Friday, May 16, 2008

Extremis: Five of Six (Marvel)
Iron Man #5 When: March 2006
Why: Warren Ellis How: Adi Granov

The Story So Far...
A top secret process designed to reprogram genetic coding of human DNA has been stolen by American terrorists. Hell bent on exacting revenge for familial deaths and perceived wrongs by federal authorities; a young man named Mallen undergoes the Extremis process to turn himself into a living bio-tech weapon.

In an effort to fight fire with fire; Tony Stark submits himself to his own genetic reprogramming. The process cocoons Stark, forcing his mind into a dream state that recalls resonances with his original rebirth from industrialist, into the golden avenger: Iron Man.

Long ago technologies protected him from a potentially lethal piece of shrapnel working it's way toward his heart. As attonement for his life as a decadent weapons manufacturer, Stark continued to use his armor for the greater good, becoming a cold vision of justice. This time, however, the pursuit of justice will sacrifice Tony Stark's humanity as he emerges more machine than man...

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Adi GranovARTWORK: Don HeckStrength: Iron Man 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Iron Man 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Iron Man 6 (Generator)
Agility: Iron Man 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Iron Man 4 (Trained)
Energy Power: Iron Man 5 (Lasers)

- While on a field tour to observe the effects of weaponry designed by his corporation for the United States military; billionaire industrialist, Tony Stark, soon finds himself face-to-face with the bold consequences of his actions.
Caught in a rebel booby trap, Stark suffers a near fatal wound that lodges a piece of shrapnel inches from his heart. The rebels take Stark hostage to demand he apply his genius to the design and construction of weapons built from their limited resources. In doing so, they provide Stark the means to construct a suit of armor that preserves his heart, and turns him into an invincible Iron Man!

Stark's mastery over technology allows him to bring his designs home, where the availability of rapidly upgrading technologies allow him to continue to refine the build to become increasingly mobile and efficient. Stark soon dons the Iron Man armor on a regular basis, not only as insurance against his life threatening injuries, but as an opportunity to atone for the wanton destruction delt by his weapons of death. Stark protects his secrets through the duality of a secret identity, projecting to the world the image of Iron Man as a hi-tech bodyguard.

Advancements in Stark's arsenal have advanced to a point where he has now undergone cybernetic synthesis on a genetic level. The armor now not only provides him with superhuman strength and an array of offensive weapons, but also gives Stark full wireless control over the armor and other peripheral devices, as well as access to information databases, including SHIELD resources under his control as Director of SHIELD. Iron Man remains a staple of the Avengers roster.

- In the 1963 origin for Tony Stark's Iron Man; the industrialist found himself the guest of Vietnamese communists. Stark was tasked with the objective of designing weapons from scrap salvaged by the enemy. Instead he was able to save himself from a fatal wound, while also fashioning a powerful suit of armor with the use of his patented micro transitor technology.

Flash forward to 2006 where Warren Ellis introduces one of many spins on the original Larry Lieber/Stan Lee origin. This time drawing upon contemporary conflicts in Afghanistan, Stark's kidnappers become faceless Afghani terrorists. Otherwise; Stark's relationship with fellow hostage, Yin Sen, and the sentiments of the nationalistic march of violence through the enemy remains the same.

The Math: Iron Man Ranking: Iron Man (#4)

What Went Down...
Having survived the donning of his crude magnetized armor; industrial futurist, Tony Stark, applies the remaining shield of his metallic new skin. The bulky, gun-metal grey armor is the product of Stark's genius, for which he was kidnapped. Though a resourceful lot, the terrorist kidnappers were foolish to leave him with tools and salvaged scrap.

The Iron Man emerges from his den, expressionless but vocal in his march.
The terrorists, armed with their weapons, turn on this bizarre automaton, seeking reprieve from it's lumbering wrath. Their bullets are meaningless to a golem of war. Their shower, ungrateful for the beast they have sponsored into being.

Run, scream, and die, do these once brave warriors.
The Iron Man fires beans of destruction from his fingertips -- the very micromuntions the terrorists had demanded. Still more hopelessly flood to claim victory over the monster of their own making. Still more die for their assault.

The Iron Man proves unappeased by the blood of his attackers.
Vengeful is this shining knight who marches through the terrorist camp, exacting his revenge with the bathing warmth of a flame thrower. He is merciless in bringing destruction to those who would purvey such acts on others.

Iron Man's ironic stampede is paused momentarily by rounds fired from a jeep, powerful enough to dent his impressive exterior. Feeling the heat, Iron Man unleashes his secret weapon, a powerful beam from his chest battery that tosses the jeep like a toy into a magnificent explosion.

Iron Man stands triumphant.
Dead, the people he was supposed to save.

