A faster one than sometimes...

*Just some reviews of the new superhero books today. Both are fair enough, inoffensive time-passers, one with some nice thought put into its action. You know.

Iron Man #3


Much explosion! Here’s the issue where we get right down to brass tacks and put Iron Man and the carrier of the Extremis solution together in a big field for a big fight. The themes as established in prior issues aren’t forgotten, though; they’re just filtered through sockings and blasticuffs in the Mighty Marvel Manner.

Tony Stark is still trying to pump himself up over what a good thing Iron Man is and how he’s not an awful arms dealer and an indirect killer and all of that, and what better way to soothe his aching conscience then my quashing the rampage of a science-weapon run amok? It’s time to show these domestic terrorists what responsible weaponry can do! Oh, right, ‘domestic terrorists’. It turns out that the Extremis carrier is a wholly generic gun-nut militiaman who’s scarred because he watched his survivalist clan get wiped out by the Feds in a disastrous standoff when he was a kid. I could have done without the too-obvious beer bottles strewn about the family floor, but the massacre scene (a b&w flashback) is actually quite nicely set up, as each panel simply jumps from the moment of death of one family member to another, offering some nice style to distract from the ferocious blandness of the scene’s story content.

Most of the issue, however, is a big fight, and writer Warren Ellis and artist Adi Granov lavish particular attention on the collateral damage caused simply by Iron Man and his for blasting each other around. Stark begins by using his blasters with surgical precision, cutting off his target from any back-up and leading him away from civilians. But this line of engagement simply cannot be maintained in a world of super-strength, as Tony finds himself flung onto a highway, a simple enough act that results in a chain-reaction of innocent suffering, sending out hero right back into the pits of despair and clinging doubt about his place as a hero. Then the somewhat stiff combat continues, with enough surprises deployed to keep your attention (I’ve got you now… how about a crushing punch… well how about ELECTRIC NEEDLES… yeah, well how about TINY EXPLODING DOTS… ok, well how about I BREATHE FIRE RIGHT IN YOUR FACE… and so on and so on, almost on a steady beat, a tit-for-tat).

It’s pleasant enough grinding superhero fighting, kindly tied into a running theme. Nothing fresh but nicely played. The only real downside is that the issue’s cliffhanger basically feels like the creative team ran out of pages and had to stop; after Iron Man has been flung into oncoming traffic and electrocuted and set aflame, the prospect of getting smashed with yet another car isn’t much of a nail-biter. Still - decent.

Tom Strong #32

I couldn’t help but notice the new ad for “The 49ers”, the upcoming “Top Ten” graphic novel. The text hails the book as “A landmark event!” Apparently, it’s Alan Moore first-ever original graphic novel! Except, well, it’s not. Did everyone at DC forget about “A Small Killing”? It just got re-released by Avatar last year, after all. I’d hate to think that DC doesn’t have their Alan Moore history straight, though I think such a possibility is preferable than the other option: DC banking on their target audience not knowing (or caring) themselves. Le sigh.

Michael Moorcock wraps up his spin on the “Tom Strong” tribute raceway this issue, and it feels like something’s missing; everything just seems to be jumping from one event to the next with little time for breathing. I know that Moorcock is using at least one of his own stock characters in this storyline, so maybe seasoned Moorcock fans will get a little more out of it?

Basically, it’s the old Monkeys v. Pirates trick, as wild gorillas attack Tom’s pirate team as they venture through a multiverse jungle or something, accompanied by an alternate-reality version of Tom’s wife, which accomplishes precisely nothing that simply bringing Tom’s real wife along could have done. There’s fast adventure, then a discovery of an Ancient Item, then a quick summary of what exactly the hell the Ancient Item is, then a few pages of grave danger, then Tom saves the day with the special item that he introduced at the top of last issue, in case you didn’t already think that it was gonna come in handy. Also: Solomon establishes himself as King of the Apes in an amusing twist on the usual play of that particular yarn. I also recall that last issue, the ‘book’ was broken up into ‘chapters’ of a few pages each. Apparently, that idea was dropped for this issue, ‘Book 2’.

Jerry Ordway’s art sure looks nice, though, and Moorcock delivers plenty of action and danger for him to whip up. It’s a lighter-than-air Silver Age-type story, full of time-travel and daring and hasty plotting and villains and stuff. It’s an almost archetypical issue of “Tom Strong”, except that Moore and Sprouse could have added a bit more zip and spark. The book suffers in their absence, but the malady is not yet terminal, as I can see it.