Wednesday, December 17, 2008

For comparison purposes:

I got the Wal-Mart exclusive Hasbro Marvel Legends Heroes Reborn Iron Man...oh, I'm so never typing that again...a while back. Since I still had the old version on the shelf, I put them together for a little look at your basic action figure from 1997 and 2008. I say, "basic," but for the time, the Avengers Iron Man from Toy Biz (we'll call him TBIM) was an upgrade: he was a slightly larger scale than usual, since Iron Man had relatively recently had a mess of toys in the line for his animated show. Like those toys, TBIM features a few vac-metallized pieces: they aren't bad, but prone to chipping, and the chest piece on mine has. Still, the big, shiny mask piece doesn't quite pull off the look of this armor.

As they say at OAFE, TBIM moves at the "big five," cut neck, shoulders, legs. For comparison, that's just one point of articulation more than say, a Simpsons figure. (EDIT: Duhr. He moves at the waist, too. Whoo-hoo!) I was going to say that little articulation is rare these days, but then again, there are some that still have even less. TBIM comes with an accessory. What said accessory actually is supposed to be, um, is anyone's guess. Some sort of charger, maybe? It's supposed to approximate the look of Iron Man #1 from 1996--the regular cover, not the one with the Hulk hands. The charger comes with little cables you can plug into ports on his knees and the backs of his hands, and is rather helpful at keeping him standing. Not shown here? TBIM also came with a little two-pipe chrome piece that attached to his back. What the hell did those pipes do, even in terms of comic-book science? No idea. I personally thought the pipes were ugly as homemade sin, and wonder if I still have them somewhere.

That said, the pipes do differentiate this model of armor from others, and from the pile of Iron Man figures I already have. The Marvel Legends Iron Man (MLIM, which sounds dirty somehow) has non-removable pipes, but they seem more on model: I'm remembering the old ones as smaller, which just made them look dumber. Let's do a quick count: 2 ankles, 2 points at both knees (4), 2 points at both hips (4), waist, chest, 2 shoulder, 2 points at both elbows (4), 2 wrists, and the neck. Let's say 21, although you may count them differently. The balljoints at the elbows and hips give a pretty good range of motion, but the shoulders are constrained by his shoulder pads. In case you still have any, MLIM doesn't have a hole in his back for a flight stand.

Side by side, they resemble each other, but MLIM is far more svelte: in particular, TBIM's hands, chest, and calves are huge; yet his waist is almost the same as MLIM. Because the chest is disproportionate, TBIM almost seems like a He-Man character, but this was the trend back in the day--the first relaunched Star Wars from 1995 were on the burly side as well. I bike a lot, and yet am still jealous of this.Oh, and while he doesn't get any accessories of his own, MLIM comes as part of the Ares Build-a-Figure wave, but his pieces are Ares' sword, dagger, and helmet; which isn't bad if you're maybe not planning on building the full figure.

I had thought I had a copy of the Heroes Reborn Iron Man #1 right handy, but I'm afraid not. I also don't recall if the redesign is all Jim Lee, who's credited as co-writer for that one, or Whilce Portacio, the artist for the first few issues. And I don't remember how long they stayed on the book, since I think they fell behind schedule. I have the damn issues, but I'm not going to dredge them up right now. The first issue was murky and unpleasant, the Hulk spends most of the series with long hair and no pants, and the asshat factor of Tony Stark was amped up to a level not even seen in the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. days.

We'll look at some Heroes Reborn Iron Man in a second, but first consider: one of the things the Iron Man movie nailed was that Tony is a bit of a jerk. He has flaws: he's a womanizer, he's a bit glib, he always seems to be pushing on to the next thing, he might be a drunk. But in the comics, aside from pounding that one note of alcoholic, sometimes writers give Tony "flaws" that are just virtues taken too far.

