365 Reasons to Love Comics #56

Let's take a look at another armored hero who has been mishandled in recent years. I wouldn't call him a love machine, but one of those words is accurate.


56. James "Rhodey" Rhodes

Rhodey's interesting in that he used to be cool, but then they forgot how to use him properly. Nowadays, they don't know what to do with him, and they turn him into a sentinel or whatever. Lame.

One of my favorite issues of Iron Man is the one that explains how Tony and Rhodey met. I forget the number, but it takes place immediately after Tales of Suspense #30-whatever, the first appearance and origin of Iron Man. He's escaping through the Vietnamese jungle, and he runs into soldier-Rhodey. They team up to get the hell out of there. Goodness. Back then, he was a funny, afro-toting dude who gave his all for his buddies. He was totally awesome.

For a while there, Rhodey was "Iron Man's Pal, Rhodey Rhodes." Then he became the replacement Iron Man, stepping in when Tony was drunk or crippled or dead or what have you. Then he was War Machine, which is really a dumb name, but there you have it.

He wasn't very subservient to Tony, though. A true Iron Expert informs me that the friendship between Tony and Rhodey is one of the most equal male-to-male friendships in comics. He's not a second banana, like Jimmy Olsen, but a real buddy and confidant who occasionally becomes a fellow armored superhero.

I'm also told Rhodey has had a very bizarre range of careers throughout his lifespan in comics. He's been a pilot, a fill-in CEO, the head of a human rights organization, a salvager (really? meh), and now leader of the Sentinel Squad (also meh). He was also in loved-but-quickly-killed series The Crew. There's probably nothing he can't do.

I've always liked Rhodey way more than Tony Stark, and would rather have him in the Iron suit than the fascist madman we've got now. Where was Jim Rhodes in Civil War, huh, slapping some sense into Iron Man?

There's your problem, though: while Rhodes has been portrayed well in the past and is a pretty fun and charismatic guy, that's all he's got going for him. He doesn't have any distinct role or subgenre of his own; he's just "the other Iron Man." I don't think that's right, and I think it needs to be fixed. Being a Sentinel Pilot isn't good enough; that's a silly idea to begin with, and the bad kind of silly (you all know how I love the good kind of silly).

The "bodyguard" concept of Iron Man always fascinated me more than anything else. A superhero bodyguard is an awesome idea which doesn't work if you're supposed to be your own bodyguard. I'd pull an "X-Statix" with Iron Man and turn the "Iron Man" concept into a bodyguard business, with multiple Iron Men as bodyguard to the stars. Maybe Rhodey could head it. I don't really think he fits in with that concept, though, and it's turning him into a subservient, which I don't want.

With enough time, I could probably come up with something. I'm going to turn this over to you guys, though. What's your pitch for Rhodey? Let's make him cool again! I hate it when old favorites are thrown away with the trash or relegated to lame-o status. How would you make Jim Rhodes a viable character again?

For God's sake, he'll be played by Terrence Howard in the movie! That's integrity, man. Integrity's something Rhodey's been lacking recently. It needs to be put back.

Also, can anyone explain what the deal with this hideous armor is? Who thought that was a good idea? How could it have lasted as long as it did? Ugh. No wonder his book was cancelled, if that thing was on all the covers...

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