Friday, May 13, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #21

Digital comics are the future of comics, so says everyone on the Internet and everyone trying to justify their purchase of an iPad and leveraging that into a desperate attempt to generate content for their blogs and stuff. It is in this spirit that the management at Witless Prattle continues the following new, exciting, weirdly specific and slightly iconoclastic feature.

Iron Man #21

October 1999

"Burning Need"

Writer: Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern

Artists: Mark Bagley (pencils) Eric Cannon (inks)

Oh good, we're back now.

So, Iron Man helps stop a fire at a Roxxon Oil refinery, when Warbird shows up and allows Iron Man to angst about her not-too-credible alcoholism subplot and the fact he keeps having to ID corpses of Madame Masque.

In the B-story, featuring art by the very solid but for some reason curiously maligned Tom Grummet (seriously, people HATE his stuff and I have no idea why. Like Bagley's art it's solid but not flashy. Maybe that's it) anyways, on with the story--Tony Stark meets Sam McGee, annoyed and extraordinarily bitchy charter pilot who hates flying, hates the cold, and probably hates being so thinly drawn, too.

Wackiness involving some buried treasure ensues and there's some shooting, a misunderstanding which is quickly cleared up and involves a lot of talking and there's a lot of exposition that they've found a hidden temple which contains the Brazier of Balthakk (yeah, just go with it, it'll be over sooner) and Sam, who looks at hidden mystical relics of great power and immediately thinks "Yeah, the mystical fire pit thing is just my ticket outta debt!" ends up transformed into Inferno, one of the Exemplars, who shoots Iron Man down (hey, it's a Busiek book, did you really think we'd make it all the way through without him being curb-stomped once?) and the whole thing is continued in Thor #16.

This issue is, to be gentle, a bit of fluff. The Madame Masque thing, which will be resolved in Avengers, ticks over here and the Exemplars stuff, which will also culminate in Avengers, ticks over and the fact that the whole book seems to involve subplots from other books wandering through make reading it feel . . .well, a bit limp.

It's easy to see why the Exemplars never really caught on (I don't think, apart from Juggernaut) they appear after "The Eighth Day" and it's not hard to see why--they're not very interesting characters before they change, spend most of their time as Exemplars under the influence of Exemplarness, and really never have a chance to come alive. Oh sure, the designs Ladronn did for them are excellent, but Juggernaut works because he's phenomenally powerful, but the prime exercise of his power is his jealously regarding his brother--there's a tragedy implicit that Juggernaut wastes his potential on a pretty petty conflict, but a conflict we can understand because we've all been jealous of someone.

So of course, the best thing to do to move the character forward after his 2000s-era face turn was to give him a hammer and some Tron lines, and name him NoNekk, Breaker of Wind, I guess.

But that's just a free shot at Fear Itself, back to the Exemplars: Without that central conflict in their characters, they're all kind of midldly pissed off about something that's infodumped so quickly we never get a feel or connection with them.

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