by Nick Spencer (writer), Barry Kitson & Carmine di Giandomenico (art), Kano (art & colors), Matt Wilson (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: James Rhodes takes on a new assignment, one that challenges the limits of War Machine, as he is faced with a man who no longer exists.

The Review: It’s a rare thing, but I truly love it when I’m able to come into a book with high expectations and have those expectations be completely fulfilled.  Iron Man 2.0 is exactly what it says it is: a high-tech Iron Man-franchise title by Nick Spencer.  It has the witty dialogue that got the writer props in Forgetless and Morning Glories along with the trippy concepts a la Existence 2.0/3.0.  But let’s back up a bit and go into a bit more detail about what exactly Spencer gets right.

The issue opens with a team-up action scene between War Machine and Iron Man and an old school villain, Blizzard.  The dialogue shows Spencer’s depth perfectly.  The banter and conversation between Rhodey and Tony is comfortable and pretty damned funny overall.  The sense of camaraderie is well done.  This is balanced against Blizzard, who spouts the same ominous, surreal line in repetition (perhaps hinting at Fear Itself?  I’m not sure).  It’s a weird dynamic, but one that’s a lot of fun to read.  It’s also worth mentioning that Spencer writes a really fun Tony Stark.

Similarly strong is Spencer’s fleshing out of Rhodey’s direct superior, General Babbage, who we’ve been seeing lately in Invincible Iron Man.  Spencer quickly creates an enjoyable, blistering dynamic where the two men prod one another constantly, one overtly and the other covertly.  It’s really fun and I’m happy in that it looks to be a continuing dynamic throughout the series.

But that’s not even touching about the story itself.  Put simply, the story-arc/conflict that Spencer introduces is trippy, demented, and perfect for a high-tech series.  It’s hard to discuss without spoilers, but essentially, Rhodey is charged with tracking down a super genius that is dispersing his super projects to terrorist groups.  Except that he’s apparently doing it from beyond the grave, having committed suicide.  That alone is a great plot-line, one that hints at possible cyber-crime and high-tech hijinks that challenge the limits of Rhodey’s straightforward approach in that it’s not a threat he can fight.

The real genius though, is when Spencer reveals, or at least hints, at how this genius, one Palmer Addley, is continuing and propagating his schemes.  It is really twisted and completely awesome and had me salivating for issue number two, as any good first issue should.

The artwork is also absolutely superb on every front.  It carries a fantastic, European flavor throughout, bringing to mind Heavy Metal magazine.  While having three artists on one issue usually spells disaster, two of the men have very similar styles, while the third is similar enough in tone and atmosphere to keep his work from jarring.  The work suits the book perfectly and the European feel gives that light, surreal touch that works very well with the overall plot and that crazy cliffhanger.

To be honest, it’s hard to think of much wrong with this issue.  I guess we didn’t get too much of Rhodey in the War Machine suit blasting stuff, but if you’re going to complain about something like that for an issue like this, that probably says more about you than it does the creative team.

Conclusion: Is anyone hotter than Nick Spencer right now?  Buy this book!  I will be very angry at all of you if this ends up as another quick sales casualty.

Grade: A-

-Alex Evans