Compared to Matt Fraction and Sal Larroca’s “Invincible Iron Man,” which has been a prolonged exploration into the disintegration of Tony Stark’s mind, this four-issue miniseries has been a swift little throwback of a comic book: an old-school tale of Tony Stark slapping on the yellow and red armor and blasting out the repulsor rays. Interestingly, it does overlap thematically with the opening arc of Fraction’s run, with Tony Stark facing the consequences of the destructive use of his technology. In the main series, it was the beginning of the end for Iron Man as we knew him. Here, it’s just a conflict that will be handily resolved.
But as much as this is a throwback to the times when Marvel comics were about resetting the scenario at the end of each story, it’s also a comic that’s in dialogue with the upcoming movie. This isn’t an adaptation of “Iron Man 2,” but it throws a comic out into the world that provides an alternate take on the character Mickey Rourke will play in the film. It’s a way to show who Whiplash is, as a comic book character, before the mass audience sees him on the screen.
And this Whiplash — and presumably the movie Whiplash — from all indications, is nothing like the purple and black Iron Man villain who once bore that name. No, this is apparently a reboot of the Whiplash franchise, such as it is. Ultimate Whiplash, or Astonishing Ultimate Whiplash Adventures. And though this guy has the green blast of hair sticking up above his mask, he looks more like the movie Green Goblin mixed with the Predator. Or Jason Voorhees mixed with NFL Superpro. Maybe it will look better on the big screen.
The writing and art here are perfectly serviceable. It’s generic superhero fare where characters say what they’re going to do or describe what they’re doing. And if Phil Briones’ pencils look like something from a “Marvel Adventures” comic — if maybe a bit darker — well, that’s appropriate, because this is a comic that’s meant for an easy read. An outside-of-continuity exploration that’s exactly what it says it is: “Iron Man vs. Whiplash.” It’s not called “Iron Man: A Sophisticated Look at the Intersection Between Technology, Commerce, and Humanity” #4.
As a final issue, though, this story does suffer from that way it concludes. And maybe it’s because this is a movie-tie in (even if it doesn’t say so explicitly, and isn’t a direct tie-in) and maybe it’s because this is the kind of classic story that ends where it began, with all the sound and fury signifying practically nothing, but this isn’t a strong ending for a four issue story. It’s not a particularly satisfying wrap-up. In the end, it was little more than a showcase for a redesigned Whiplash, but, in the end, we aren’t clamoring for more of him.