Iron Man: Extremis

As it turns out, there’s a metric ton of stuff for me to read right now. Last week’s releases alone saw The Flash, Red Hood and the Outlaws, the final volume of Sandman and the voluminous tome collecting all of Avengers vs. X-Men. All of these are sitting on a bedside table, waiting to be perused and punctured by my scathingly awful wit, but they’re going to take some time – especially the latter title, since it’s big enough to smack someone unconscious with.

So that leaves me with a retrospective week until I can be arsed to get up and go through these new excuses to fund the comics industry. But what to review? Batman seems like fairly well-trod ground, the X-Men are probably the equivalent of loaned-out prostitutes on this blog and my plans for the Daredevil books involve a VS. review that I’m simply non compus mentis right now to construct. My weekend has involved no small amount of Heineken.

Well, since there’s a brand spankin’ new film featuring the Crimson Avenger next year, I figure it’s time to give him a look again. I’ve already elucidated how awesome Matt Fraction’s run is, but I’m stepping back a little bit more here. This is the book that, by and large, revitalized the character and provided more than enough fuel for movies to one day be made. It’s so good, in fact, that it’s part of the basis for 2013’s Iron Man 3, so consider this a SPOILER ALERT for anyone who doesn’t potentially want elements spoiled in this review.

So when the initial issues came out in 2005, the Avengers had been ravaged by the events of Disassembled and it was apparent they were going to be split down the middle for a good while. One of the biggest heroes affected by the change, and a later proponent of what would later become the Superhero Registration Act, was Iron Man. Extremis, being the first story for him post-Disassembled, deals with a bioengineered superweapon – the eponymous Extremis – being stolen by persons unknown and used on a dude who looks like Goyle from the Harry Potter books. This dude ends up going on a rampage and killing a shedload of people, and it’s up to Iron Man to take him down, discover the true nature of Extremis, and also confront his checkered past in order to move forward into the future.

Fans of the first movie may find a number of familiar elements in the backstory, where Tony Stark tells through flashbacks how he was kidnapped by Middle Eastern extremists and forced to make the original Iron Man suit IN A CAVE!! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!!! There really is a lot of Extremis‘ DNA in the Iron Man movies, and it’s a marvelous jumping-on point for new readers. I picked this up a couple of years ago, with no prior knowledge of Iron Man beyond the films themselves, and rolled with it easily. The characters are greatly defined, and Tony’s playboy antics are present if a little bit toned down. It’s a great snapshot at the larger world of Iron Man, presenting a lot of facets that would later become integral to the character’s contemporary presence while establishing past elements that appear to have been modernized – such as the origin story – to better appeal to current readers. Warren Ellis’ script is also deft at establishing motivation and characterisation, giving a very cinematic experience within the comic that doesn’t solely rely on big explosions and buckets full of exposition to grab an audience.

The illustrations by artwork savant Adi Granov only augment the awesomeness of the story. It’s a very CG and normal artwork blend that works brilliantly, even if at times the human faces look a little like something Pixar might make after a night on vodka cocktails. The fight scenes, while not overwhelming, are the best drawn and coloured within the book, and every appearance of the iconic Iron Man armour not only looks bloody gorgeous but also has enough realistic definition to carry a great sense of “Hell yeah!” whenever it appears to kick the crap out of whichever villain is on-panel at the time.

Mostly, Extremis comes across as a very human story, hence no reliance on staple Iron Man villains like the Mandarin or anyone from the Stane family. Tony, as the main character, is the driving force behind everything that happens, acting sympathetic to readers while still displaying the roguish traits we know and love from the movies. If you’re looking for somewhere to start with Mr Stark’s escapades you could do worse than either this book or Fraction’s titanic super-run, so definitely check it out.

Now, apologies are in order for A. not posting anything last week and B. not posting anything new this week. NaNoWriMo, work and the usual plethora of lame excuses all got in the way. It’s back to schedule now, so something new will appear next Sunday – unless Mitt Romney decides to exact revenge on Obama by nuking Australia. Coz somehow, that’ll totally piss him off.

STORY: 4/5

OVERALL: 12/15

BEST QUOTE: “Okay, have fresh clothes and coffee sent down to the garage. The gallon drum of coffee. And possibly some kind of intravenous drip.” – Tony Stark

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