Iron Man: Armored Adventures – Episodes 7-9

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.

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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.

7.Meltdown

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.

For a full list of Iron Man’s villains in animated form, visit this site.

Oh, and Tony managed to come through in the drama class assignment-thing.

8.Field Trip

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

ironman-ancienthistory_1244503454The 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 Mandarin

The Mandarin

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!

Iron Man: Armored Adventures – Episodes 4-6

The Armored (teen) Avenger

The Armored (teen) Avenger

Continuing my earlier post this week, I continue to review the episodes of the NickToons Iron Man: Armored Adventures series.

To bring you up to speed on the concept, Iron Man is a brilliant 16 year old version Tony Stark, an orphan after his father’s business partner has Tony’s dad killed in order to gain control of Stark Industries. The evil Obediah Stane has plans to turn all of the brilliant inventions Tony (and his dad presumably) created into weapons. In the aftermath of this hostile takeover, Tony is attending High School with his best friend Jim ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes and the precociously nosy Pepper Potts. Also in attendance is the arch villain Mandarin who appears to be a teenage boy but is secretly a criminal mastermind determined to uncover a set of ten miraculous rings from another planet that could make him more powerful than his ancestor Ghengis Khan.

While trying to learn how to be a regular teenager, Tony Stark is out to ‘un-invent’ all of his creation so that Stane cannot turn them into deadly devices of warfare.

Got it?

Blizzard

Blizzard

4. Cold War

As I have stated in the previous post, the awkward mixture of Archie-like High School Days drama mixed with the superheroic elements of the comic book character makes for a very odd viewing experience. After the disappointing two-part opener, I was tempted to walk away from this series but I enjoy the character too much and have seen the creators involved on this series turn in the goods many times over in other cartoons. What the first two episodes lacked was enough action and comic book characters. The third episode added three new super villains and evened things out. It also utilized the High School Drama elements of the series to its benefit.

The fourth episode introduces another super villain and ties him into Tony’s mission against Obediah Stane, another brilliant idea. On a routine patrol, Tony is shocked to find that the Stark Industries building is covered in snow and ice. Investigating further he comes face to face with a man in an all-white suit of armor wielding an ice-gun. The man is Donnie Gil, a former scientist who worked for Stane until he was nearly killed in an industrial accident. Stane cut Gil off and took his inventions from him. The disgruntled scientist had intended to just steal his work back but has instead decided to take Stane down.

Tony likes the sound of this and decides to team up with Gil in his mission to bring the evil businessman down. Rhodey smells something fishy but Tony is blinded by his thirst for revenge, which blinds him to the fact that he is being used. As it turns out, Gil is intent on destroying not just Stane’s company, but Obediah Stane himself. Not content to be a party to murder, Tony has to face off with the Blizzard. This was definitely the most well-written episode of the first four and got me invested to watch much more. A sophisticates mixture of story telling and action, this was the sign that Iron Man: Armored Adventures could be a stand-out series. Tony did a lot of growing up in this episode and turned a corner as he realized that he had more than just a mission, he had a code of honor.

Whiplash

Whiplash

5. Whiplash

If the fourth episode got my interest, then the fifth made me want to watch this series for a long time.

With the recent announcement of the super villain in the second Iron Man movie, many fans have been wondering what the big deal is with a whip-weilding opponent if you have ray guns strapped to your hands. This episode puts those concerns to rest as the debut of Whiplash makes for one of the most memorable villains in the cartoon to date.

Unusually, it’s Pepper Potts’s dad (an FBI agent) who causes the events of this episode to unfold as he gets caught investigating the criminal activities of a man known only as Mr. Fix. This puts Pepper’s dad in the hospital and sparks Pepp’s curiousity. Ever the snoop, Pepper tries to uncover who Mr. Fix is and is almost immediately attacked by strange armed men in black cars. When this attempt to silence the young Potts fails, Whiplash is sent to finish the job. He tracks Pepper to Rhodey’s house (where she has discovered that Tony is really Iron Man… say what you will but the grown-up Pepper took decades to unravel that mystery) and subsequently to Iron Man.

