Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Iron Man: Hypervelocity

For years, I've been drawn to Adam Warren's work, and yet avoided actually reading any of it. You see, he was one of the first heavily manga influenced artists, and worked on American adaptations of manga characters. This made him a favorite of grown men who carry vinyl "Hello Kitty" wallets in their back pocket. Nevermind that his best selling work seemed to be on "Gen 13" related projects. I have the same problem with Gen 13 that I have with most manga-- if it doesn't involve schoolgirl tentacle rape, I'm probably not going to be able to feign interest. I've been exposed to lots of anime over the years, and it seems to me entirely too much of it targets the most base interests of either gender. Whether its animated slash fiction romance or exploding heads, even my sorry ass seem to have developed past being entertained by that dreck.

Anyhow, I still liked Warren's artwork, which led me to read preview pages of his new series "Empowered" many moons before the first issue/trade was released. I enjoyed it a great deal, and not just for purile reasons. It was funny, smart, and portrayed one of the few super-heroines I've ever read who in any way resembled an actual woman. Sure she's a raging neurotic, but again, I'm talking about real life women. They're not exactly uncommon.

I've continued to buy and enjoy "Empowered," though somewhat less so as the gags have subsided or repeated while dreaded longform narrative has reared its ugly head. Still, Warren seemed capable with playing straight as needed, and when the opportunity to read his work for Marvel on a iconic character came up, I took it.

"Hypervelocity" is not quite an Iron Man book. There's room for a No-Prize to explain Tony Stark's newly acquired hipster snark, but that doesn't cover the entirely too kewl S.H.I.E.L.D. team pursuing a seemingly rogue, semi-sentient armor. While Image artist Brian Denham brings a thoroughly modern sheen and edge the Iron Man character has rarely enjoyed, Warren's layouts still bring the mangacentricities and gags. The book is awash in high concept where one usually finds more hoary concerns, while the villainess Absynthe has a transgressive sexuality far removed from the Hugh Hefner approved cornfed girls of the Layton years.

All that having been said, I guess it's a damned good thing I never liked Iron Man, huh? One of my best friends is a huge fan, and while reading I wondered if he would see this collected mini-series as a sacrilige or get his geek on as Tony was finally allowed to move past the 70's into the age of adrenaline junkies and sex bombs. "Hypervelocity" is a true page turner, more likely to impress fans of Joss Whedon, Grant Morrison, and (perhaps) the Robert Downey Jr. take in the upcoming major motion picture. If the film does good box office, I'd expect this to fly off the shelves of Barnes and Noble at a much faster clip than any Essential volumes.

My only caveat is that the book kinda sorta doesn't have an ending. It's one of those ambiguous numbers, in a story that otherwise seems exceedingly forthcoming with the details. Either there's room for a sequal, or more likely, you just have to accept that those darned Japanese influenced yet another "that's it?!?" Regardless, the trade is worth reading, especially for free. Fuck you, capitalist swine in a tin can! You won't get my money until opening weekend!

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