Friday, 2 December 2011

Something For The Weekend - Iron Man

It'd be easy to write off Iron Man as a low brow 'man in a armored suit flies around biffing bad guys' if you've only seen the multiplex posters, but Iron Man has always had a depth to him I've found fascinating.

Tony Stark, the billionaire, industrialist, genius weapons designer has plenty of problems. He has little control of where his weapons end up once he's made them, and no say in who uses them to what ends. What he does have control over is the Iron Man suit and the technology that makes it work. Stark doesn't sit well with the title of 'warmonger' easily and there's a real sense of a man struggling to do the right thing (especially in Warren Ellis's Extremis). And there's the fact that Stark is an alcoholic, something Stan Lee wrote into the character way back in 1963.

Extremis is particularly satisfying because it's part character study, part  classicsuper hero versus super villain, but also has a strong emphasis on believing in a better future. An added allure to Extremis is the fact that the writer really is straight off the top shelf on this outing. Ellis combines his passion for technology and social commentary with a generous side helping of scathing humour.

Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca's run on Invincible Iron Man follows on neatly from Extremis and deals with Stark less comically than Robert Downey Jr.s wisecracking version. Stark must not only deal with inventing devices and running his company, but also act as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate or Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, versions differ).

He also dons the Iron Man suit and gets into the thick of it when trouble rears its head. The first six issues (collected as Invicible Iron Man Vol.1: The Five Nightmares) pits Start against Stane, the son of an old business rival. Stane has perfected using parts of Stark's technology to create high yield explosive devices ideal for suicide bombers.

Once again Stark feels his responsibility. He is both part of the problem and the solution, but he can only convince himself that he truly is the solution as long as he stays one step ahead in the arms/technology race. Invincible Iron Man is beautifully drawn and rendered collection that benefits from some grade 'A' writing. Tony Stark might be difficult to empathise with on account of his wealth and privledge, but Fraction imbues him with plenty of humanity, and that's what makes heroes great.

Expect to see more of Iron Man on bookshelves and at the multiplex with the arrival of The Avengers in 2013.

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