Sunday, May 1, 2011

I'm A CEO! Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na!

1000000% Cleaner and less weird
than the average Warren Ellis story.
This week it's the 2005 reboot of Iron Man from Warren Ellis and Adi Granov, Iron Man Extremis (or issues 1-6 of Volume 4 of Iron Man if that helps). The copy I have is the 160 page, 2007 paperback edition, which now goes for about $15. I'd point out that for a couple bucks extra you can get the 184 page, 2010 hardcover edition from Amazon, but you might have worked that already. While some might say this isn't a reboot, let's be honest, it came directly after the Iron Man tie in arc to Avengers Disassembled where the Iron Man armour tried to kill assimilate Tony in the Borg-iest way possible, and it's the start of a new Volume (a sure sign of the reboot-ness). And it retcons the Iron Man origin. On with the show, I say!

Ellis does a solid job of setting up the story, without giving away any of the details. We have a guy being injected with something, which while not lethal doesn't seem pleasant; Tony Stark under siege from the media, the board of Stark International, and himself; and Maya Hansen, a pharmaceutical engineer at a company that has obviously let something dangerous out of the bag.
From there we see Iron Man handed his butt by the Extremis enhanced Mallen, our villain, to the point where he not only wants to use the Extremis process to provide a better Iron Man, but needs it to survive.
I'm not sure what a medic is going to be able do for a guy
in a futuristic armour suit when he's not in NYC.
As part of the Extremis re-write process Tony undergoes he has flashbacks to the events that caused him to become Iron Man - and they are not the Vietnam War era origin story. Or they are, but updated to be set in Afghanistan, with the same results. The retcon doesn't bother me as it updates the origin story (if we're going to have a compressing continuity, it has to happen periodically) to make it feasible that Tony isn't in his 60s, as well as doing something that a low of retcons fail to do: it recognises that the location and similar details are mere ephemera, and that the important points are Tony's heart injury, and use of Iron Man to escape.
By this point we're more or less done with issue five, and the last issue is Tony demolishing Mallen, and solving the "mystery" of who provided the Extremis dose to Mallen in the first place.

Oh yeah, they retconned it
so this guy still dies.
I know a lot of people really like this book, and I can see why. It's well illustrated, it's simple, and sets up the Iron Man we've had since 2005. It also feels a fair bit like the version of Iron Man we get from the movies. But here's what repeat readings (say five or so) force you to notice:

  • It's very decompressed. To the point you can skip the second issue without missing any real plot.
  • Extremis shouldn't solve all of the problems Tony says it solves. (The hard upper torso elements would still need to be hard, yes?)
  • Granov's art, while pleasing at first, has that "uncanny valley" feel to it that's common of photo-tracing.
  • It all feels so unnecessary.
To be honest, I think that my opinion on this book has changed, slowly but surely, over time and numerous re-reads. There are plenty of books that I could continue to read over and over again, and have my enjoyment at least be the same each time through, if not increase (Ultimates 1 & 2 is one of those), but this is not one of them.
A common praise of this book has been that it's a great starting point for new Iron Man readers, particularly those thinking of reading based on the movies, and to be fair that used to be true a couple years ago. However, with Tony in a new armour, and the plot so very much advanced from 2005 (largely thanks to Matt Fraction) I don't know if I'd even recommend this book on that basis any more.

In the end, I think it's safe to say that my opinion of this book is that it was very much in the zeitgeist of 2005, but it hasn't dated well. I wouldn't really recommend this for many people, unless they're about to try and catch up on Iron Man from 2005 to the present.

Next week I'll start a three week review of an X-Men run that's been largely over looked since it concluded. Because it's easier than trying to retcon it out of existence.


  1. The value of these kind of reviews is not just in discovering new books to try - it's also in finding out what's best avoided. I'm going to take your word on this one and give it a wide berth. Thanks mate!

  2. I personally think it's the better review: the one that saves you money.