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

The Story: Rhodey tries to enlist the help of an old friend and ends up finding himself in some very deep trouble.

The Review: Iron Man 2.0 is, in some ways, a frustrating issue.

Take for example how it deals with last month’s awesome and delightfully twisted cliffhanger.  Quite simply, it doesn’t.  The mad scientist mom or the idea of Palmer Addley’s transplants is never picked up, never discussed, and never even referred to.  Reading Morning Glories, this seems to be a common thing for Nick Spencer;  he’ll throw a crazy development at us, leave it clouded in mystery, and toss it aside for a few issues.

Then there’s Rhodey’s extraneous use of the suit.  Why does he have to fly in to meet Suzie Endo at an academic conference while fully decked out.  More than that, why does he have to make his entrance by exploding through a goddamned window and into the lecture hall.  It’s never really explained and frankly, I don’t think there’s any explaining it at all.

Suzie Endo herself is also a bit of an issue.  On the one hand, I liked her personality in this comic; it added a much more distinct face to Rhodey’s support team, which is something the comic definitely needs.  It gives Rhodey someone fun to bounce off of and gives the book a nice, unique character to go along with Rhodes himself.  On the other hand, however, it also forces Spencer to trawl a bit into the continuity of Rhodey’s previous failed series.  With the title being “Iron Man 2.0,” the major shift in tone, and the Salvador Larroca covers, it’s clear that Marvel is attempting to bring in readers like, admittedly, myself; that is, people very familiar with Fraction’s book but really only familiar with the current Rhodey based on his presence in that same book.  As such, referencing previous War Machine’s titles seems a little counter-intuitive to that end, especially given the book’s poor sales.

But that said, the book does do a lot of things right as well.  The opening, involving a suicide bomber attack on a military base, is expertly told and plotted again showing Spencer to be a demented guy when he wants to be.  I love it when a writer makes us yawn, expecting the inevitable and predictable twist, only to give us a way more nasty variation of that twist.  I also enjoyed the very contemporary and realistic setting that this scene employed, which is really the sort of thing that the Marvel Universe can be put to use with.

Quite honestly, the final scene was strong as well.  The sense of vulnerability imbued on War Machine is haunting, and the horror and devastation that this increasingly nebulous, Palmer Addley-related enemy is capable of is certainly affecting.  It’s hard-hitting stuff that provides War Machine with a new kind of challenge, and I like that quite a bit.  And hey, for a book divided between three artists, things do look surprisingly pretty, even coherent.

Ultimately, Iron Man 2.0 is a weird issue to review.  I think that the increased use of the War Machine suit and the references/use of previous continuity will please a lot of the old Rhodey fans put off by the first issue.  Yet, as a War Machine novice, I loved the first issue and these things ended up weakening this second issue for me.  Regardless, one thing is clear: Iron Man 2.0 is still a book that glimmers with huge potential, while working to find its feet.  Let’s hope that Marvel gives it the time  to capitalize on the former and accomplish the latter.

Conclusion: I liked it less than last month’s book, but War Machine fans may very well feel differently.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans