's the point of reading? I certainly wasn't captivated by the awful take on the lead character, the randomness of the plot or the inconsistent quality of the artwork. This is the very definition of a throwaway story. Skip it, unless you're an Iron Man lunatic who's been hungering for a taste of the old days. Even then, you may want to substantially temper your expectations.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2

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