Monday, May 22, 2017 • Morning Edition • "The CBR of comic book journalism."

Trade Waiting: Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2: The War Machines

Written by SuperginraiX on Monday, May 08 2017 and posted in Features

Trade Waiting: Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2: The War Machines

Phoning it in with the help of a beligerent A.I. companion.



Trade Waiting is a new (and hopefully continuing) series where Super buys a new release trade paperback on Amazon and then decides to publish his reviews here instead of over there (on Amazon). In this case, he's reading and talking about the second volume in Brian Michael Bendis's Invincible Iron Man series, The War Machines. The trade collects Invincible Iron Man #'s 6-11, originally published between February and July 2016. The hardcover of this volume was available on September 13, 2016 but Super hates hardcovers so he waited for the paperback release that was unleashed upon the world on May 2, 2017. There are going to be spoilers ahead so, y'know, SPOILER WARNING.

And now, Super will stop talking in the third person and just review this damn thing...

If you know me even a little bit, you probably know that Iron Man is one of my favorite comic book characters. You might also know that I enjoy way more Brian Michael Bendis comics than is socially acceptable on a comic book website. Definitely more than you'd want to admit. Finally, I really liked the first volume of Invincible Iron Man. It was a fun read and portrayed a Tony Stark that was both engaging and funny. The armor was also very slick.

So, the question I find myself asking while reading The War Machines is: "Where did this all go terribly wrong?"

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This isn't a good book by any stretch. It's a mediocre, disjointed adventure that avoids any sense of a story climax. Seriously. This thing writes AROUND the final confrontation in the worst possible way. Something you should learn early in creative writing is "show, don't tell" and in this book, Brian Bendis rarely shows and barely tells.

Part of the problem revolves around the main character. Tony Stark. Now, I said that Iron Man is one of my favorites when it comes to comics but when I say that, I'm really talking about the David Michelinie/ Bob Layton version of the character. Bendis wrote to THAT version in his Avengers run but in the current series, the protagonist is more modeled after his Marvel Cinematic Universe counterpart. This is Tony Stark as played by Robert Downey Jr. I don't mean to disparage the movie version of Iron Man. Those are good, fun movies. Movie Tony Stark is a likeable asshole who you manage to root for.

The problem is, he's not competent. He's barely functional. You like him because Robert Downey Jr. is charming as hell and has the best lines. That charm doesn't translate well back into the comics. That might be an art problem. The first volume was penciled by David Marquez and the slick visuals made Stark and his world look great. In this second volume, the artist is frequent Bendis collaborator, Mike Deodato. Deodato is a veteran in the comics biz and while I'm usually a big fan of his work, the book's visuals are messier than I expected (probably not helped by the colors, provided by Frank Martin). Deodato's Tony Stark is definitely a distinct looking character but he's not modeled after Robert Downey Jr. Instead, he kind of looks like a befuddled college professor. Stark just radiates incompetence.

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It doesn't help that he's got... one, two, three... FOUR baby-sitters trying to keep him from acting like an idiot. There's Friday, the Artificial Intelligence that not only runs his armor systems and essentially keeps Stark Industries from floundering into bankruptcy (but just barely). She frequently countermands orders and acts WAY too independent for anyone who has watched... well, ANY science fiction movies.

Baby sitter #2 is Mary-Jane Watson. Tony tries to hire her to revamp his personal image and make him act like the grown adult that he used to be. That falls apart almost immediately but MJ keeps showing up despite her severe reservations. And for no good reason! No show. No tell.

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James Rhodes serves as our third baby-sitter and as a second protagonist. When the trade is titled "The War Machines," it's likely that Rhodey is gonna show up. War Machine is one of my favorites as well, so having him ride shotgun in this book was a nice highlight even though Mike Deodato's version of the character didn't really LOOK like Rhodes to me. Jim is in Japan, trying to figure out what Madame Masque stole from the Stark Japan headquarters during the first volume. That question is never answered but his investigation leads to more run-ins with the Biohack Ninjas that were introduced in the first book. For a good portion of the book, Rhodey is armorless but he still performs admirably... even though he can't remember whether he's a Marine or a Navy SEAL.

Rounding out our list of baby-sitters is Doctor Doom. Victor has turned over a new leaf but with Reed Richards unavailable, it appears that new leaf is mostly being obsessed with Tony Stark. Doom only shows up twice in this book. The first is a follow-up visit where he checks Tony for demonic possession (after the events of the first volume). The second has Doctor Doom bothering Stark's girlfriend, Dr. Amara Perera, in his search for a missing Tony Stark. These are both minor appearances but Doom's intellectual superiority to Stark is readily apparent. You also have to wonder WHY Doom is so intent on allying with Iron Man beyond story convenience. Again: No show, no tell.

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There isn't much of a story, here. It's more like a bunch of stuff that happens. There's a villain introduced, Tomoe the Techno Golem, but her threat is nebulous after Rhodey is "rescued" from her and her minions. Since her powers basically come down to "acquire tech and subvert it to her will," Iron Man is pretty much the worst hero to go up against her. And he KNOWS it. In fact, he spends the tail end of the book trying to infiltrate her team and when Tony has ALMOST done that, he just sort of... doesn't do anything else. It leads to an anti-climax where James Rhodes calls in the All-New, All-Different Avengers and SHIELD to take down the Techno Golem and her Biohack Ninjas, represented in a two-page spread. Tony isn't even involved and the big-bad gets away off panel.

In the middle of this thing is a cliffhanger, followed by a four week fast-forward. The cliffhanger is never explained because that's not the kind of story you're reading. It's indicative of the rest of the book. Some interesting things might happen but nothing is really being held together by a framework of solid storytelling. There's some fun dialogue in here but most of it isn't anything relevant. It's just floating around, establishing a setting or mood at best.

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Finally, there's Riri Williams, a fifteen year old prodigy who has reverse engineered the Iron Man armor. Her moral compass is... askew... but we get to see her first stumbling steps into becoming a hero. Which is messy, but you'd expect that. Riri is more on an Iron Man joyride than anything else but since she'll be taking over the title in a couple trades, this is where her story begins.

Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2: The War Machines is... a mess. It feels empty. Because it is largely empty. It's a bunch of gears turning in an incomplete clock. You get guest appearances by War Machine, Spider-Man, and Tony's Avengers team but it's not enough to save this hot mess.





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About the Author - SuperginraiX


SuperginraiX is the biggest sap on The Outhousers' payroll (wait, we get paid?). He reads every issue of every crappy Marvel crossover so you don't have to. Whats worse is that he pays for his books, thus condoning Marvel's behavior. If The Outhouse cared for his well being at all, they'd try and get him into some sort of rehab center. But, alas, none of us even know how to say his name. For a good time, ask Super why Captian America jumped off the Helicarrier in Fear Itself. Super lives in the frozen wastland that is Minnesota with 15% of the state's population living under his roof: a wife he makes wear an Optimus Prime mask, two gremlins, and his mother-in-law.

 


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