This week on the Wal-Tor Weekly Review, we take a look at two brand new series from Marvel and Valiant. On the Marvel side we have the launch of the all-new International Iron Man book. From Valiant, we get the return of everyone’s favourite duo of Archer and Armstrong in A&A.
International Iron Man #1
Tony Stark finds himself between a rock and a hard place when he takes on an army of armoured soldiers in Sofia, Bulgaria. In search of the truth surrounding his true birth parents, Tony is pushed to his limits as he attempts to find answers. Flashing back to twenty years ago, when Tony attended the University of Cambridge, he meets the beautiful and mysterious Cassandra Gillispie. Cassandra is someone who immediately intrigues Tony, but places him in an awkward situation as their parents are business rivals. As Tony’s relationship with Cassandra strengthens, so does the dangers that comes with being associated with her.
Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev reunite to bring readers International Iron Man, a story that seems to promise to shine a light on Tony Stark’s past and answer the questions surrounding who his real parents are. This first issue splits it right down the middle in terms of good and bad elements that it has going for it. Bendis has always had a knack at keeping conversations between characters moving but struggles with making them purposeful here. That’s what this entire first issue feels like, as even though it’s supposed to be about revealing the truth around Tony’s real parents, the book doesn’t even present that as the premise for this series until the fleeting pages in an incredible flat effort. The character interactions between Tony and Cassandra are the highlights of this issue, although it makes it a slow affair. Bendis tries to salvage it all with an explosive third act but it feels unearned and not rewarding, again leaving you with a sense of “what’s the point?”. In the art department, Alex Maleev is a stud, even if the issue itself hits a few hiccups. Since this issue is set almost entirely in the past, Maleev designs a Tony Stark that is twenty years younger. The problem with that is he doesn’t look or feel like Tony Stark. The character has a “long hair, don’t care!” look to him and it makes it hard to get into the character when you know it’s supposed to be the man who will become Iron Man one day. Another sticking point is the sudden third act of the story as it, again, doesn’t feel earned, the action is so out of nowhere that it actually becomes difficult to track what it happening during a cursory read. Maleev usually guides action well but here it just doesn’t hit the right way. His strength as an artist is shown during the quiet moments of the issue as well as the opening and closing pages of the book. The way the first and last page are drawn show you why you should get excited for Maleev on an Iron Man book, with the hope being that you get to see a little bit more Iron Man from him in the next few issues.
+Alex Maleev Art
–Little Meaningful Dialogue
–Awkward Character Designs
Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev toss-up a mixed bag with their first outing in International Iron Man. A slow plot that never really takes off makes it difficult to see what Bendis is trying to do with this one. There is a lot of initial promise but it all comes off as poor posturing without any meaningful payoff. Bendis makes the conversations between the two leads easy to read but meaningless. Alex Maleev isn’t given much time to shine as a result, struggling with the only action beat in the issue. The quiet moments of the issue is where Maleev comes through but the awkward character design for a young Tony Stark is hard to get by. Here’s hoping that International Iron Man finds a clearer direction going forward. Right now, Bendis’ regular Iron Man series seems to be one of the can’t miss Marvel books so if you haven’t checked it out yet, be sure to grab that one instead.
On one hand you have Archer, an expert martial artists who was trained by a “cult” with the sole purpose to kill the devil incarnate. That devil incarnate would just so happen to be Armstrong, an immortal man who has spent the last 6000 years walking alongside every major moment in history. The two gentlemen are now great friends, saving the day and partaking in exciting adventures. Following the death of a dear friend, Armstrong goes in search of an object inside of his mysterious satchel, that is capable of storing anything of anything size. When he appears to get lost in the satchel, it’s up to Archer to hop inside the bag and go after his best friend. Little do either of the heroes realize the dangers that await them inside.
Rafer Roberts and David Lafuente kick off a brand new Archer and Armstrong series for Valiant with this first issue. Rafer Roberts jumps in with both feet, introducing you to the character of Armstrong and showing the journey he is about to undertake. After a strong opening, Roberts shifts his attention to showing you Archer, which is where the issue begins to struggle. You’re left to be guided through the story by Archer as he searches for his friend, but the usually compelling character is written in a way that irritates instead of endears. The young teenager comes off as child-like in his portrayal, which sucks the life out of moments that should be awesome with the character. When it comes to the plot, nothing really happens that is groundbreaking and the dialogue falls flat, especially when Roberts feels the need to state the name of a certain wine Armstrong is after more than twice in the issue. David Lafuente’s art style seems like the right fit for the wacky adventures the characters are about to undertake, suiting the nature of the unknown elements hiding in the bag. The animated style reveals character’s emotions brilliantly in the way that it manages to almost oversell them, you’re never left wondering what a character’s emotional state is because it is always clear. You can tell Lafuente has a quick style because of how the art looks, with a lot of solid colours filling in a background instead of imagery. Overall though, Lafuente is what makes the art fun, even if this new series feels like an odd step in the relationship between Archer and Armstrong.
–Annoying Character Portrayals
Rafer Roberts and David Lafuente kick off the new A&A series with an odd style, having a plot that is peculiar backed by art that suits the package. Roberts manages to turn a badass character like Archer into a snivelling child while keeping Armstrong’s character intact. It is a disappointing turn of events as the plot trots along and never really finds its own footing. Lafuente’s animated style is perfect for this new direction as the wacky ways of the mysterious satchel and what is inside of it perfectly suit what Lafuente can bring to the table. The facial expressions and body language of the characters are so animated that it makes the storytelling easier to grasp as you can clearly see what a character is going through at any given time. I’d recommend that readers check out Fred Van Lente’s AMAZING run on “Archer and Armstrong” from a few years ago because it is a fantastic comic that might make you appreciate these characters more than this first issue can or will. Seriously, if you’re looking for a reason to start reading a Valiant book, look no further than Van Lente’s Archer and Armstrong.