In the 80's, Tony was the noble businessman, concerned with making money but also with making the world a better place, and he sometimes didn't listen to his friends or employees. He also picked up an over-developed sense of responsibility like Peter Parker, whether for crimes committed with his armor designs (which led to him fighting Captain America in the Armor Wars) or for accidental deaths unrelated to him at all (which led to Tony fighting Cap in the Civil War...) Tony also developed a terrible habit of lying to or making decisions for his friends, the Avengers, and everyone else; if he thought he was in the right: when he didn't tell Rhodey he wasn't dead, just frozen. When he made the deciding vote to disband the West Coast Avengers. When he revealed his identity to the world, and when he hid it again.

Even in his cartoon, Iron Man seemingly went on a suicide mission every week; alone, since he didn't want to put his teammates in danger. Never mind that they might not have been suicide missions if Iron Man went in with half a dozen superheroes behind him. Tony's heart is in the right place, but his control freak tendencies get the better of him.

Back to the Heroes Reborn Iron Man: by the time Heroes Reborn: the Return was ready to start, Iron Man had come a long way. Tony had worked through his guilt over the death of initial Iron Man test pilot Rebel (he had a name, but I don't care enough to look it up) and seemed on his way to becoming the superhero we knew in the regular Marvel universe. And his shining moment in this series? Um, going into the negative zone for carbon dating? Since Franklin Richards had created this alternate earth (don't ask) Reed figures that testing a sample on their earth would give expected results, but taking it out Tony is stunned to realize their earth is actually less than a year old.

The Celestials are going to destroy the second earth, and the Marvel heroes that were lost to Onslaught have to return to their own, the traditional Marvel earth. Captain America and the Falcon say their goodbyes to the girl Bucky, because she was from there...and she didn't really catch on with readers. Look, if she'd been popular, they would've taken her with. And there's also apparently a spare set of Inhumans: they're seen in a crowd shot as Franklin gathers everyone that has to go back, but they weren't lost to Onslaught...and Iron Man? How will he say goodbye to this earth?

Um, by nailing Pepper Potts and bailing out? Great...well, no regrets, right? Until everyone on the way home gets a flashback to their old status quo, and some take it better than others.

I wonder what Reed Richard's flashback was? 'Science is awesome! Also, you have a family around here somewhere...'

Maybe Tony's being a bit hard on himself, but the fact remains, he hasn't made a lot of progress on most of his personal problems. On the other hand, it's not like anyone else learned anything from their time on the other Earth. Hey, is that still there? I remember seeing it in Thunderbolts years back, and pretty sure Dr. Doom conquered it as well; but Marvel doesn't seem to go for the alternate realities like this (or the Squadron Supreme's earth) as much anymore. Unless they've got zombies.

Pages from Heroes Reborn: the Return #3 and #4, written by Peter David, pencils by Salvador Larroca, and a full page of other credits. The whole series is a big reset button to sweep the Jim Lee/Rob Liefeld helmed relaunches under the rug, while simultaneously setting up new first issues for Iron Man, Captain America, Fantastic Four, and Avengers. That said, even with the Celestial/Franklin Richards nonsense, David makes it a lot of fun, and I liked those new firsts. And Larroca's art is better, more readable, than most of the Heroes Reborn issues that proceeded it. There's probably a lesson here somewhere, but Tony didn't learn it, so why should we?


SallyP said...

*sigh* Tony NEVER seems to learn from his mistakes. I realize that he's all humbled and on the run now, but I'm pretty sure that won't last too long, before he's running around womanizing and being arrogant again.

On the other hand, that attitude really is his schtick, the same way that Peter Parker never stops agonizing over Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and Wolverine worries about unleashing his animal side, and Cyclops moans about his ruby quartz glasses, and...and so on and so forth.

googum said...

In Tony's defense, nobody learned squat from Heroes Reborn. Not the heroes, not Dr. Doom, not Marvel editorial, Jim Lee or Rob Liefeld, or the fans...

That poor HR armor is occasionally seen gathering cobwebs and moths, in the back of Iron Man's metaphorical closet...

Ace said...

I loved that armour... The pipes were frequently spouting exhaust, so I assume that's what they were for.

Counter-Earth was revisited in that horrible Onslaught: Reborn mini a year or so back. And yes, that electric sow came back from CE to fight Captain Marvel (Genis Vell) and then promptly vanished. Probably shacked up with someone else who vanished before Civil War...