By: Nathan Edmondson (Writer), Matteo Buffagni (Artist), Andy Troy (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer)
The Review: I get the impression that the Ultimate Comics editorial team is fairly flexible with their corner of canon, happy to let new creators come on board and add to their characters’ mythologies with a decent degree of autonomy. If they hit Gold the plot can perhaps be worked into the relevant ongoing title and if it’s bad it can always be glossed over – anything in the middle is just a neat story, a satisfying extension of the universe. In the case of Ultimate Comics Iron Man I’ve little doubt that this will turn out to be an enjoyable standalone tale, but I also have modest hopes that it could be something more. Edmondson seems to be aiming high, attempting to expand upon the hero’s more permanent roster of confidants and rogues, and to delve into some of the more divisive moments in the character’s formative years. Not a bad idea at all, especially considering that Tony Stark is perhaps one of the more overlooked characters in the Ultimate line.
After surviving the Mandarin’s tech-orientated attack on his company and armour last month, this issue picks up with Tony taking stock of the fallout and setting out a plan to get to the bottom of who or what exactly the Mandarin is. He’s soon joined by the President’s Chief of Staff, Carol Danvers, who’s keen to do the same, even if she has to dodge some of that famous Stark ‘charm’ to do so – Tony’s all over her like an Extremis cocoon but is swiftly put in his place. A little bit of probing and discussion prompts a quick trip across the Pacific to Hong Kong and the source of the cyber-attack, an investigation that goes awry with the interjection of yet more troublesome attack drones and a further breach of Tony’s now drastically compromised armour.
So, thwarted once more, Stark takes some time to lick his wounds and decides that he might need some help with this one, especially if facing the enemy means antagonising the Chinese military in the process. He drops in on James Rhodes who, despite being in the middle of a test flight, still manages to find time to chat. I found most of their talk a little bewildering as it refers to previous interactions between the characters that I’m not otherwise aware of (Tony kicked Rhodey out of his office once? Hmm, maybe I need to finally track down Warren Ellis’ Ultimate Armor Wars series…) but mostly sheds light on what comes next for Iron Man; learning to keep his enemies close yes, but his friends even closer.
After all, like I said before I believe Edmondson is focusing on doing some serious world-building for the character and setting him up with a larger support network for, I don’t know, maybe an ongoing series? And unless I’m reading this wrong, could Rhodes be about to become the much-solicited Ultimate Iron Patriot? It’s certainly a move that’d tie him into the upcoming Iron Man 3…
Anyway, I digress. To surmise there’s a good amount of intrigue to this book and a believable note of corporate espionage. The Mandarin may in fact turn out to be a company or conglomerate rather than a magic-wielding villain, and one with links to Tony’s father and Stark Industries going back more than a decade. It’s not necessarily the kind of treatment I was expecting Edmondson to deliver for Ultimate Mandarin but, even if it is just a diversionary tactic, it’s still an engaging development. With some nice character work and a couple good doses of action, this is moving the story along nicely.
Buffagni’s artwork is noticeably improved from last issue, though to be honest I was already quite taken with it and his work with Tony in the armour remains slick and pretty. A scene where Iron Man is investigating an office block at night (with Andy Troy’s colours creating some fantastic moody lighting) really stands out – somehow I’ve never really seen the suit lit up like that before – and the scenes focusing on Stark’s disagreements with Carol Danvers show a much more impressive handling of talking heads and body language. Some of the action could be a little clearer, but overall the book’s still got a really nice look to it.
Conclusion: Hitting the halfway point while still holding much of the Mandarin mystery in reserve, Ultimate Comics Iron Man is one of the more impressive Ultimate mini-series of late, and a solid addition to the line. If it isn’t, as I expect, being used to test the waters for a potential ongoing series for the character it should still be commended for carrying itself with a similar commitment to quality and for attempting to leave its hero in a better state than they found him in. If you’re an Ultimate Comics fan and not picking this up, worry not as I’m sure this’ll read brilliantly as a collected volume, though I’d still heartily recommend jumping in on the ground floor.
Filed under: Marvel Comics, Reviews Tagged: | Andy Troy, Carol Danvers, James Rhodes, Joe Caramagna, Marvel, Marvel Comics, Marvel Reviews, Matteo Buffagni, Nathan Edmondson, the Mandarin, Tony Stark, Ultimate Iron Man, Ultimate Marvel