Monday, July 11, 2011

"Mother, I feel for the laddies"

Hey guys,
hope you all had a nice and enjoyable weekend!

I like that when I go to my local public libarary, there's usually a few new trade paperbacks in stock for me to read. I've come across some really good ones over my last few visits; be is the DC Archive collections of the early issues of Batman and Action Comics, or even the steady stream of new Marvel trades, I can't seem to get enough of 'em.

Recently this weekend, I picked up the Iron Man:Civil War and Extremis trades, as well as the Batman:Turning Points one. I highly, highly recommend picking these up and reading them if you already hadn't.

I briefly rundown why I feel their good reads, and what they are about, you know, just in case you don't already know.
Iron Man: Extremis was written by the crazy-ass but in a good way, Warren Ellis, with beautiful Adi Granov.
 This story is about Tony Stark's old friend Maya Hansen, first seen here, then later featured in other Iron Man stories, like the Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. A quick note, that too is really well-written piece of work by the Knauf brothers, and I'll be checking that one out from the library too.

Anyway, Maya Hensen's been secretly working on a new project that revolutionizes the Super-Solider serum and turns the human body into a walking, adaptable weapon. Of course since this is a super-hero story, the secret super-solider virus is stolen, and winds up in the wrong hands. From there Tony has to do damage control, but gets his ass kicked for his troubles. In fact it's so bad, he needs Maya to give him the last dose of her experimental virus so that he can not only heal himself, but to better fight the bad guy.

This is a pretty damn good Iron Man story, where new characters are introduced, but in such a way that isn't odd or out of place. We also meet both Maya and Tony's mentor of sorts, a hippy futurist of sorts by the name of Sal Kennedy. He's a real trip, and he proves as a good counter-balance to Tony Stark.
We also learn why the bad guy/terrorist does what he does, and everything leads to a nice surprising twist at the very end. I'm not going to spoil it, so please read it if you can, or else you can wiki it like everybody else does.

This is the type of story that Warren Ellis was meant to write, as it deals with technology, and the endless possibilities that exists because of the ever-evolving direction it takes. Of course concerns about the applications and the ethics onvolved are also brought up in an intelligent manner. Ellis doens't beat the reader over the head with his personal views, so much as he seeks to inform the reader about the kinds of technology that exists right now outside our backdoor. This story not only makes you think,
Of course the upgrading of Iron Man during the course of the mini-series isn't a bad thing either; you get to see what being Iron Man in the 21st century looks like, and why is its important for Tony to keep evolving, both as a human being and as Iron Man. Ellis shows why Tony Stark is a true hero, and why he is the way he is because of the tough decisions he has to make.

I wish Ellis had stayed on Iron Man, but with the way Civil War turned a lot of readers against Iron Man and certain writers vilified him, I glad Eliis left when he did.

Ellis, with his love and knowledge of new and advancing technology, is an ideal writer for Iron Man. He shows he gets how Tony thinks, especially about technology and being a futurist. Maybe one day, these two can be reunited because they are awesome for each other....and I just got all that from reading one trade.

Next up is, Iron Man: Civil War.
This trade collects the Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War one-shot, #'s 13&14 of the then regular Iron Man series, and Civil War: The Confession one-shot.

I really liked this collection of stories too, since they also explored why Tony is the way he is, and what type of man/hero he is. The 1st one-shot, Iron Man/Cap:COA, focuses on the meeting both men had with each other right before the end of Civil War. Each man expresses why they feel their opinion is right,with both sides being presented in a balanced way where you can, as the reader, see both sides, and either agree with Iron Man or Cap.

I feel writer Chris Gage does an excellent job in highlighting both character's POV in a fair and balanced manner. He also quickly covers some crucial moments in both men's relationship with each other, the highs and lows that have existed between the two. This is an example of using continuity as a useful tool to illustrate and and help your story, not be hindered by it or have to cover it/retcon it up.
You get to also see both characters briefly fight, and in the end, both men realize their differences are too much to overcome and leave. Just good, good storytelling right here.

Next, #'s 13&14 of Iron Man highlight just how hard Tony's taking the whole Civil War mess. He really believes he's doing the right thing, but that Cap and the others aren't being reasonable. You also get to see where the idea and eventual reality of Stark becoming the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. comes from. These two issues plant the seeds of that happening, so I feel readers get a real treat out of this.

Also, Happy Hogan, well, he dies. Yes, Tony's beloved and trusted bodyguard takes a dirt nap in this one courtesy of the Spymaster. Well, he doesn't die right away, but....just read or wiki it and you'll see why he had to die. The Knauf brothers do a really job highlighting Happy Hogan, and show why he was so important to Tony. His pep talk to Tony concerning the whole Superhero Registration Act is a really nice touch, and again shows why he was so valuable to Tony. Between Tony's surprise guest at the end, and the final emotional page, the readers definitely get their money's worth of this trade just from the these two issues alone.

Finally, Civil War: The Confession by Brian Bendis, shows the immediate fallout from Civil War. You see Captain America in prison, and the discussion Cap and Tony have concerning how everything just ended. Bendis may have his faults, but I really like this one, both in how it was written and the lovely art by Alex Maleev. Bendis really makes you feel for Tony and what he's now having to go through since "winning" the not so Civil War, but that doesn't mean he feels like a winner, as is shown here. And considering what we later know is going to happen, the reader's left with an uneasy feeling about the repercussions that have yet to happen.

You know, now after having time to distance myself from all the Iron Man hating that went down during that time period, I have to really think Tony got the raw end of the deal. I truthfully see why he did what he felt was right, and it really does suck to see poor Tony's reaction to what he feels is a total betrayal by his former close friends, like Spider-Man and Captain America. I think Iron Man was totally hated on and vilified not only by the fans, but also by some of the writers at the time; such as JMS in particular. He was characterized as a villain and a war profiteer, but I just don't see it now. I might have back then, but even back then, I could see why he felt the way he did. I truly think Cap and the others really should've worked more with Tony in controlling and shaping the SRA so that it would work for all of them, and quell their worries and concerns about said act. Yes, I believe Cap had a strong point about the possible abuses and down-side of the act. He would certainly know about that, but to be so pig-headed and almost blinded to negotiations and talks, doesn't really seem like the level-headed and fair Cap we've all known and loved for decades. I'm sorry, but this trade and the whole CW event itself didn't seem to really paint Cap in a good and reasonable light. Maybe this Cap was a Skrull at one point, because i really don't see Cap being this unreasonable. But that's just me.....

Lastly, Batman: Turning Points by writers Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker and Chuck Dixon, serves to illustrate and define the relationship between Commissioner Gordon and Batman. This 5-issue mini-series goes through some of the highs and lows during their years together, and just why they need each other.
I saw this project as a love-letter to both men's unique working relationship, and it's easy to see why.
All of the writers do a really good job showing the price of the war, and how it affects both men. As bad as things always look in Gotham City, these two war and world-weary men continue to show how tough they are by sticking to their guns, and never giving up. The pleasant little story at the end serves as an important reminder why they do what they do, and that hope, really does spring eternal.

Again I highly recommend this trade, both because of the stories and the art. This is intelligent, relevant, and a good showcase of why these two men are so complimentary of each other.

I believe next week, I'll pick up the 1st vol. of Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. since it looks really good, and it has the return of the Mandarin in it. Ohhhh Yeahhhhhh!

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