Friday, June 15, 2012

Graphic Novel Review – Iron Man 2.0: Palmer Adley is Dead

Jim Rhodes is the man inside the War Machine armor, and his boss Tony Stark has asked him to become a contractor for the military in order to fulfill the desire of the government to have an Iron Man armor in their forces. Rhodey is not entirely welcome back on a base he very nearly destroyed while it was a part of Norman Osborne’s HAMMER organization, and he’s given only a partial team to complete impossible assignments. Like his first case, tracking down a terrorist who was once a part of one of the most secretive covert intelligence agencies in the US government. Now the ideas he had come up with for the US are being turned against the government, resulting in acts of sabotage, bombings and even a dirty nuclear device. But the biggest problem with tracking down this terrorist – he’s already dead. Put a bullet in his own brain 6-months ago. So how is it that his plans have been put into motion, and why is it that a message keeps getting left at every target “Palmer Adley is Dead”.

I absolutely loved the first part of this collection, with a few minor exceptions that I’ll get to. The major problem with this book is that it’s not just a collection of the Palmer Adley is Dead arc, but also the Fear Itself arc of this comic book – and it just doesn’t suit the rest of the story at all. Fear Itself is a magic-based, Asgardian mythology type story – just a complete 180 from War Machine (and especially the story being told in the first four issues collected in this book). It would have been far better to collect these issues separately under some other Fear Itself tie-in TPB (with some other tie-in issues from another book). Having these issues just shows how blatantly jarring it is to have a story interrupted by a comic “event” that has nothing to do with the comic in question. Here we have War Machine battling alongside some arcane warriors to defeat some warlock – it’s fairly vague and seems both non-essential to the event as well as completely derailing the story being told in this comic.

Which is a shame because the story being told in the first four issues is very compelling. It’s an interesting mystery, and a nice amount of secondary characters are introduced without it being overwhelming. Rhodey is a great character in his own right, and his interplay with Tony Stark is always fun to read. With that said though, I don’t see any reason why story couldn’t have been played out in the Iron Man title itself. Rhodey might be nearly a main character in his own right, but when added to the Iron Man comic you have a lot more compelling reasons to read the book. This could have been a main story in that book, even without starring Tony Stark, or it could have been a secondary story in that book doled out over even more issues. This is my first minor issue.

The second minor issue is the name of this book – Rhodey is not Iron Man 2.0. I believe the title was trying to play up a connection to Iron Man 2 (the movie), but Rhodey is War Machine. They also mess with his armor a bit – completely unnecessary. I get that Tony is constantly tweaking his armor, but Rhodey’s is fairly perfect as it is – and some of these upgrades get into the level of absurdity of the last Pierce Brosnen Bond movie – with invisibility stealth mode and phasing through solid objects – might as well retire Sue Richards and Kitty Pryde, anybody can do those things now. I see all of these upgrades being retconned away – it makes him too powerful, and future writers are going to forget all about these upgrades when they use the character.

All that said, I want to see how the story of Palmer Adley is resolved, which should tell you enough about the quality of the story. The art is well done throughout, though the artist changes about mid-way through (though having a different artist for the Fear Itself tie-in was likely a good thing). I’d recommend reading for the first arc and not bothering with the second, but otherwise it’s well worth a look – I find myself thinking about the book long after I’ve finished reading it, and that’s a good thing.

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