A pair of first issues.

Iron Man #1

The first thing that came to mind when flipping through this issue was something along the lines of “Well, this looks just like Fred Beltran!” Or, to be precise, Beltran’s work on the now-terminated “Metal Hurlant” serial “Megalex”. The characters and environments in that story were largely produced from 3d computer models; the results occasionally resembled screenshots from a video game, but Beltran was pretty good about switching up environments and playing around with the uniform look of some of the human models, stretching realistic mutations out of core character designs. Adi Granov’s art in this book, the latest relaunch of a Big Marvel Superhero, is a little more distinct and painterly; I guess he’s using Photoshop effects over inked art, with textures plugged in over simple backgrounds. Regardless, the finished visuals have the same sparse, antiseptic effect I got from Beltran’s 3d work; even dirty walls are ‘clean’ dirty, with even the muck looking fit to eat off of. The ultra-smooth characters seem fashioned from latex, ripples and veins in their flesh resembling an fx crew’s wires, ready to pump Karo syrup out from under the make-up. It’s certainly grounded in realism, but it's awfully chilly.

And yet, I picked the book up. At 32 pages of comics there’s a little extra story content for your $3.50. Maybe the slight thickness and the distinct art style momentarily bedazzled me into thinking I was actually picking up a new “Metal Hurlant”. Or maybe it was just a slow week, and I felt like getting something I was on the fence about. And I have to say the book at least lived up to my somewhat low expectations.

I’m not much of an Iron Man fan, so I don’t know how many times his origin has been updated to the present day before this. It might be relaunch scripter Warren Ellis’ idea to tie the familiar story of Tony Stark into the first Gulf War. The general outline remains the same: ambitious young genius is involved in weapon deals with the military, gets himself injured, needs to develop secret armor to keep himself alive, takes the opportunity to become a mystery crusader for justice under the guise of working as his civilian identity’s own bodyguard. Of course, this Tony Stark no longer needs the armor to keep him alive. The high rate of technological development in the Marvel Universe allowed him to definitively cure his condition years ago. But Stark has gotten to enjoy the superhero life, which maybe provides a justification for the continued development of his technology, which continues to be used to kill people years after its initial deployment. Stark needs no power fantasies, being already powerful; he has humanist fantasies instead.

Much of this is presented (or reiterated) during a particularly self-destructive interview Stark has granted to a Liberal Documentary Filmmaker, who kindly prompts the mandatory origin story. When asked by the filmmaker why he’s even allowing such an interview to take place, Stark smirks that the man is invisible to American culture at large and asks him if he’s ever really changed anything. Since he’s not a major character and we really need to finish the scene, all of the fire instantly escapes from the filmmaker’s cheeks and he admits that he doesn’t really know, displaying the sulky face that philosophically challenged minor characters always do in these situations. Ah, but Ellis’ Stark secretly identifies with the man, for he too must remain invisible as he hopes to do good within his armor; the real point of the interrogation is for Stark to examine whether or not he‘s truly accomplishing anything of value with his life, since fellow officers in his corporation don't seem to share his benevolent dreams. So he walks away and dumps some more exposition into a personal voice recorder (handy narrative gadgets, those) and straps on the armor to enjoy the simple pleasure of flight. “Little does anyone suspect that millionaire industrialist Tony Stark is really fighting for justice as the Invincible Iron Man,” Stark would no doubt muse had the script been written by Stan Lee. But instead the point is conveyed by crowds of protesters outside Stark International lowering the picket signs and gaping at Iron Man flying overhead, declaring him ‘cool’, the secret bleeding heart of corporate America come out for a drip.

There’s the beginning of a plot too, of course. A mystery drug has been sold to some guy who’s now transforming into a super-powered monster. In a dandy of a coincidence, the drug was smuggled from the very lab where Stark’s current girlfriend is working. Hurry, Iron Man! Use your Good Science to counteract the Bad Science - just like what you’re doing within your personal life! Yow!

And again, I’ll note that I’m unsure as to how much of this updating is directly Ellis’ work, mainly in regards to the facts of the origin. But I do know that it’s a more effective implementation of the Iron Man character than I'd anticipated, with decent characterization. It’s tough to tell how well the plot might develop from here, but as an introductory issue it does what’s needed to keep the new reader attentive and willing to follow it for at least another month.

Wild Girl #1 (of 6)

Contrary to what Wildstorm’s website has to say, this is a 'Wildstorm Universe' book and not part of the ABC line, in case that mattered at all.

This first issue is pleasantly bizarre and fast paced. Following a short prologue in which little Rosa asks her mom if she can be a ‘wild girl’, we jump forward a few years. The somewhat older Rosa abandons her home when a bird crashes into her family’s apartment window, giving her visions of terrible destruction. She then lives on the streets, the same street, actually, mainly for the benefit of a XX Days Until Christmas passage-of-time effect, presumably begging for food and eking out survival for months. Unless she stole a handful of money from her apartment on the way out the door (maybe that’s why her mom’s standing at the window weeping). She also has a gorgeous J.H. Williams III illustrated dream sequence, then she meets up with a strange man who seems to want to help her, but then he doesn’t. Oh, she can also talk to animals.

Perhaps I’ve been forever biased against all other ‘homeless girl with amazing powers’ comics, but I kept thinking of “Street Angel” as I went through this book, particularly in the concluding chase sequence. Street Angel would have just turned around and kicked that guy’s ass, although she’d still probably have lost her shoe. But “Wild Girl”, scripted by Leah Moore and John Reppion, is more modest in its wackiness; scary snapping serpent-dog heads are offset by long wordless passages building mystery and mood into the premise, and also speeding up the reading time. The mood’s never too intense though; this actually might prove to be decent series to give to kids, with its likable young heroine and colorful art. The majority of that art is provided by Shawn McManus, who’s got an appealing style; kind of an animation-ready solidification of Sam Kieth‘s flexy deformations. All in all, a light bit of fun.