The Hammer...
So marks a rather dramatic start to our overdue coverage of Iron Man!
If you're just joining us you might like to remember that the month started with the blockbuster release of Iron Man: the movie in cinemas worldwide. The film has already gone on to gross several hundred million dollars, and continues to receive acclaim that puts it in the esteem of the respected, Batman Begins.

Iron mongers might like to scroll back through Invincible Iron Month to find a peppered release of materials, including our catalogue highlights of villainous battles and Avengers commitments in the Cover to Cover; as well as the newly initiated Smash Hits, featuring music from Black Sabbath.

Fans of the film will probably find this entry fairly familiar. Despite openly drawing on influences of popular casting calls of the time, (Tom Cruise), Adi Granov digitally paints a revised origin that seems more like a storyboard for trailers, than an issue of the forty year old comic (as of this month!).

Movie makers openly acknowledge the influence of this new origin, with Adi Granov close the project contributing production artwork and design.

Warren Ellis, notorious for questionable work ethic on commision projects, puts in a solid showing on Iron Man. While the title doesn't quite devolve into rambling techno-babble, it does boast a hi-tech revamp that remains with the character today. Extremis; the name of a nano-technological bio virus designed to use the healing centres of the human body to reprogram and rebuild, and the title of the storyarc; serves a conventional six-issue arc that pits Iron Man against a new type of terrorist -- one from within!

The metaphorical struggle not only presents a less prominent face of terrorism - that of disgruntled Americans - but also sees the enemy borne from technology developed on Stark's dollar. The sum of these parts make for a thoroughly compelling and modern approach to superheroics and "the golden avenger."

It's no small wonder that Jon Favreau and the men behind the Iron Man feature film would draw upon this savvy modern story. It merges the requisite fantasy of the superhero genre with socio-economic and ethical concerns that are very relevant to today's state of affairs, touching upon not only the politics of war, but the ever-related subject of futurism and environment.

Iron Man has polarized fans over the past few years as a result of his political campaign against the notion of the masked mysterman. Tony Stark's Superhero Registration Act saw the character rise to Director of SHIELD in the absence of a rebel Nick Fury, while also positioning him as antagonist in the Civil War struggle with his freedom-touting rival, Captain America.

A background commentary on the ideals of American society subtly pitted America's dreams (Captain America), against the reality of their hopes (Iron Man), in what was an undeniably compelling concept, in spite of execution.

Tony Stark's complexities as a self-made hero and icon of the establishment makes him one of the most compelling heroes in the Marvel pantheon. Robert Downey Jr sinks neatly into a representing role that demands as much of character as it does the physical trials of being a superhero. These qualities, though resting dependently on America's military-industrial complex, and the self-serving swagger of a decadent playboy, make Iron Man an appealing character to readers/viewers worldwide.

The film, and Extremis, both do well to encapsulate elements of the realism and intrigue of the character. Like a Batman, or Spider-man; Iron Man possesses a versatility of concept that opens up connotations of these super-serious contemporary struggles, while also lending the notion to laser-firing toys, action adventures, espionage tales, and the wacked out world of the cyberpunk genre.
It's with regret, then, that we actually stop to think about the Iron Man catalogue, and the range of nemesis no doubt being considered for sequels.

We already know of potential crossovers with old sparring partner, the Hulk, as well as the concept of an Avengers megamix, but what of stories closer to Iron Man's core? Sadly, on paper iconic villains like the Mandarin, Fin Fang Foom, Titanium Man, Crimson Dynamo, Whirlwind, and the Living Laser just don't ring true for modern, film-going audiences.

Sure, just as Iron Monger was able to rise to the challenge of big screen arch-nemesis, most of these concepts have more than enough moxxy to be developed into something salvagable. Favreau himself discussed potential to develop the Mandarin into a corporate foil, drawing inspiration from the early 1990's era, but still, the concepts seem to demand so much more tweaking than rivals.

It's probably this divide that's held Iron Man from the upper crust of superhero iconography as long as it has. It seems the future of the character comes from internal struggles, as well as the modern-cues of SHIELD's counter-terrorism role, among other comparable concepts (Hydra? AIM? HATE?).

It seems tragic, yet ironic, that this titan of superhero industry would be so incapable of producing sufficient enough change that his villains would provide a big screen vehicle as obvious as Ra's Al Ghul, Joker, Green Goblin, or Magneto.

I leave you with just one previously discussed solution, and hope you've enjoyed this look at the most recent success of Iron Man. With any luck we'll be taking a look back to much earlier in the shellhead's career soon, but in the mean time, look forward to another thematic inclusion in the Iron Month Smash Hits! You almost certainly won't see this one coming, but it's food for thought!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 6

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