Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Review: Iron Man Noir
The Avengers movie is arriving in theaters in only a couple of days, bringing a cadre of heroes to the screen in a way I never thought I would see. Times really do change - a little over ten years ago Marvel Comics was literally bankrupt. They got bought up by Toy Biz, a toy company that certainly didn't carry the legendary gravitas that Marvel did. Then Wesley Snipes as Blade happened, followed by X-Men and then Spider-Man, and suddenly comic book movies were in the mainstream. Things have cascaded since then considerably until the point in which superhero names once only known by the extremely socially awkward are now socially acceptable. Old Navy is currently selling Avengers T-shirts in full display next to its most fashionable ware. Marvel's quality of work has doubled up in recent years and the characters that make up the film to be released on Friday have been some of the most benefited.
Among some of the best recent work featuring Avengers characters is Iron Man Noir. Iron Man Noir has several copies available in the Seattle Public Library system, indicating its popularity. The concept of this edition in the Noir series (the Noir portrays various Marvel characters in the environment of the 1930s, often complete with very clever elements of that decade's culture and society. The Great Depression and 1930s concepts in the Noir series has usually stretched things to fit - the idea of Peter Parker as a Marxist revolutionary didn't really seem to make all of that much sense. With Iron Man, however, things really actually fit. Tony Stark fits very well in to the archetype of Howard Hughes. Like Hughes, this version of Tony Stark adventures across the globe - past the comfort zone that his wealth allows for him. Like Hughes, this boldness masks some very serious problems - for Hughes, it was a debilitating obsessive compulsive disorder that eventually led to Hughes escaping a world he had simply grown tired of dealing with while, for Stark, it's a heart condition (much more serious than OCD) that haunts Stark and proves the basis for his Iron Man costume.
Stark's assistant Rhodes comes with racial connotations that are hinted at (though not as much as the sexist connotations fitting Pepper Potts, who the Depression version of Namor openly looks down upon as part of an American effort of "allowing women to run around like men. In the Noir series, Potts is actually a much tougher woman - following Stark as she writes pulp novels, featuring Stark's adventures, under a male pen name) but not explored all too much. That's probably fitting, as bringing that whole can of worms in would only make the whole story all of the more complicated. The aforementioned Namor is one of the most interesting elements of Iron Man Noir and it would be really cool to see a Fantastic Four series in this universe. Namor, in this world, is a rogue fishermen who mutilates his ears to be pointed, marking him as a rough sort that can make it through the horror and toughness of the Great Depression world.
Tony Stark's complex relation with his father is explored quite a bit as well. In this world, Stark's father is a veteran of the First World War who, while Tony is growing up, experiences frequent flashbacks to the horrors of that war. As far as I've seen, there haven't been Noir incarnations of the Hulk, Iron Man or Captain America (the latter may be redundant) but a Noir version of the Avengers would be excellent. The basis is already there.
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