Iron Man and Whiplash duke it out and the strange barbed whips snaking from Whiplash’s robotic arms caus the armored avenger nothing but grief. A chilling villain with nothing but contempt for his young targets, Whiplash’s voice is harsh and cruel, like broken glass under a boot. The battle is so intense that Tony loses a suit of armor and decides to utilize a new design, the Silver Centurion Armor (no doubt there will be many action figures). The fight between Iron Man and Whiplash is truly striking visually and makes for some starling moments that end in a momentous explosion. Though no body is found, the threat posed by Whiplash is ended, but Tony’s life just got more complicated. If you thought Pepper was annoying before, get ready to see her as part of ‘team Iron Man.’

Oy.

The Crimson Dynamo

The Crimson Dynamo

6. Iron Man Vs. The Crimson Dynamo

The sixth (and at this time latest) episode of the series impressed me even more than #5 (are you seeing the pattern yet?).  A brave cosmonaut on a deep space mission near the sun, Ivan Vanko is lost to the rest of his team when he is enveloped by a solar flare. Ivan plummets into the sun, his massive stark white exo suit of armor becoming swallowed up but the blazing inferno. His crewmates who watched him plummet into the Sun have since built a successful business out of their research with Project Pegasus. Two years later, he crashes to Earth with all of the violence of a meteor strike, his destinatio- Project Pegasus.

Ivan wants revenge on his crewmates who left him to die. His rage has driven him mad and his grief over never seeing his family again has clouded his mind. Armed with a thundering suit of armor with which to get revenge on his traitors that resigned him to his blistering grave so long ago, Ivan goes ballistic. Iron Man gets in his way. In case it’s not obvious from the image, Iron Man is no match for trhe Crimson Dynamo, a robot at least five times as big as the Iron Man armor. Rhodey attempts to point this out to Tony but his warnings fall on deaf ears as someone has to stop Ivan and Iron Man has taken on that job.

Despite the vain attempts to shoe-horn in a High School Drama sub-plot this episode is all action and super hero drama. It felt close in some ways to a classic Batman the Animated Series episode where the main story was built on the villain and his mission of vengeance and Batman only showed up to stop him in the end. Iron Man serves a similar function in this story and is only marginally assisted by Pepper and Rhodey who are good enough to round up Ivan’s wife and son who manage to talk some sense into him before Ivan destroys the Pegasus power plant, possibly causing unheard-of amounts of damage.

Finally the series has turned a major corner and delivered a classic comic book story. There’s plenty of angst, vengeance and violence to satisfy any silver age Marvel Comics fan. Not that the cartoon has an obligation to do so, but this one really felt like a Marvel Comic to me.

Man… I want more.

Looking online I have seen that future episodes will feature A.I.M., the Hulk, Black Panther and S.H.I.E.L.D. front man Nick Fury. This is one helluva series that you ought to be watching.

Visit the official website for more info.

Iron Man: Armored Adventures – Episodes 1-3

I finally got to view the opening episodes of the latest Iron Man cartoon.

Straight from the premise, this series is a bit of a shock. It’s like pitching a cartoon where the nerdy yet courageous hero is in his teens and hangs out with his slightly clever yet loyal friends in an inner-city high school where he is hassled on a daily basis by the hard-as-nails gym coach and the football team. Yet no one suspects his secret dual identity. The kicker is when the title is revealed as The Hulk.

I can totally understand setting the series in the manner that they have but it’s very awkward and has so little to do with the source material that you have to wonder what the point is in using Iron Man at all. If the fact that Stark Industries is NOT devoted to developing weapons doesn’t confuse you the sudden inclusion of the Mandarin as the new kid at Tony’s school will certainly get you scratching the old noggin.

But just because a premise is awkward, that doesn’t mean that the series has to be bad.

So what’s the verdict?

Honestly, it’s a mixed bag.
ironposing01

1 and 2: Iron, Forged in Fire –

As far as series openers go, this is the weakest of what I have seen so far. The program opens by establishing that Tony and his father Howard Stark are each technological geniuses and that somehow young Tony has contributed to the success of his father’s company by designing several of its most successful products. Howard seems more interested in archeology in the unearthing of the Makluan rings. Howard is challenged on his corporate path of using his company to help the world by Obediah Stane who is chomping at the bit to sell their inventions to the military.

