Hey, it's another version of Iron Man's origin but with a more realistic approach to booze abusing! So it's over to the Master of The Mai-Tai hissownself Mr. Howard Victor Chaykin, with an assist from Mr. Gerald Parel, to bring all the short term memory loss, vomiting, visuo-spatial impairments, erectile dysfunction and renal failure fans of The Inebriated Iron Man demand! Anyway, this...
IRON MAN: SEASON ONE Art by Gerald Parel Written by Howard Victor Chaykin Lettered by VC's Clayton Cowles Cover art by Julian Totino Tedesco Marvel, $24.99 (2013) Iron Man created by Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee
Here we have what I like to call Iron Man: Season of Pissed. I guess an editorially assigned OGN about Iron Man is to a Creative like HVC as a grey day at the office is for an Uncreative like me. Rather than just leadenly type out another lump of chump bait Chaykin's enough of a professional to want to do a decent job. Faced with the umpty umpth (already superceded) origin of the drunk in the metal trunks Chaykin manfully tries to find enough nooks and crannies in between the editorial requirements to make it interesting; interesting for both himself and the reader. He succeeds to the extent that my mind never quite glazed over, as sudden flares of Chaykin burst through frequently enough to keep me on my toes. Heartbreakingly , for me, he can’t go Full Chaykin as this is intended for all those New Readers who want to read Iron Man’s origin after watching those movies. One of which was Iron Man’s origin. Of course HVC’s Iron Man origin is quite similar but also quite different from the movie origin because confusing your audience makes sense. And it does make sense, the only sense that matters; financial sense. Because this “OGN” was originally a 6 six issue mini-series, but you probably missed this when it first came out in pamphlet form, because it never came out in pamphlet form. These contents preceded even the 2008 Iron Man movie and have only now been released, because, hey, it’s been paid for! I hear a cleaner recently found some sketches Jack Kirby did on the back of the cubicle door in the Gent’s which Brian Bendis will dialogue for Christmas release. Early indications are that it seems to involve Stan Lee being attacked by a donkey with five legs or something. Anyway, there’s been no attempt to reconfigure this work for release as an OGN and since Marvel don’t even spring for chapter breaks the narrative doubles back on itself at least once; unjustly making Chaykin appear possessed of short term memory loss much like the loveable liquid fuelled lothario, Tony Stark.
Of course dynamic tights and fights action isn't really HVC’s main area of interest so he provides himself metaphorical matchsticks under his eyes by breaking out his classic Hero’s Journey narrative. It works pretty well too, since Tony Stark is a self-involved pisshead. Nowadays of course Tony starts off as a cheeky tippler rather than the owner of a dodgy ticker. Heart problems were okay for the ‘60s, but clutching your chest and grimacing is what old people do and lacks the sexy glamour of staring into a mirror with a big sad stubbly face. By the end of course Tony’s still a dipsomaniacal dickhead but a teeny bit less self-involved since he has had a Moment of Clarity. A couple of such Moments actually because drink really does a number on those brain cells so it can take a bit for stuff to sink in. HVC gets to do a slightly more realistic drunk than that of old ‘80s comics with Tony doing a little bit of sick on some fit girl’s feet and blacking out but, alas, Tony never wets himself so badly his suit shorts out leading to a thrilling incontinence inspired brush with death. Nor does his Moment of Clarity involve waking up pantsless on a strange couch bleeding from a scalp wound with his thighs caked with his own shit. Hey, we’ve all been there.
It’s a book about Iron Man’s origin updated to the deserts of today’s Terrorist Bad Guys, with a twin set of foes to provide contrast to our hiccuping hero. First up there's HVC's reliable doppleganger who made the wrong choices in the form of The Fundamentalist Ex-Friend. He, in his jerry-rigged suit and certainty of purpose, provides the stark (!) contrast with our more equivocal but better equipped bottle suckler. Because he had 6 theoretical issues HVC doubles down and throws in his usual White Collar Wankers as well. This is a pretty generous allotment of threats to throw at someone who has trouble finishing a sentence so there's certainly some suspense. Luckily Pepper Potts is around in strong ,but definitely, supporting role. Mind you, the white collar bunch’s plan basically amounts to little more than skimming off the top of a budget. The fact that HVC sees this as a cunning plan suggests HVC has never dealt with builders. I bet he has people to do that for him. It all builds nicely with the various threads and threats converging into one big climactic confrontation. It's professional stuff by a professional man. Mind you, HVC does fluff the action finale (if something very (very!) big falls on the villain while he is astride Iron Man then doesn't Iron Man get crushed also?) Actually, that could be a failure of staging on the part of the artist, Gerald Parel. This was his first work for Marvel but clearly isn't his first work ever as he's quite accomplished. Yeah, I like Parel’s work here; work which has a painted look but a soft and flowing aspect as opposed to, say Alex Ross’ doggedly defined offerings. In contrast, Parel’s approach provides rich textures which suggest detail and thus avoid slowing the eye down. Also, Parel is very keen on placing a young lady’s bottom in the panel foreground. Maybe he is just a frisky young man bursting with the sap of Spring or maybe he’s trying to stay awake as he draws another warehouse; one of the many through which our white collar villains persistently stroll practically rubbing their hands together as they explain their complex embezzlement plot very vaguely. It’s attractive stuff and cinematically framed throughout but except for the odd burst it’s hardly dynamic, and sometimes there's a kind of flaky effect like the image has degraded. Ironically much as the titanic talent set of Iron Man’s original artist Dashing Don Heck was ill served by flights and tights these pages suggest Parel might shine brighter in a different genre.
Oh, it’s an Iron Man OGN detailing a more up to date origin written with facility and not a little flair, illustrated pleasingly if slightly passively. Overall it suffers because I judge everything Iron Man by the Gold standard of that time he went back in time to Camelot and punched Doctor Doom in his metal tits. Compared to that this is, like much else in life, just GOOD!
Of course Marvel have endearingly neglected to credit the creators of Iron Man without whom this book, those films and all those billions of Hollywood dollars wouldn't exist. That’s okay because I’ve nothing but time. So yet again; decency costs nothing.
Iron Man was created by Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.
Those being the men without whose efforts Robert Downey Jnr would be charismatically portraying nothing. I understand they even get mentioned at the end of an acre of credit crawl on the Iron Man movies or something, but this isn't a movie it’s - COMICS!!!