Friday, May 6, 2011

Iron Man: The Inevitable

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Iron Man: The Inevitable (Marvel, 2006).

Now here's a book that's just all kinds of terrible. I don't actually own any Iron Man comics other than this one; even as a kid, Iron Man was never much more than The Boring Avenger, and his was a comic book that I studiously avoided. I thought the first movie was a heck of a lot of fun, but we never got around to going to see the second one. But here's a book that I bought - all six issues - because I really do love the artist Frazer Irving, and this was, I believe, his first job for one of the big American companies.

I knew Irving from his exceptional work for 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine in the early part of the decade. Apart from some occasional one-offs and fill-in jobs, he illustrated series and serials like The Simping Detective, Storming Heaven and A Love Like Blood. He kind of got saddled with a lot of strips that were too short to make any real impact other than the visuals, which were usually quite amazing. And then he got poached.

I think that now, I've been burned enough by creators leaving 2000 AD and going to write and draw massively inferior garbage for American companies. As far as I can see, it's only been Grant Morrison and Andy Diggle who've gone on to genuinely better things for DC and Marvel. Even Alan Moore. I own a stack of Alan Moore comics that reaches about up to my chin, and not one of them is better than Chronocops. So, as part of my scaling back on everything, even if an extremely high-paying job were to land in my lap and I become able to resume buying comics at the volume that I did at my peak, I'm not touching any of this trademark-protection crap that my favorite creators keep spinning for American superheroes. None of it. This could be the greatest Iron Man comic ever, and it would still stink, and while I'm certain that Frazer Irving and his family greatly enjoy the larger paychecks that Marvel and DC can offer him, supporting this work means purchasing deeply mediocre, stupid comic books for far too much money just to see some good art. You have to read this dumbass story to look at it. We should quit applauding creators acting like they've been called up to the majors when they get a six-issue miniseries about the Living Laser, and instead support the infinitely more creative fields where they have been succeeding enough to make THOSE the financial goal.

In a perfect world, in other words, 2000 AD should sell enough for Rebellion to be able to pay its creators so much money that the idea of leaving to illustrate a comic book as moronic as this would be laughable. If creators were taking a pay cut to do work like this, the work would not have happened.

This Iron Man comic, like damn near everything I have seen from Marvel in the last ten years, is an overlong, bloated bore of continuity and characters that don't develop. Scripted by Joe Casey, the story might have made for an acceptable two-issue fill-in back in the Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan days, but in 2006, it somehow required the services of a separate six-issue miniseries running alongside the regular monthly Iron Man comic. The plot concerns two of Iron Man's enemies teaming up to take him down, while, in his civilian identity of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, our hero has hired a new ladyfriend, a psychoanalyst, to try and make contact with a third enemy. In a previous storyline, this baddie had been converted to pure energy, and now Stark has invested squajillions on some new technology to entrap the energy-baddie and have some way for the ladyfriend to communicate with his weird new energy form. Six issues. Remember when that meant, "Whoa, this is an epic"...?

Like a lot of melodramatic comics - and 2000 AD's not immune to this - some of the ostensible high points come with last-page revelation cliffhangers. Part one ends with the big arrival of The Ghost, redesigned by Irving to look much more awesome than his solid, caped Heroclix incarnation and more like the weird, insubstantial outline of that anti-matter fellow in the Doctor Who serial "Planet of Evil." Part two begins, however, with countless pages of the two villains talking. It turns out that one of the villains is actually the third to take the name of Spymaster and wear his armored suit. He yammers a lot about being a "legacy" villain. I suspect that Casey is a clever enough writer that this is a parody of the ridiculous continuity-obsessed comics scripted by Geoff Johns, where evidently insane people punch each other over who will have the right to be the next Star-Spangled Kid, but it's still five pages of people in silly costumes talking about what it means to be the new Spymaster.

I confess that I did not actually read this comic when it was first published. I saw that Irving was drawing this book and went ahead and ordered it from Bizarro Wuxtry, Earth's finest comic book store, because I (then) wanted to support the artists that I enjoyed. I never actually found the time to read it, figuring that it could wait until I had all six issues. And then... I just never found the hour or so I needed to do it, until, purging comics, I decided to give this a try before I give it to Scottish Rite for some sick kids to read.

I suppose about 45,000 people bought this comic. For what it's worth, I regret that I shoulder 1/45,000th of the blame for this being successful enough for Marvel to offer Irving more work and steal him away from drawing more Simping Detective, which is 45,000 times more entertaining than this dull, boring and stupid but well-drawn comic.

No comments: