Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hero of the Week #29: War Machine

Real Name: James Rhodes
First Appearance: Iron Man #118 (January, 1979)
Group Affiliation: United States Military
Gaming Credentials: Marvel Super Heroes (1995); Marvel vs Capcom 2 (2000); Marvel Ultimate Alliance (2006); Iron Man (2008); Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (2009); Marvel Super Hero Squad (2009); Iron Man 2 (TBR)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #100

Once again we find ourselves looking toward 2010 with a Hero of the Week that has garnered mass attention this week, but for something that won't happen for another 100+ days. I am, of course, referring to the monumental online release of the Iron Man 2 trailer, which sets the stage for the May release of the much anticipated sequel. As you would expect of a project of this nature, there's a video game tie-in on the way, which was the basis of the more obvious HOTW: Iron Man feature, which hit back in September. The game (infamously) features dialogue by Iron Man comics writer, Matt Fraction.

Considering the first movie ran through a rapidfire upgrade cycle that condensed forty-years of comic book armor designs into about an hour of film -- you probably haven't found yourself doubting the necessity of a War Machine. Why would you? In the world of the movies, the benefits of upgrading the armor technology are right there in front of you. If you have, however, found yourself asking what extra bang you're going to get for your buck, then you might look to the comics for a little advice...

Although War Machine (aka; Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes) appears only briefly in the trailer, it speaks to two of the great strengths of the character. Okay, one of those is being a greyscaled Iron Man with giant rocket blasters and guns stuck all over him, but the other is the man inside the armor, who makes similarly brief appearances in the trailer, but can benefit from the overall tone of the preview.

In the comics, Rhodey was inserted as a soldier during the Vietnam War who teamed up with Iron Man while he was still wandering the jungles around Vietcong camps having had a lethal piece of shrapnel suspended in his chest by super-magnets. This is the kind of foundation that lies beneath the relationship between Tony Stark and Rhodes, and why, throughout the eighties and nineties, Rhodes was entrusted to share and uphold the mantle of Iron Man, himself.

Rhodes remained an integral part of Tony Stark's internal entourage for two decades before the War Machine struck out on his own. It'll be interesting to see how some of this interplay finds it's way into the movie, particularly if there's more than overwhelming odds in terms of firepower, and a little demon in a bottle working it's way into Stark's life, to force Rhodes to take the helm.

In the games, War Machine might've been largely relegated to cameos as a colour swap for the Iron Man armor, but hopefully with Don Cheadel stepping in for a less-than-impressive Terrence Howard, we'll get a look at a character on even-pegging with the titular hero. That's certainly what you'll find if you check out current issues of Invincible Iron Man, where Rhodey's been lending a hand to Pepper Potts, Bucky Barnes, Dr. Donald Blake, and Captain America, as they attempt to rebuild the fractured psyche of a vegetable Tony Stark, who inflicted this horrible fate upon himself to protect all whose secret identities he knew from Iron Patriot's Dark Reign! (Trust me, it's not as complicated as it sounds!) You'll also find a special Iron Man vs Whiplash mini-series building up the new Mickey Rourke villain that combines elements of classic foes, Crimson Dynamo and Blacklash!

That's about all you'll get outta me tonight.
Check out the trailer [above] and soak it up. I'd like to say I was giddy with excitement, but I'm really not. You'll find more of my thoughts on the Iron Man franchise over on the Infinite Wars, and more of my thoughts in general, in the Pop Arts: Best of 2009 post. Happy Holidays!

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