There are several diversions from the source material here, but chief amongst them is making Stark Industries based NOT on weapons development. I think this takes a large chunk away from the character’s journey of redemption, but given that the Tony Stark in the cartoon is a teenager that might be asking a bit much. Introducing the Makluan rings so early is a great idea as it ties Iron Man to his arch nemesis the Mandarin straight away.

Obediah has the private jet shuttling Tony and his dad attacked and it’s only thanks to Tony’s newest invention, the Iron Man armor, that he survives. We next see him living at his best friend Jim Rhodes’ house and attending public school.

Ouch that is a major diversion. Tony and Rhodey met in the Vietnam War, not high school. I know High School is rough but it is hardly an equivalent concept.

In school, Stark meets the insanely annoying Pepper Potts whose dad is an FBI agent. Precocious Pepper gets into everything everyone does and as such knows all about Tony’s life… which makes her deliver a handy if clumsy stream of exposition. Tony also meets Happy Hogan who is the big dumb jock of the series.

This cartoon is more like Spider-Man than Iron Man with each passing moment.

After some soul searching, Tony decides to confront Stane and make some demands. Young Tony discovers to his immense surprise that all of his inventions are company property and he has no legal claim to what is done with them. Stane calmly tells Tony that he’ll look after the corporation until Tony turns eighteen (established by Rhodey as two years away). Tony decides to use his Iron Man armor to spy on Stane and find out what is being done with his inventions. It turns out that with Howard Stark out of the way, Obediah has finally sold those military contracts and is using the ‘peaceful’ inventions of the Starks as weapons. There’s a very sudden train accident that Iron Man prevents and then a coda where we are introduced to the Mandarin, an Eastern warlord decked out in impressive armor wearing one of the Makluan rings. The Mandarin is angered by the failure of his plan to attack Stark Industries with the train incident but he is determined to vanquish the western company. Why? We’ll find out.

The second part is a bit more exciting as Iron Man attempts to foil Stane’s plot to sell Tony’s Earth Mover inventions to the military as super weapons. Rhodey guides Tony through a headset through the entire battle, but I can’t really see it as being necessary. In any case we finally get some action and this is where the Iron Man: Armored Adventures series shines. The excellent animation lends itself perfectly to some great animated conflict. After destroying his inventions, Iron Man is offered a job by Stane who attempts to take advantage of a bads situation, but Tony flat out denies. The premise is clear as Tony declares that he will wreck all of his inventions before Stane can sell them as weapons. But then a wrinkle is introduced, the teenage Mandarin who vows to find all of the Makluan rings and conquer the world much the same as his ancestor Ghengis Khan had.

3: Secrets and Lies –

Not related to the terrific Mike Leigh film, this episode introduces yet another teenage version of a classic character, the Mandarin. I had thought we had already met this villain in the previous two-parter but it turns out that was actually the real Mandarin’s step-father (he even calls the guy step-father which is very silly to me but I dunno maybe kids with step parents really do that… nah). The ‘real’ Mandarin goes by the name Gene Khan (which sounds suspiciously like the name of a 1970’s gameshow host) and is determined to gain control of his family’s vast criminal empire that his step father has usurped. The key to all of this is the Makluan rings which leads to Gene’s plan to get closer to Tony which leads to the silliest idea on this series – the Mandarin attending Tony Stark’s High School.

Honestly… was there no other way to introduce the most dangerous Iron Man villain than to make him the new kid at school?

In any case, the episode deals with a hostage crisis where two classic villains, the Unicorn and Killer Shrike, are hired by the Maggia (read- Mafia) to kidnap Gene Khan. Tony and Pepper get wrapped up in the situation and are held in a warehouse while Rhodey pilots the Iron Man armor remotely to rescue them. This was a much better episode and it almost immediately justifies what is still the silliest idea of the series to date, making the Mandarin a high school chum of our hero. The two characters are clearly very similar and given that Tony finds it hard to relate to anyone else, Gene Khan is the first person with whom he can. Too bad they’re bound to be enemies, huh?

