By Todd Allen
I happened across Iron Man 2.0 Vol. 1: Palmer Addley Is Dead at the library and thought I’d give it a go. I’d given the monthly version a look, but it hadn’t held my attention. Sometimes, a comic reads better as a book and I’ve enjoyed Nick Spencer’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and Infinite Vacation.
Sure enough, this _did_ read better as a book. James Rhodes, the War Machine gets outfitted with a new suit (the poor man keeps getting nuked) and ends up assigned to the Army under a cranky general who’d like nothing better than to break his spirit. Stationed at a military base he attacked during Dark Reign, Rhodey is tasked to a unit of intelligence contractors who have a very odd problem. Classified technology has been leaked from the government’s most secure facility. There was no way out, yet it got out. The researcher on this tech, Palmer Addley, killed himself and every where the stolen tech appears, so does the phrase “Palmer Addley is dead.” Rhodey, a search and destroy kind of guy, finds himself caught up in an espionage plot without a clear target to chase. Yes, a fish out of water element that isn’t a punchline.
Reading this as floppies, I recall being a little bit bored with Iron Man 2.0. Reading it as a book, I got a better sense of the world building and the creeping sense that something is very, very wrong with the information our heroes have been given. I wouldn’t quite call this a “techno thriller,” but the parallel plot line of the intelligence contractors slowly running down who Palmer Addley was builds much better if you go through the first 4 issues in one sitting.
And then after 4 issues worth of story (this book is a preview and then issues 1-7), “Palmer Addley Is Dead” suddenly grinds to a halt and you have three issues worth of Fear Itself cross-over. With guest heroes. Um… what?
It’s very jarring to jump from a slow-burn espionage piece into Fear Itself. If I were a casual reader and not familiar with Fear Itself, I would have been confused and jarred. OK, I get that 4 issues is a little thin for a tpb these days, and the three issues of cross-over isn’t really enough pages to warrant reprinting with a spine. From a reader’s perspective, they probably should’ve printed the cross-over in some other volume and waited until the “Palmer Addley” story was complete before printing it. Slapping the Fear Itself sequence into the volume left a bad taste in my mouth.
Art-wise, this book is a little all over the map. It starts out with a Barry Kitson/Kano tag team that looked a little rough to me. Certainly, I didn’t recognize much Kitson in it. Eventually, it switches over to Ariel Olivetti and improves greatly.
Can I recommend this as a book? I’m not sure that I can. By all means, check it out of the library and read the first half of it. Spending $16.99 for 4 issues + the “Prelude”… that’s a little steep and I wouldn’t buy it for the Fear Itself material. Would I get the next volume? From the library? Absolutely. Paying for it? I don’t know. That bad taste is still in my mouth and now I have to ask what else is going to be in Vol. 2? Is it the same story or is there more Event filler?
Then again, Iron Man 2.0 was cancelled with issue 12, the last issue mentioned in the solicitation for Vol. 2. It’s hard to say anything about it at this point, though part of me thinks the artistic revolving door and swapping story arcs just as the initial arc was building up some momentum did the title a disservice.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.