Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tales From the Vault: Iron Man 2

This is a bit of a departure from my usual Tales From the Vault offerings, as I'm going to take a look at the newest comic to be dumped in the Vault, Iron Man 2. Now, we know what you're thinking: isn't that a movie? Well, sure. But it's also the title of a free comic book Marvel and Target are giving out when you go to see that movie. So we thought it only made sense to strike while the iron's hot and review it now. Get it? Strike while the iron's hot? Cause it's Iron Man 2? Okay, never mind, let's just go right to the comic.

Details: This comic is technically known as Target/Iron Man 2 #1 according to the indicia. That's kind of a bulky title when you think about it, though it does give a hint of the classic 1968 one-shot Iron Man and Sub-Mariner. Only without the Sub-Mariner. Anyway, the creative team for this comic is writer/letterer Joe Caramagna (there's a combination you don't see every day) and artist Jacopo Camagni. In other words: who?

Synopsis: Our tale begins with a mysterious stranger with a baseball cap pulled way, way too far down on their head trying to sneak into Tony Stark's seaside villa. Things go okay right up until the moment when they get to the sub-basement where he keeps all the gooies. At this point, the security codes suddenly stop working. Uh-oh!

Meanwhile, Happy Hogan is chauffeuring Stark around in a big limo, so apparently this story does in fact take place in movie continuity rather than in the Marvel Universe, since Happy is stone dead in the regular MU. As usual Tony is sitting in the back talking about some chick he's been shagging, only this time, he thinks she might be THE ONE. Signs point to know, but, okay, Tony. Whatever you say.

Just then, they get an alert from robot-Jarvis that the house is being broken into. Cut to: the house being broken into. Realizing that the repulsor is about to hit the fan, the intruder changes tacks and hoofs it too... a place, not sure where... and there's a big-ass car sitting there. Hmm.

Turns out this is Tony's favorite car, which he has named Betty. Using apparently the powers of ESP, Tony intuits that Betty has been stolen -- they never quite explain how he knows this (more on this later) but somehow, he does. Hey, he's friggin Iron Man, right? He just knows these things apparently. But unfortunately, the limo doesn't have the chops to chase down Betty, since Betty is quite the sweet ride under that fine chassis. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.

So what 's he going to do? One guess, and "roller skate boots" doesn't count. Yes, he suits up into his Iron Man rig and zips off down the road. Priority #1: stop his favorite car without damaging it. His awesome plan to pull this off: stand in front of the car and order it to stop.

Well, guess what? This doesn't work! Instead, the car crashes right into him. And much to his shock -- and our complete non-shock -- it turns out the driver is Lena, the woman he was mooning over earlier. Noooo! Not you too, Lena?! Even worse -- or bettr, I guess, depending on your point of view -- the car is so amazingly sturdy that even though it appears to have totally destroyed the front end in a collision that sent Iron Man careening right through a building, it still drives just fine and with no injury at all to Lena. Now that's some serious safety rating. And maybe the engine is in the back or something. And maybe I should get a no-prize for fankwanking this artistic laziness away.

Anyhoo, Iron Man flies his ass back over to the car as it drives away and he rips the roof clean off it. His new plan to stop the car? Engage the emergency brake. Amazingly, this works better than anything he manages to do with his big Iron Man suit, so chalk one up for German engineering apparently. Also: suck it, Iron man suit.

Now Tony gets the sob story from Lena: turns out the Ten Rings (those were some of the bad guys in the first Iron man film for those of you keeping track at home) kidnapped her son and sent her to steal the Iron Man suit. Instead, she swiped the car which, as we have just seen, is apparently more advanced technology anyway. Iron Man basically dumps her, then grits his teeth and flies off to save. that. KID!

THE END!!!!?

Extras: This comic is sponsored by Target, which means that instead of a lettercolumn (like anyone does those any more anyway) or whatever, the back of the book is totally filled with coupons for Iron man 2 toys available at Target. Best deal: a set of Iron Man sheets, blankets and pillow cases that only costs $30. That's sweet. I still have my Pac-Man sheets from when I was a kid. No, I don't use them. But maybe I should.

Also, there's an Iron Man helmet mask for $35 that actually appears in the film itself, which is a nice bit of cross-promotion. And by nice I mean shameless.

But the best toy of all, hands down, is the Iron Man 2 edition of Operation. Unfortunately, the photo of this is too small to see the details, but presumably you are removing circuits and transformers and gears instead of organs. Whatever, it's just awesome regardless.

Comments: One interesting thing for me about reading this comic is that a non-comic reading friend of mine also picked up a copy when we went to the movies, so I was able to get her unbiased opinion about the comic. Essentially, she found it to be confusing, which is interesting because as a long time comic reader I found it easy enough to follow, if kind of boring. But some established comic book storytelling techniques clearly weren't working for her because she wasn't familiar with the visual language of comics. Not to get all Scott McCloud on you. Which is an interesting thing. It might be a cool exercise to give some comics to people who don't read them and study what techniques do and don't work for the average, uninitiated reader.

There was also one section of the story that was legitimately confusing regardless of how many comics you have read and that's Tony's sudden, inexplicable announcement that his car has been stolen. I suspect that this problem originated as an art mistake -- in this panel, we see Happy whipping the limo around in the middle of the highway as they are racing back to the mansion. My guess is that the art was supposed to show the stolen car passing them going the other way, hence Tony's reaction and Happy's action. Yet, the panels in this sequence don't show anything of the sort. Nor does the dialogue fix the mistake, something that should have been very easy to do simply by having Tony state what just happened.

Maybe that's too old school -- actually using dialogue for exposition instead of letting the art tell every detail of the story -- but something it's necessary. And if the writer didn't catch it -- or wasn't in a position to see the mistake, it's hard to say -- then the editor should have fixed it. As it is, though, this sequence doesn't make any sense. I'm looking at you, editor Nathan Cosby, aka "The Cos"! Whoever you are.

Which brings me to my last bit of commentary: what was Marvel thinking with this? Here's a captive audience of literally millions of potential Iron Man fans, most of whom have no exposure to the actual comic books. This is an unprecedented chance to get product in their hands and possibly convert legions of new fans. So why this? Why some random writer with some random artist and some random editor telling some random, half-assed story? Why wouldn't you put your best guys on this book? Why not use the actual Iron Man creative team? Why not have a story that actually ties in with either the current MU Iron Man storyline or with the movie itself (and not just one vague reference to the Ten Rings, who don't even appear in this film)?

I don't understand any of the decisions that went into creating this comic.

My Grades: The art is passable if uninspired and a bit generic in a very modern sense; it gets a C-, with points deducted for not telling the story in an understandable way. The writing is professional enough but I can't say I cared enough to want to read the follow-up (which apparently is available somewhere online). It gets a C. The idea of giving out an Iron Man comic at the biggest film event of the year gets an A+++ but the actual execution of hat idea gets an F-. What a wasted opportunity.

If for some reason you want to read this yourself, the comic is available here for free.

Bookmark and Share