We’ve reached the end of an era, and we didn’t even see it coming. Well, technically, we did. For months now. Ever since “The Avengers” was released into theaters and blew the minds of everyone not expecting this brand of storytelling and action, people have been looking forward to what’s coming next. How do you follow up “The Avengers” with anything that’s not as big as, well, “The Avengers”?
You release “Iron Man 3”.
Released last Friday (Thursday at midnight, if you are a hardcore fan such as myself), “Iron Man 3” had the second biggest opening of all time as well as the second biggest weekend of all time. To the fine tune of $175 million, “Iron Man 3” set the tone perfectly and established what all superhero movies need to be like coming after “The Avengers”.
If you’re a Marvel movie, at least.
DC, good luck with “Man of Steel”. That’s going to have to be a separate beast altogether.
Back to the focus at hand. I must say, I had a blast throughout the entirety of the movie. I enjoyed its simplistic yet necessary view of how Tony Stark is a hero without the armor. How Pepper Potts and Rhodey were elevated to higher statuses in Tony’s life. And, I also loved The Mandarin.
Spoilers aside, that’s the most I can say about any of the above topics.
It’s true, though, that in the time since Friday that I’ve already spoken to people that felt that Tony Stark’s potential final adventure on screen (at least with Robert Downey Jr.) was not their favorite. They felt as far as sendoffs go, this one was lacking. While Tony’s time in the armor was lighter than the last, it was definitely needed. Nobody survives an event like the alien invasion of New York and not be shaken. I disagreed with most of their points and found them lacking. Tony got what he deserved, I believe, in this movie.
People have loved Iron Man so much while other, new heroes fail to find a footing. They can’t connect or admire them in a way that Tony Stark can. He experiences something we, as mere mortals, would have felt. Awe. Shock. Horror. He can’t sleep, and because of it, he’s become a man possessed. Building armor after armor after technological advancement.
What this movie shows us is a Tony Stark grown and changed by “The Avengers”. In short, Tony could not have handled the trials and dangers of “Iron Man 3” if not for “The Avengers”. It wouldn’t be possible and, in short, we’d have our first dead superhero in cinemas. But that’s not the case.
They advanced a hero to his limits, his real, true limits, in this movie. Partly thanks to the series that inspired and set the stage for its story.
Extremis was a story published in 2005-2006 by Marvel Comics. Following a time when they felt the need to completely update and upgrade all of their books, Iron Man was on the docket to be upgraded too. Metaphorically and literally. For the longest time, Iron Man was Tony Stark’s “bodyguard”. He carried his armor around in a briefcase and, most importantly, he used the Iron Man armor as a separate entity.
This set out to change that. Because it did, we are left with one of the defining moments in Iron Man history.
Penned by Warren Ellis, known for his futuristic views and sarcastic wit, we’re given a Tony Stark that can’t look at himself in the mirror in the morning. Haunted by the former lifestyles of being a weapons producer, Tony wakes every day knowing that his past will catch up to him. This is inevitability. He knows that. Ellis, though, presents us this side in secret. The hero side, the Avenger, is the one he wears on the surface.
From there, Ellis is given a monumental task. Bring the Armored Avenger to the 21st Century and make him stand out from the crowd again. Updating his origin (no longer was Tony Stark captured during the Vietnamese War, now, it was during the Afghan War of the early 90s) and increasing the science concepts behind him, Ellis brought him full circle to the now. It didn’t feel forced. It felt natural. It felt right.
However, so did his villains. Ellis created “Extremis” in this story. Those that have seen the movie will recognize it as the regenerating virus that also, sometimes, turns its carriers into red-hot, fire breathing super warriors. Constructed by former colleague Maya Hansen, Iron Man confronts a foe years ahead of himself, technologically, that can take him apart easily. In their first battle, Tony is almost killed.
Illustrated by digital artist Adi Granov, this doesn’t look like your typical superhero comic. Anytime I have friends or co-workers that wonder what comic books look like today, I hand them this book. It’s so pretty to look at, I wish I could find a better way to describe it.
Granov’s realistic tones create a harsh world for us to inhabit. This isn’t the glorious world of comic books and spandex, this is the real world of terrorism and fear. Tony’s battle with the Extremis terrorist on the freeway is grim and brutal. Within the comic, we see the injection process of the Extremis virus and it almost cocoons their victims into a coma. Gruesome and revitalizing.
Side note: Adi Granov did all of the Armor designs and concept work for all of the Iron Man movies because of his work with this storyline.
So, where does this story leave us in relation to the movie?
Well, this story leads Tony to accept the inevitable. That to truly advance the Iron Man into the next century, he must become the suit. Without revealing plot points for the movie, Tony undergoes the Extremis process.
Because of it, the armor becomes a part of him. He literally contains the armor inside of his body. With it, his suit advances light years ahead of its time and he gains new abilities and skills.
It was the natural progression. What’s next after developing the most high-tech suit of armor? Make it a part of you.
See, Ellis saw that as natural progression. We’re so close to putting technology into our bodies for everyday use, why not have Iron Man beat us to it? AND, do it better?
“Iron Man 3” did just that. They beat other superhero movies to the curb. They polished off their hero, gave him a last hurrah, and did not leave him a sour place. They left him off in a place where the possibilities are endless.
I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
And with Iron Man, that’s a surprise unto itself.
Next Week: We continue reading some of the best Iron Man stories since well, I’m still on a kick. We read “The Five Nightmares” next week, one of the most brilliant relaunches of the Iron Man series as of late. Check it out and we’ll see you here next week.
In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen, Bobby Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, employee and frequenter of Heroes & Villains Comics/Game Store, and explorer of the importance of comics. He recommends each and every comic he writes about.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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