Friday, December 14, 2012

First Impressions: Iron Man #1

After months of manga and anime reviews, it seems I've been dragged back into the western world of comics. Special thanks to Frank Rodriguez for giving me a copy to review!

Iron Man #1
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Guru eFx
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics

While I do prefer manga to western comics, I still love western comics. Superhero comics were my first comics, having been introduced to them through the Silver Age Spider-Man and Green Lantern comics. Now Marvel is trying to introduce new people to their comics with their new "Marvel NOW!" line-up, which is essentially just a renumbering of their books with new costumes and creative teams as opposed to completely restructuring their stories like DC did with the New 52. I haven't read a Marvel comic in over a year, even longer since I've read an Iron Man comic, so did Marvel managed to make me an Iron Man reader? Well, no actually.

It's not that the comic is bad. Merely competent might be a better term, at least as far as the story goes. Tony Stark is very much like his movie counterpart in this: he's a millionaire playboy with a high-tech company who feels responsible for keeping superpowered weapons out of dangerous hands. He spends the first two pages expositing his views on life, how he questions reality and wants to make a better future. Now if only he would shut up, because every time the scene focuses on Tony, he's narrating the events playing on the panel or explaining stuff to people that they should already know. Some of it is necessary for the new readers, but it came across as overdoing it.

The story itself is pretty standard. Someone is creating superpowered beings known as Extremis with the purpose of selling them as guardians, ala Skynet, but obviously there's something dubious going on, made all the more obvious by one of the Extremis killing someone in their first appearance. It's up to Tony to stop Extremis. It's an old Iron Man plot that's been used countless times in both the comics and movies, and it feels too familiar with not enough new material to freshen it up. Again, it's not bad, but I doubt it would impress a new reader enough that they'd want to buy the next issue of this storyline. Add in Tony's unnecessary chatter and the book almost becomes a grind to read despite being short.

As mentioned before, the characters of Marvel are going through some redesigns, and Tony's no exception. One neat addition to the story is that Tony now has a liquid metal that can reshape itself into the Iron Man armor. One of the fun parts of the Iron Man movies was seeing Tony come up with new ways to store and deploy his armor, and Marvel clearly wanted to capture that fun for the first issue. The armor itself actually doesn't look much different from his regular armor with the big exception of replacing the red paint with black. Personally, I prefer the red and gold to the black and gold, but since Tony constantly changes the way his armor looks its not out of character for him. Still, I question the color change when the red and gold is more iconic and would probably be more appealing to new readers.

However, the armor is the best-looking character in this. The comic tries to go for realistic-looking characters, but the effect comes across as stiff. The expressions of the characters are very limited; for example, Tony can't seem to stop smiling as if his face was stuck like that. Characters often have no eyes either, so the dreaded "Youngblood's Disease" as dubbed by Linkara of Atop the Fourth Wall strikes again. It's kind of an ugly book. I'm not all familiar with Greg Land's art, but I definitely think he's better at drawing robots than people if this book is anything to go on.

Stiff and merely competent really sums up this first issue. It's not bad, but not good enough to really grab any interest. If you're a big Iron Man and not sick of this kind of story, you might enjoy it, otherwise I'd say it's safe to skip it.

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