Again the action sequences are amazing and the high school stuff is jarring and awkward. The writers have yet to sell me on this teenage adaptation of Iron Man but at least they are using the concepts that they have developed to tell compelling stories. In the end that is what will decide of this series is a hit or not. Yes the twisting of the Iron Man concept is ham-fisted and unnecessary but if they can make it work all the power to them. Given that these are the same guys behind the recent Spectacular Spider-Man, Wolverine and the X-Men, X-Men: Evolution and Hulk Vs. films I’m more than willing to give them a mile.

Next up, episodes 4 and 5.

“Iron Man: Armored Adventures” Premieres 4/24/09

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(Official press release)
NEW YORK, April 7, 2009 – Nicktoons Network, the fastest growing kids’ network, introduces Iron Man: Armored Adventures as the newest installation in the network’s partnership with Marvel Animation. The new animated half-hour series based on Marvel’s armored Super Hero, and which includes an original theme song from the rock band Rooney, follows a teenage Tony Stark as he attempts to balance the pressures of being a teen with his responsibilities as Iron Man. The 26-episode adventure begins with two back-to-back episodes Friday, April 24, from 7- 8 p.m. (ET), and continues regularly Fridays at 7 p.m. (ET) on Nicktoons Network.

“Iron Man: Armored Adventures continues our partnership with Marvel and offers the action our audience craves,” said Keith Dawkins, Nicktoons Network General Manager, Senior Vice President, Nickelodeon Programming Partnerships. “From the fans who loved the live-action film to those who can’t get enough of the comic books, this new iteration of the franchise offers a fresh take on the classic adventures.”

As heir to a billion-dollar corporation, teen tech-whiz Tony Stark is free to pursue his chief interests: seeking extreme thrills, solving scientific mysteries and creating mind-boggling inventions. But everything goes horribly wrong when a tragic accident robs him of his father and nearly costs him his own life. And it would have, had Tony not donned his newest invention – an experimental suit of invincible armor.

In his hi-tech flight armor, Tony is known to the world as Iron Man. To honor his father’s memory, he now uses his awesome armor and technical know-how to protect those who would also fall prey to tragedy and corruption. By constantly upgrading his armored suit, Iron Man can fend off a variety of villains, engage in epic battles and thwart diabolical conspiracies. He is a new hero for the digital age, a mechanized knight in ever-evolving, adaptable armor. Now dependent on his own impressive technology for survival and dedicated to battling corruption, he must balance the pressure of teenage life with the duties of a super hero.

In the first premiere episode, “Iron, Forged in Fire Part 1”, teen genius Tony Stark has just finished his greatest invention: the Iron Man armor. But before he gets to show his dad, Tony’s world is shattered. His father, his home, his entire life are all gone, and Tony is left picking up the pieces. But with help from his friends Rhodey and Pepper, he begins to unravel the mystery surrounding the attack on his father. As Iron Man, Tony takes his first steps toward becoming a hero.

In the second premiere episode, “Iron, Forged in Fire Part 2”,Obadiah Stane has taken over Stark International and is converting Tony and his feather’s inventions into weapons. Tony now believes Stane may be behind the attack that took his father from him. Iron Man intends to get answers, but standing in his way are the Earth Movers – Tony’s once peaceful inventions that have been corrupted into massive weapons of destruction. And if Iron Man survives fighting against his own creations, he will still have to confront the mysterious armored figure known only as The Mandarin.

Since I do not have this new Nicktoons Network, I will miss out on this series (just like I missed Wolverine and the X-Men). I can’t say I’m a fan of the ‘teenage adventures’ angle for Iron Man, but I don’t want to condemn the program before seeing it.

That said, here’s part one of the first episode:

The series does boast some of the best names out there in super hero cartoons including Christopher Yost (creator of Wolverine’s ‘daughter’ X-23 in the under-rated X-Men: Evolution cartoon), but… I’m still not sold. But after the rebirth of the character’s monthly comic and the recent hit movie, I’ve been hungry for all things Iron Man, so I hope that this cartoon delivers the goods.

Anyone who gets Nicktoons, please let me know how the premiere pans out!