Much like with his new Secret Avengers series, I wasn’t initially planning on picking this book up, but Ales Kot drew me in, and once again, I’m glad he did. This isn’t quite as good as Secret Avengers, and it feels like a much more traditional superhero book than we’re used to from Kot, but it was still highly enjoyable and Kot seems to have a different take on James Rhodes that should hopefully allow this series to last a little longer than the previous War Machine or Iron Man 2.0 series did.
The issue begins with a flashforward that shows Rhodey (did anyone else know that his middle name was Rupert?) lying prone on the ground after being attacked by a mysterious armoured figure, and being asked if he’s a ‘true patriot’ or not. It certainly looks like Kot is going to use this series to explore what it really means to be a patriot in this day and age, and that certainly looks to be fascinating ground to cover with this character. It’s been done somewhat before with Captain America, but I think Rhodey, as a man from the present-day, as well as a black man, will have a different perspective.
The story then moves back to the present day, with Iron Patriot helping to inspect the flood defences of New Orleans, before getting a phone call from his dad, who wants to talk to him. Here, Kot introduces the supporting cast for this book, which is Rhodey’s dad, Terrence, and his niece, Lila. I don’t know if these characters are new or not. I seem to remember Pak’s War Machine series focusing a lot on Rhodey’s mother, but not the rest of his family. Because Rhodey’s sister is dead, he and his dad are the only family she has left, and his dad wants him to be around more to help out. Lila seems to be something of a genius prodigy, who has trouble communicating with fellow teenagers, but not with adults, and has an interest in tinkering with the Iron Patriot armour. Rhodey flies off to his empty home (there’s no mention of the relationship between him and Captain Marvel here) where we see some subtle hints about his various daddy issues, he can’t tell his dad he loves him, etc. It’s all pretty standard stuff, but really, having problems with your dad is almost universal, and most superheroes have to do that when their parents are dead, so this should be a bit different, and I’m sure Kot will avoid cliché.
The next scene sees Rhodey call a press conference and basically set out what his new mission statement is. He basically says that because he represents America right across his chest, he is now limiting his military operations to those on American soil. Unless it’s a rescue mission, he will not be sent out to foreign war zones to kill for an agenda. He wants to represent and help the best of America, not it’s worst. It’s a pretty interesting idea, and I’m excited to see it play out. It certainly has big repercussions immediately, and a lot of people are pissed off at James Rhodes. We see a Congressman being coerced by a Mr. Fujikawa (who of course have a long history with Iron Man) to denounce Rhodey and, in response to online comments bashing her uncle, Lila records a Youtube video defending him. This puts her on the radar of a mysterious man with burned skin who has been told to take out Iron Patriot. I’m guessing this is the armoured villain from the flash-forward.
The issue ends with Iron Patriot fighting what looks to be a routine attack from mud-monsters in the Gulf Of Mexico when, right in the middle of the battle, his armour just shuts down and he goes crashing into the sea. Rhodey has opened up a can of worms here, let’s hope he can put them back.
Garry Brown provides the art here, and whilst he’s new to me, it was strong work, reminding me a lot of what Mitch Gerads is doing on The Punisher. It’s scratchier and more realistic than what you’d normally expect from an Iron Man type book, but Rhodey is dealing with a more realistic and deadly world than Tony, it fits. It’s hard to live up to a Dave Johnson cover, but Brown manages it.
Overall, this was a great opening issue, Kot is one of the most exciting new voices in comics, and whilst this is a little more traditional, it’s still well worth reading, and you can tell he’s only just begun to scratch the surface of some big ideas.