After four separate posts about Adam Warren I figured I’d take a break from the 24-Hour Adam Warren Station (“All Adam Warren, All The Time”) and write about somebody else. Not that I couldn’t go on and on about the guy’s art, but I’m edging into creepy-fan territory, and people are starting to talk.
So I finally saw Avengers last week, and afterwards I was seriously hyped up on a superhero high. I floated around on this dreamy cloud, remembering all my favorite bits (Hulk’s transformation, Tony’s quips, Hawkeye’s arms, etc.) and talking non-stop to all my friends about what a completely amazing movie it is. It really was like being on some drug. A really awesome drug.
So when the crash came (less than a day later) it hit hard, and I was just jonesing for more Avengers. I figured it was a little too soon to go see the movie again (though that will happen, trust me) so I hit the library to get a quick comic book fix.
Yes, the library. Hey, I’m a girl on a budget, and I can’t argue with “free.” There’s about four branches within a 20-mile radius of my apartment and they all have a graphic novel section. I’m sure yours does too. Mind you, you’ll usually have to hunt for it (they used to keep it by the fine-art books, nowadays it’s over in the young adult section) and it’s the weirdest, most random selection.
I still find neat stuff though, and I always enjoy looking around. “Why hello, Y: The Last Man Volume 6, I’ve been looking for you. Identity Crisis? Don’t mind if I do! And ElfQuest: The Discovery! I…no, on second thought, let’s not. That one’s pretty dumb. But Ultimate Spider Man Volume 20 looks good.”
So I browsed around and found a couple Booster Gold books (Blue and Gold is very fun), Batgirl: Deathwish (neat story, but the art bugs me sometimes) and finally, for my Avengers craving, Ultimate Iron Man Volume 1.
The pencils are mostly by Andy Kubert (I believe Mark Bagley takes over the last chapter of the book.) I sort of have a love/hate thing about Kubert, except it’s more of a “love/sometimes-don’t-like-as-much-but-he’s-still-pretty-good” thing. I used to only like comic art that was “pretty.” Adam Warren’s art is on the pretty side (see? I couldn’t resist bringing him up at least once.) So’s art by Joe Madureira, Wendy Pini, Jeff Smith, P. Craig Russell, and Matt Wagner; all very clean lines and beautiful faces.
But Kubert does really well with a sharp, almost sketchy style. I didn’t like it at first; his characters aren’t always nice looking, they’re a little bleak and scary-looking sometimes. But the style grows on you. He did the art for Marvel: 1602, one of my favorite mini-series, and I got used to him, and then turned into a fan. He does just as good a job in Ultimate Iron Man. There’s a scene where young Tony is trying out one of the first incarnations of the suit, and it goes a little haywire. Kubert draws one panel of Tony’s father in the observation booth cracking the hell up, and it makes you laugh just looking at it.
But it’s the writing that really dragged me into the book. It’s a reboot of the Iron Man story, and it starts with Howard Stark, Tony Stark’s father. I wasn’t even halfway through the first chapter and I already identified with all the main characters, and I’d never given Iron Man’s father a single thought before now. The dialogue is great, and the personalities are fun and interesting and believable. After a few pages I flipped back to the front of the book thinking: wow, who wrote this?
Ah. Orson Scott Card. Of course.
(If you want to talk about a real love/hate thing, I’ve got one of those for Orson Scott Card. I’m not a fan of the guy’s political views, but I have to admit he can write a hell of a story.)
The book begins with Howard Stark, head of a multi-billion dollar research company, in the midst of a divorce with his wife Loni. He doesn’t seem too concerned about this though, probably because first of all she’s a snake, and secondly he’s just met Maria, the woman who’ll become Tony’s mother. He’s asked her to work for his company so they can team up on a project; he’s created a biological liquid armor that protects the wearer from just about anything…but starts to eat your skin after fifteen minutes. She’s working on a virus that regenerates human tissue.
I’ll go completely trite and sappy for a second and say it really is a match made in heaven, on more than one level. That is, until there’s a lab accident that infects her and the baby she’s carrying.
The story gets pretty dark at this point, and ultimately Tony is born with several unforeseen mutations from the virus: he can regenerate tissue, even body parts; his brain has been enhanced well beyond genius level, with neural tissue distributed throughout his body; and he’s in constant pain. The regeneration of his skin apparently feels like third-degree burns, until he’s covered in the liquid armor that his father barely perfected in the nick of time.
The story just gets better from there on out (the explanation for Tony’s drinking problem was especially interesting). It’s got snappy dialogue and scary battle scenes and clever plotting, but the quiet bits are really neat too. Young Tony is pretty ugly at one point to Howard’s ex-wife Loni, while Howard is surprisingly decent to her; he obviously doesn’t like the woman, but he stays civil the whole time. After she leaves Howard quietly chides Tony for his behavior:
“When you’re at war, have no mercy. But when you’re not, show no hostility.”
“So you want me to be a hypocrite.”
“I want you to have the element of surprise.”
Of course, this volume is only five chapters, and it ended on a cliffhanger, and I don’t have the second volume, so now I’m experiencing an Iron Man crash. I guess I’ll have to go find the second book.
Either that or go see Avengers again. Either’s good with me.