I want to come out and say that as far as comics to film translations go, the franchise that seems to have taken the essense of the stories and chracters and adapted them best for the screen has to be the Iron Man series. Every character retains their core in ways that are lost with films like Batman, Superman, and the X-Men films. I think the most telling moment in Iron Man 2 is when Tony Stark is clutching a bottle of champagne, suited up in the armor and scratching the turntables at his birthday party. The film is very comfortable in portraying the character in moments that otherwise would seem awkward. The films embrace the atmosphere that a billionare in a weaponized suit creates. It’s a level of fantasy fulfillment and straightforward production that seems lost in other films. It doesn’t feel very tongue in cheek, it’s just presented at face value and the audience goes with it, because it seems natural.
Which really needs to be the case in a film like Iron Man. It’s like a ride, and you have to be willing to realize that. Iron Man 2 certainly has some setbacks that are evident in most sequels. I however do not see the problem that certain people do, claiming that the film has too many new characters. All the characters introduced in the film do wonders with the time they are given. Sam Rockwell probably does the most with the limited screen time he’s given, making Justin Hammer his own and providing an excellent foil for Tony Stark and the scenes where the two share the screen are absolutely phenomenal. The chemistry between the two actors is amazing. And I think that’s another crux of what makes the film work the way it does; the chemistry that all these actors bring to their roles is as top tier as you can get. Gwenyth Paltrow, who I normally despise, works well with anyone she’s put up against. The same goes for Downey, or Don Cheadle or even Mickey Rourke, who just seethes a sort of dirty despicability. What I like about this film is that it feels like a Marvel book come to life. We get Nick Fury and the Black Widow sharing scenes with Iron Man and War Machine, all these heroes converging on screen in a way we’ve never seen before. In films like The Dark Knight, we got Batman and multiple villains, creating a miniature scale version of this effect, but that was a microcosm while this feels grander in scope.
While some will argue that War Machine and Black Widow don’t get enough time to be fleshed out completely, and therefore giving the producers no reason to use them in the first place, I think the film does a sufficient job in presenting them in such a way that when the inevitable spin-off films happen, they can hit the ground running in ways they previously could not. The origin story is such a boring aspect to most heroes, and most of the time we’re so familiar with them that we get bored when they play out on the screen, or we get angry if they change something in such a way that it betrays the spirit of the source material. I believe that with Iron Man, Marvel is doing an amazing job of world building. They have more room to maneuver than they ever have previously and it’s sad that DC can’t pull off the same feat. I personally would love to see a post-credits scene in Green Lantern where Hal Jordan is tracking a fast moving bogey only to happen upon a red blur that slows down just enough for us to get a glimpse of The Flash. Or maybe he crashes an F-15 into an invisible jet. Who cares, but let us see a larger world.
Like I said, the film is not perfect, and It probably could have used another big action scene to offset the more character driven dialogue pieces. I don’t need action all the time but the first film felt more balanced in this regard. I will admit however that the final set piece in this film trumps the less than stellar Iron Monger fight in the original, even if it is somewhat derivitive of that particular setup.
It’s plain to see the logic behind releasing this mini-series when they did. Marvel has their tentpole film slated for a May release and it’s set to feature new characters who are bound to click with at least a portion of the general populous and one of those characters will assuredly be the Black Widow. A hot redhead in a tight bodysuit kicking all kinds of ass? Yeah, people will be hip to that.
And so this miniseries will be right there on shelves in Marvel’s Premiere format hardcover by the time the movie hits theaters, ready for anybody who might want a digestible series about the character readily available to them with little to no prior knowlege of the Marvel comics universe necessary for them to enjoy it.
Of course, at the same time, the new ongoing series will be hitting shelves and Marvel is hoping that some people cut their teeth on that title as well. Using the movie and this mini-series as a springboard to launch their foray into the world of monthly graphic literature. Will it actually work? I don’t know.
That having been said, the mini-series itself is pretty much everything you could want from the character. It’s scope is long and epic and integrates the character into every facet of the Marvel universe. She crosses paths with just about every major hero in the lineup and it didn’t feel like say, the Wolverine Origins film, where they were simply namedropping people left and right at random.
The great thing about this series is that it has a very classic feel to it. It’s sort of like a Fleming James Bond novel in it’s adherence to the spy-thriller genre. I take it that has a great deal to do with British writer Paul Cornell, who hasn’t written anything for Marvel yet that I didn’t enjoy on some level. He manages to make the book accessible to new readers while at the same time making the series seem integrated with what Brubaker has done with Captain America as well as with the overall tone of the Marvel Universe at large.
The art is simply amazing as well. And that’s saying something considering that there are different styles used to set the tone for different time periods in the Black Widow’s life. Her time spent as an Avenger looks and feels completely different than her time spent with Daredevil. It’s a stylistic choice that isn’t revolutionary, but it’s refreshing to see it done well, as so many times the effect isn’t a different tone but a jarring shift that seems out of place.
So would I recommend this book? Absolutely. And I give it high marks for being a book I can recommend not just to comic afficianados, but also to newbies. That’s no small accomplishment, as many have tried to do such a thing and fallen on their asses. Hard.
I would try to say something worthwhile, but I believe the pictures speak for themselves.