Iron Man. Tony Stark. While I very much knew of him growing up and watched his exploits on various cartoons, I have to say that I never really read any of his comics. I can’t really pinpoint what it was about the character that didn’t interest me growing up. I just did not have the interest and never really read anything involving Iron Man. But where I grew up there really weren’t any comic book shops near me anyway and being poor, comics were not something I really got into until I grew up.
So like everyone else, in 2008 I fell in love with Iron Man thanks to the movie. Robert Downey Jr., basically playing an exaggerated version of himself, embodied Tony Stark. His performance was so good that it helped take what was a third rate character in terms of popularity and turned him into a first tier character that rivaled Spider-Man for popularity. Being the first Marvel Studios movie, they made sure that the performance helped encapsulate everything that makes the character so enjoyable. Too often in comic book movies you’d have the filmmakers take a couple traits of the character that they liked and promptly disregard the rest. Even the best of comic book movies like Batman Begins aren’t really faithful to the origin story. It’s a great film mind you, a classic in the genre, but it does not really reflect the comics.
Iron Man was different. Sure there were changes. There has to be. You cannot take a comic book, hand it to a movie maker, and say film this. There are budgets alone to think of as well as the fact that not everything in a comic is easily translatable to film. Inner monologues alone would kill any action that’s happening on the screen. But Marvel, being that they were the company that made the damn comic in the first place, were able to take a lot of elements from the comic and successfully put them on the screen.
For my review today I came across Iron Man #276 which featured Black Widow. It makes me feel old because the issue came out when I was in 8th Grade, when comics were still only a dollar. The issue revolves around Black Widow showing up at Tony’s home and telling him she needs his help to stop an enemy infiltrator from starting World War 3. It’s quickly established that Tony is sick at this time but due to the severity of the situation he helps her out.
I really liked the back and forth between the two characters. A majority of the issue is banter between Black Widow and Tony Stark. The writer did a good job of establishing their connection. You could feel that they had a long time friendship without the writer having to rely upon three pages of backstory in order to explain the fact that they know each other.
I had a couple problems with the story and it happens a lot in Marvel Comics from this era. Apparently they never got the memo that stories could be told in ways other than how Stan Lee wrote them back in the 60’s. For example, Tony and Natasha have to break into NORAD to stop an enemy agent. They’re told by soldiers on the base that since there are drills going on there were safeguards in place to keep them from entering. Those safeguards were about as exciting and effective to a modern story like tying someone to railroad tracks and hoping the afternoon train would show up on time. In fact, Tony even mentions during their escape from one of the traps that it felt like a trap from an old movie. If a character can realize that than the reader can as well. Maybe, just maybe, audiences in 1991 still found that exciting but I found it quite unrealistic and hokey.
I could also see the surprise twist coming from a mile away. The twist is that the person they were looking for that was supposedly going to start World War 3 was Natasha Romanov herself. She tricked Tony Stark to get her into NORAD. Now I may end up forgiving the writer the next issue but I do wish there was more effort to give smoke screens to the audience. Because three pages in I was dreading that I knew what the twist would be and I was right.
The artwork was all right. Nothing classic but it was effective, especially for Tony and Natasha. Once again I felt the location drawings were quite underwhelming. I want to feel the action is taking place in a real location and I just didn’t feel that in this story.
This is an interesting trip down memory lane. It’s not a classic story in any sense of the word but the issue does a good job at the start of exploring a bit the relationship between Tony Stark and Natasha Romanov. You got the sense of their history without having to have a Master’s Degree in Marvel Comics history to know what was going on. While the traps for the characters were antiquated, even for 1991, and the twist was something you will get right away, it’s not a bad start. I have to give the story a 5.
The art is a different matter. It’s not bad or sloppy but there’s no passion in it. It’s formulaic, especially with locations in the story. If felt like a set on a television show or bad movie and it took me out of the story a bit. For that I have to give the art a 4.