The Iron Man: Armored Adventures animated series is sure to put off comic book fans, which is a damned shame since the series creators are paying homage to the comic book in ways that die hard fans would really appreciate. The fact that viewers are asked to look past what I refer to as the ‘Archie’ syndrome in which characters and situations are translated into high school versions of what the comic book creators developed is on Hell of a hurdle. But once you are over it there is a fine animated series waiting for you that has adapted the Iron Man mythos into an enjoyable series.
For those just joining me on this journey, the Iron Man: Armored Adventures series is very loosely based on the Silver Age Marvel comic book series from 1963. Made famous by the John Favreau feature film and the impending sequel, an animated series was released by the Canadian animation studio Method (the same guys who gave us Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes). Whereas the Iron Man in the comics and film is an adult weapons developer, the animated series stars a 16 year-old boy genius version of Tony Stark. After Obediah Stane assassinated Tony’s father Howard, he took control of Stark Industries to develop all of the brilliant invention that both Howard and Tony Stark came up with as weapons. Teaming up with his boyhood pal Rhodey and the precocious Pepper Potts, Tony has vowed to stop Stane from using his inventions as weapons.
The series is in many ways a fresh re-imagining of the Iron Man comic book and while the High School angle may appear obnoxious it is actually a rather ingenious plot device that the writers (Christopher Yost and Craig Kyle of Wolverine and the X-Men, Hulk Vs. and numerous other Marvel animated projects) use to tell entertaining and original stories.
During a raid of Howard Stark’s Vault, one of the Maggia’s thugs decides to take one of the stolen weapons, a laser harness, for himself. The device transforms the crook into pure energy. The subplot of the episode involves Tony having to perform a scene from Hamlet with Pepper, whom he has been ignoring.
Admittedly this is not one of the better episodes, but that said the special effect of the Living Laser and the numerous battles between the supervillain and Iron Man are worth the price of admission. When asked ‘who are Iron Man’s villains’ by fans of the movie, I’m often not sure who to name because they are so very uninteresting in the comics. If nothing else, this cartoon has breathed new life into Iron Man’s rogue’s gallery. By this episode we have seen not only the Mandarin, but Killer Shrike, the Unicorn, Blizzard, Whiplash, Crimson Dynamo and now the Living Laser. Most of these characters are somewhat drab in the comic but this series really makes them come alive.
Oh, and Tony managed to come through in the drama class assignment-thing.
A stand-out episode features Tony making a bold decision to be more pro-active against Stane. A well-orchestrated plan by Rhodes, Stark and Potts leads the trio into the lion’s den (as it were) of Stark Industries under the cover of a class field trip in order to investigate Tony’s father’s Vault of inventions. The added bonus of this episode is the introduction of Stane’s daughter Whitney, s one-time flame of Tony’s and constant annoyance to her father. The break-in reveals that the contents of the Vault have been moved, making the entire operation seem pointless… and dangerous.
The writing of this episode is unusually sharp with the interaction between Whitney and her father hilarious (she is constantly nagging him for attention that he refuses to give). This is not a throw-away plot device and will return later in the season in Episode 11, Masquerade. An exciting episode, what makes this one stand out the most for me is the development of the supporting cast, something that in the hands of lesser writers would come off as a filler episode.
9.Ancient History 101
The connecting thread of this entire first ‘season’ seems to be the quest for the Makluan Rings. Howard Stark was obsessed with the rings shortly before his death, something that Tony cannot understand as it is not related to technology (well, not any tech that Tony can understand at least). However, because it is something that was important to his father, the quest for the Makluan Rings is important to Tony. This is also the only reason that Gene Khan is friends with Tony as he is attempting to uncover all ten rings to achieve the ultimate power of the Mandarin and assume his birthright as ruler of the world. Gene believe this so firmly that he ousted his step-father from his seat of control over the Tong and rules them from within the armored visage of the Mandarin, a title and appearance that presumably was passed down for generations.
Gene and Tony are presented in the cartoon as brothers of a sort. Both brilliant and egocentric, they gravitate toward each other. They also need each other in order to solve the mystery of the Makluan Rings, which this episode develops further. Searching the ancient ruins Howard Stark was so avidly investigating, Tony, Gene, Rhodey and Pepper find that the entire excavation has been abandoned by Stane (who also has no idea or interest of the rings’ purpose). Tony and Gene end up pooling their resources to find the ring in the ruins only to awaken the Dreadknights. By a careful combination of patience and cunning, Pepper and Tony find the map showing the location of the third of the ten Makluan Rings.
This was a fun and smart episode that built upon the ideas established in previous episodes as well as furthering the characters of the main cast of characters. As Tony and Gene grow closer, it is becoming more interesting to me that they will end up being enemies. After Gene assembles all ten rings and realizes his true power as the Mandarin, he will be one of the deadliest supervillains of the Marvel Universe… and here he is just a shifty kid in swish pants.
The series is currently on hiatus but if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend catching re-runs on NickToons.
The finale is rumored to feature not just Fing Fang Foom but also the debut of Rhodey in the War Machine armor… and you certainly do not want to miss either of those things!