Tony Stark aka Iron Man receives a call from an old friend by the name of Maya Hansen. She warns him that something she had been working on was stolen. Later a man goes on a rampage that results in many people being brutally killed and even burned alive. Iron Man encounters the man, but what exactly is he up against? And why is he powerful enough to not only battle Iron Man, but also destroy pieces of his armor? -summary
Iron Man: Extremis is a six part story written by Warren Ellis. It began a new volume, the 4th to be exact, in the Iron Man mythos set after both Avengers Disassembled and Iron Man: Disassembled. The story was meant to be a fresh start for the character during Marvel's status quo change. Most importantly, the book delivered a re-imagining on Stark's origin, as well as made very notable changes to Stark himself and the Iron Man armor, which will play an important role in future stories. The story was written during the House of M storyline, but I believe it takes place after it. Two things are for sure though, this book is essential in modern Marvel only if you plan to follow the Iron Man books, and if you plan on reading this, then it must be read before Civil War.
It's said that Ellis wasn't familiar with Iron Man outside of his very early stories. This may be true yet I still think he did a good enough job capturing what the character is all about. New readers will learn what exactly makes Stark into Iron Man, as he attempts to atone for his sins as an arms dealer by using the Iron Man technology to help people. Ellis also works really well with Stark's humorous side making him an overall likable character. Many people may find the story to be dialog heavy, and I will admit that my attention drifted due to the further character development, but I feel it worked out and the action panels felt like a good enough pay off.
The actual story is what's very important though; Iron Man finds himself in battle against a man named Mallen. He's amped up on a drug created by Hansen called Extremis, which is another attempt to recreate Dr. Erskine's Super Soldier Serum used to make Steve Rogers into Captain America. Extremis actually appears to be far more advanced as Mallen proves to be a match for Iron Man. The encounters are very good and the plot becomes even more engaging by the second half, but it's the measures taken by Stark which prove to be the most memorable.
Despite being a very important book and Warren Ellis being a writer I actually enjoy, I have to say this book has its issues. I understand the story was written with newer fans in mind, which explains the modern take on Stark's origin delivered through flashbacks, but it just doesn't sit too well with me. Ellis chose to use the Al-Queda as Stark's captors instead of the Asians from back in the 60's. My problem is that it feels unnecessary and forced. It doesn't exactly do more for the character's development or play any type of role in this story. Ellis could have used the original origin and still achieved the same effect. Al-Queda, Taliban, Asian rebels, I really don't see any difference, it doesn't make Stark any more or less Iron Man. There's also one thing about Iron Man that always bothered me. Even though characters such as The Mandarin, Iron Monger, Justin Hammer, and even the Controller are interesting, Iron Man never really had that great of a rogue's gallery and it carried over to here. I think Mallen is too one dimensional which leads to him being very bland. His drive is clearly seen that before and done far, far, better and more convincing. I couldn't wait to see him wiped out.
Adi Granov's artwork which is probably the best thing about this book is something to talk about. The painted artwork, with its photo-realistic and CG-like feel brings out the best in regards to action. There are some cool explosions plus vicious action panels of Mallen killing everything in his path. The clashes between him and Iron Man are indeed excellent. The pencil work is really good, the colors aren't exactly lively but I think they work out well with this particular art style. The characters facial expressions are kind of inconsistent though. There are times when the emotions can be felt, while during others they seem too robotic, plus the backgrounds are very flat with like no attention paid to most of them. Still, the book isn't something that will hurt your vision.
I've heard some people hail this book as being better than both Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle and Armor Wars. I won't go that far at all, but it's a good enough read and you need this if you plan on venturing further into Iron Man. Highly recommended to new fans interested in the character, as well as those wanting to collect all major stories from Disassembled to Siege.
-Artwork, Continues with Marvels status quo changes
-Villain is too much of a plot device, origin update unnecessary
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