Iron Man #276

iron man

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.

Bottom Line:

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.

 

Marvel’s Jessica Jones #1

Jessica Jones

Steven Spielberg recently talked about superhero movies and said that they will go the way of the western eventually. If you read his comment in full, and respect his status in Hollywood, you’d know that he is absolutely right. Something new will eventually come along that will entrance the public and superhero movies will take a much needed break. Everything has a saturation point. Too much of it and you will get tired of it. Like when I had my free trial to Apple Music and used Siri to make a playlist based on the top twenty hits from the year I was born. I had to explain to my kids what disco when they were taking a breath from laughing. Disco music in and of itself is not bad. There are some real gems that are still great to listen to, plus it helped influence The Rolling Stones with one of their biggest hits off their Some Girls album, Miss You. But much like Disco had its day where people finally had enough (and then the songwriters of disco went to work with country pop singers like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton but that’s another story.), superhero movies will slow to a crawl in terms of being made.

Until then, we’re still in a golden age of story telling if you like comic book stories. Once technology caught up with the imagination of comic book creators, it really opened the flood gate as to what could be done with movies. DC had massive hits in the 70’s and 80’s with Superman and Batman. Those two stories though could reasonably be told without too much in the way of special effects. Marvel for the longest time couldn’t catch a break. Apart from The Incredible Hulk and their cartoon line ups, they couldn’t get Hollywood to really use their stories in the right way. If you ever caught the 70’s Spider-Man television show you’d see how right I was. Or the Captain America movie starring JD Salinger’s son.

That movie alone was probably the death knell of a company that had no business making comic book movies. 21st Century Film Corporation made the film, that company being run by the former owner of Cannon Films, the makers of cinematic classics like Masters of the Universe, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (You know a movie is bad when on the director’s commentary for the movie, the first thing the writer of the film does is apologize to the audience for making a bad movie.) I remember watching a movie at the local theater when I was a kid and saw this teaser.

By today’s standards, yeah it’s cheesy. But in late 1989 this was a pretty bad ass way to get a young kid excited for a movie. Then…the movie never came to theaters in my town. I should thank them for that.

It wasn’t until Blade and X-Men that Marvel stories were finally translated to the screen in all their glory. Some movies may not stand the test of time (I’m looking at you all iterations of Fantastic Four) but they’re better than Captain America from 1990 or other earlier attempts at making cinematic Marvel movies.

Once Marvel got their act together they decided it would be wise to be the controlling destiny behind the movies based on their intellectual properties. And why not. For every Spider-Man that was made, there was an Ang Lee Hulk movie that didn’t quite get it right. So they made their own production company and movie history was born. They have been able to seamlessly blend their characters into one shared universe. While you don’t have to watch every single movie to get what is going on, you can get more from your experience if you do so. Now they’ve branched into television. That started with Agents of SHIELD. Then they made the bold move to make Netflix shows.

Daredevil is the first of a planned group of shows that will culminated in an Avengers like television show called The Defenders. We’re going to get Daredevil (and The Punisher which I am squealing like a little girl about!), Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. There’s already talk of more shows on the way as well. Maybe a Fantastic Four television show anyone?

Jessica Jones in the second show from them which will debut in November. The trailers have been great, especially this one.

Everything you need to know about the character is in that teaser. And you don’t even see her face.

This comic is a brief teaser for the new show. It’s really just a scene, a study of her character. She meets up with Turk, who was a minor bad guy in Season 1 of Daredevil who is recuperating from a beating he took at the hands of Daredevil. Jessica sneaks her way past the police and confronts him about back child support and tells him he should be more of an influence in his children’s lives. Yeah, she’s not delusional and doesn’t think for a minute he will listen. Which is why she steals the money he had left in his wallet and takes off. Simple scene really. But it goes a long way to show what motivates her.

I am really excited for the show and can’t wait for November to get here. Marvel has done some amazing work in getting lesser known characters into the public eye. While big names will always rule the roost, for Marvel to continue to be successful they have to make their entire catalog palatable for the public. Before Guardians of the Galaxy came out internet message boards were claiming that would be the first Marvel failure because who would want to see a movie involving characters you know nothing about? Marvel’s secret? Make a damn good story with characters people can relate. Easier said than done to be sure but Marvel has done a fantastic job in using their lesser known characters than DC which still wants to rely upon the big two, Batman and Superman, to get people into the movie theater.

This issue is a must read. It’s another great tease on what I am sure will be a great show. And hey, we’ll finally have an American made show that will allow folks to see David Tennant show his acting chops on that people will actually watch.