Iron Man: Extremis

Iron Man: Extremis

I’d been feeling kinda guilty for only reading DC books lately, so I jumped at the chance to delve further into a Marvel character I’d read next to nothing about, Iron Man. My knowledge base for the red and gold man of metal is primarily provided by the films. I’ve read a few Avengers comics before, and while he is a member of the team, you don’t really get a sense of his character. Mostly he just flies around and blasts stuff. My other reason for wanting to read this particular story is that I’ve heard it rumoured that the 3rd Iron Man film might be inspired by Extremis. I guess I should say that, if these rumours are true at all, then this little blog will probably be a little spoiler-y for the future film. You have been warned!

*** Plot Spoilers ***

Written by Warren Ellis with art by Adi Granov, Extremis tells the story of a new bio-electronic virus that basically rewrites the DNA of the person who takes it, causing their body to rebuild itself however the Extremis virus was programmed. This basically can give them any super powers wanted. That’s if they can survive the process of their own body basically gutting itself. To make a long story short, a terrorist named Mallon gets his hands on it, survives the process, and goes on a killing spree. Iron Man does his best to stop him, but Mallon far out classes him in almost every way. Tony Stark is left seriously wounded with few options left after that. You know what they say, if you can’t beat them, join them. Tony takes the Extremis virus, after a few tweaks of his own of course.

*** End of Spoilers ***

While the end results of this story mean massive changes for Tony Stark and his alter ego Iron Man, the overall story was pretty bland. There are basically only two action scenes with Iron Man, and walls and walls of dialog going on about morals and fake science. This probably wouldn’t have bothered me that much if any of it were very significant, but most of what is said could probably have been summed up in a few lines, instead of the pages and pages it takes up. Also, while Adi Granov’s art is great for those statuesque covers, I found it dull and cold feeling within the panels of the comic. He’s great at making Iron Man look solid and powerful, but his art just didn’t lend itself well to the human characters. It definitely falls into that “Uncanny Valley” problem a few times. It also lacks a sort of dynamic nature, making every scene feel still, and stilted when it came to what should have been fast, flowing, and action-packed fight scenes. My final complaint is that while his people are very detailed, his backgrounds leave much to be desired, often completely empty, with nothing around his stone-like people.

I can appreciate the important impact this story has on the Iron Man character and his abilities, which are undeniably cool, but this is a hard book to recommend as a purchase. I was left feeling like not much had happened overall, and that this was clearly just a long-winded, kinda boring story simply to alter the character for the future. I still have some interest in the Iron Man character, but I’m hoping future stories have more of that funny, pompous, and arrogant Tony Stark I like so much in the movies, which was completely absent from this book. Basically, I’d only say pick this title up if you’re super curious about what might be in the next Iron Man film, or if you want to know more about his abilities. Then again, you could just read Wikipedia.

The Pulse: Thin Air

The Pulse: Thin Air

While I’ve been reading plenty of Batman comics recently, that’s mainly because I’ve never read any Batman, so there’s still plenty of fresh and major stories out there for me to read. My true comic book heart is with Spider-Man though. He’s easily the character I’ve read about the most, and the one I want to most read about in my attempt to catch back up to present day. Of course, that all takes time, and more importantly, money.

So my quest to save money on comics continues with buying trade paperbacks. It’s also pretty hard trying to track down all the individual issues. The Spidey book that was recommended to me at the comic shop was The Pulse. I had recently read the first issue of Alias which I really liked and The Pulse is actually related to that series. Alias is more of a detective book set in the Marvel universe, which I hope to talk more about at a later date. The Pulse was an attempt to bring those characters more into the fold of the Marvel universe by bringing its main character Jessica Jones into the Daily Bugle, which is famously the paper Peter Parker works at. This book, however, is less about Spider-Man, and more about the inner workings of the Daily Bugle newspaper. The vision we’re given is that of the reporters looking onto the Marvel version of New York, and trying to get a big story in a world filled with super powered people.

Jessica Jones and boyfriend Luke Cage

The Pulse has a number of characters that many new to comics may not be familiar with. Even I didn’t know quite a few of these people. Some I have heard of in passing, others I was almost totally unaware of. The book tries its best to introduce them, and it does so with mixed results. Since I’ve only read the first issue of Alias, I pretty much only know the name of Jessica Jones, and that she was a private investigator in that series, and apparently had some involvement with The Avengers a long time ago. Beyond that I have no idea who she is or even what she can do. Luke Cage is another person I’ve heard of before that features pretty strongly here, but again, I’m not very familiar with him either. Sadly the book pretty much assumes the reason you’re reading it is for those characters, which makes sense in one way, but didn’t help me out much since I bought it mainly as a Spider-Man fan.

There are some other new characters, though, that it does a very good job introducing to the reader, and they ending up being more key to the story it seemed than what seemed to be the main characters Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. They were Ben Urich, a long time reporter at the Daily Bugle, and a woman by the name of Terri Kidder who is also a reporter at the paper, but she has only been there a few weeks.

The book starts off with a few pages introducing the fact that Jessica Jones will now be working at the Bugle for a new superhero themed section of the paper called The Pulse. It will be a positive look at the lives of heroes, instead of always negatively bashing them as owner/publisher J. Jonah Jameson always wants to do. But the main story is about this new reporter Terri Kidder. Terri is afraid she’s going to lose her new dream job because she hasn’t been able to come up with a story of any kind since she started. In desperation, and after hearing some rumours from a friend about people going missing at Oscorp Industries, she sets out to investigate it on her own. Let’s just say, things don’t go well. Believe it or not, and this kinda came as a surprise to me, but in the Marvel universe Norman Osborn has never been revealed, or at least never been proven to be the Green Goblin. I had so taken for granted that fact that I had never even stopped to think about it, and it’s that fact that this story is all about. It seems that in stories in the past, Ben Urich had attempted to out Osborn, but he only had speculation, never any proof. This time, it’ll be all or nothing.

Ben Urich knows, but can he get proof?

Overall I enjoyed the story and new perspective the book gave, that of the reporters in a world of super powered heroes and villains. While I’m normally a fan of artist Mark Bagley’s work in Ultimate Spider-Man, it didn’t feel right in this book, which had a more serious and realistic tone to it. Also, it didn’t help that Jessica Jones just looks like a slightly older Kitty Pride he drew from the Ultimate books. Writer Brian Michael Bendis does fantastic work as usual and captures great dialog between people, and really gives the characters a unique voice on the paper. I really liked Ben Urich as a new character (to me) and I’d be interested in reading more about him.

This wasn’t one of the best stories I’ve ever read, and I’m not sure how well it would work for someone totally new to comics. I managed it pretty well, but I did have a problem getting a sense of who Jessica Jones is, but perhaps reading Alias will help with that. The book doesn’t work very well as a stand-alone piece I guess is what I’m getting at, but it has its interesting points for Spider-Man fans, or those very interested in the finer details of the Marvel universe in general. If it’s action you’re looking for though, you may want to steer clear of this one, as it is largely a character piece and more about the investigation than the few fights that break out in its pages.