Recovering after his loss of the old Stark Enterprises, Tony Stark aka Iron Man continues to move forward with intentions on rebuilding his former company. He journeys to his space station in orbit together with Jim Rhodes, and they encounter a squad of operatives from the terrorist organization called AIM (Advanced Ideas Mechanics). The battle ends in distaster, and Tony decides to get even by taking the battle to their base. -summary
Iron Man was never one of my favorite Marvel characters. The reason for this was definitely due to the lack of depth in his rogues gallery. There were maybe a handful of interesting villains that he feuded with, but I don't recall coming away from most of his stories too excited over what I read. Therefore, collecting his issues weren't exactly a priority. However, I remember enjoying the Michelinie and Layton era, because they had a very solid and memorable run which began with the story Demon in a Bottle, and later, the Armor Wars would go down as a Marvel Milestone. It's not exactly amongst my favorite Marvel sagas, but it was still a fun read. Written by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, Iron Man: The Armor Wars Prologue collects Iron Man #'s 215 - 224, and although the story isn't exactly essential for going into Armor Wars. I still find it to be a nice retro story with some decent action and the debut of an awesome villain.
The first half of the story is pretty much stand alone, with Iron Man facing the AIM organization, and later battling against a Russian outfit, who seek to destroy a toxic canister that could kill thousands, in an attempt to ruin the reputation of the United States. These stories are average at best and aren't really fulfliing. I have to admit that I did put the book down a few times during this part. There's also a dual storyline which runs almost through the entire arc that involves Stark trying to reclaim his fortune, by buying a company called Accutech that has been suffering big losses due to unexplained reasons. This story helps to further his character development, as the reader learns more about Stark's determination and daring when it comes down to taking a risk, because he puts everything on the line in this one deal. This also introduces Iron Man's newest enemy the Ghost, and this is when things become very interesting.
Now, Iron Man's rogues gallery has always been an issue with me, but the debut of the Ghost was just something else. He's an individual who is fixated on corporate level sabotage. His drive is so strong that he actually tells his employers that he'll destroy the company free. The character is very well developed, and built up as a serious threat to Iron Man. His powers consist of the ability to phase through walls and floors along with making himself completely invisible. Without spoiling anything I'll just say the writing is very good, and this arc alone saves this entire saga.
Unfortunately, my biggest Iron Man pet peeve rears its ugly head, as the later stories aren't exactly that gripping due to some of those uninteresting villains; Blacklash, Beetle, and the newest version of the Blizzard. Although these stories are decent reads mainly due to the action, there is a small portion only worth remembering because it sets the foundation for the Armor Wars storyline.
The artwork kind of has a dated feel but it does shine at times. Iron Man is drawn very well on numerous occassions with some sharp colors, and the action panels are good. The dialogue bubbles and narrative boxes doesn't intrude with the artwork at all, and it makes getting through the book pretty easy. There's a good amount of dialogue, and I really enjoyed Michelinie's writing because he was able to tell the stories without being too wordy.
Overall, I only recommend Armor Wars Prologue to the completist or serious Iron Man fans. It really isn't necessary to understand the Armor Wars, because you'll learn every single thing you need to know there. The book is 236 pages.
-Second half is pretty good
-Debut of a cool villain
-Some uninteresting villains
-First half can be pretty boring
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