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War Machine: Weapon of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review
by Bruce Banner/The Hulk
When the going gets tough, add more violence.
War Machine is the second of Marvel's most ingenious method of launching new titles. Like Incredible Hercules, which took over Incredible Hulk, War Machine is replacing the Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. for two reasons: Marvel realized pretending Iron Man could carry two titles, in light of the failure of Invincible Iron Man to capitalize on the public's admiration for Iron Man the film, was a lost cause and if speculation is correct Iron Man will no longer be Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. when the Secret Invasion event finishes. War Machine will be relaunched with a new #1 after three issues of cannibalizing another title. Marvel has its cake and eats it too; they trick subscribers into buying three issues of a War Machine comic when they thought they would receive Iron Man and have a new #1 to champion (if Marvel could get away with it, I am sure they would relaunch every title every month). I wanted to support a black superhero comic (in my naive belief that the direct market would allow superhero comics beyond the white characters created in the 40s, 50s and 60s to prosper), so I purchased all three issues of this. War Machine was nothing special, but the offense of these issues, and Doom's demand I write work for him, compelled me to write a review of it.
"I became a cyborg to promote the upcoming Terminator movie. Yes, another fine bit of Marvel product placement."
First there must be some background on James Rhodes' placement in this juncture of continuity. He appears regularly in Avengers: The Initiative as one of the instructors amid a cornucopia of likewise poorly utilized characters (Henry Pym, Tigra, Justice) in Dan Slott's nostalgic rabbit hole. In one of the issues, War Machine's faceplate was taken off, revealing a hideous, barely human face. One wonders the logic and the reasoning behind the decision to mutilate War Machine into a Rob Liefeld version of Cyborg. Does comics really need another black man who is less than human? Would Marvel ever do this to Tony Stark or any other white character? The closest to Rhodey's disfigurement I can think of is the new Captain America, who sports a cyborg arm. But having a metal arm is only on the same level as Misty Knight and certainly is preferable to being essentially a torso with half a face, which this tie-in reveals War Machine is. There was some mystery as to what happened to War Machine that made him the way he presently is, and the Secret Invasion tie-in gives no answer. I assume it will be answered in the ongoing.
The plot of the storyline is that, since Tony Stark's Starktech is compromised, the only person he can trust is Jim Rhodes, whose armor is conveniently completely unconnected to Starktech and thus still functions. A holographic message from Tony tells him to go to a satellite and along the way he is attacked by a Nova Skrull. After successfully dispatching it, he boards the satellite and meets Suzi Endo, AKA Cybermancer, AKA an obscure character I never heard of until now. Although she is not a Skrull, Rhodes still distrusts her. Before this can build to anything, the Skrulls attack. Luckily, the satellite allows for Rhodes to lock into it and turn the satellite into a large version of his armor. Yes. I have no idea why I am not a writer at Marvel while Christos N. Gage is. The action soon takes to Russia and War Machine fights Skrulls alongside the Winter Guard. But the Russian government prohibits the Winter Guard from aiding War Machine. This is elementary political commentary, that Russia hates Americans and is unwilling to help them in spite of the selfless Americans being willing to do the converse. But I do not mean to claim this is a large aspect of the storyline; it is just an inept conflict interspersed with fight scenes. Fighting serves as grist for the proverbial mill.
No less idiotic than any Michael Bay film.
Eventually the Winter Guard opt to help War Machine and a misconceived point about politics not mattering in warfare as long as there is a common enemy to skewer is introduced near the end. The Crimson Dynamo dialogue is fairly painful to add another injury to injury. That is the end of the issue, the end of the story and the end of the volume of Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. "Good luck to all of us. We're gonna need it" is the last line War Machine states. To my knowledge War Machine plays no role whatsoever in the Secret Invasion main series, not even dialogue, so I believe Gage would have been better served to give the story a better ending. The last page promises Rhodey's story continuing in War Machine #1, out next month, but it would not be wise to pick it up. War Machine is almost always written as "more extreme" than Iron Man, and that means the new series will be nothing but Image over the top violence and anemic, overwrought drama. I know. I own too many of the original War Machine series to not.
Ah yes, alien radar. Also, women never pose like that in real life unless they are paid to by adult entertainment producers. Even then, the spine would undergo substantial damage.
UGH! HULK HATES EVENT CROSSOVER CRAP EXCEPT FOR WORLD WAR HULK! TIE-INS EVEN WORSE BECAUSE TIE-INS ONLY CAN TELL STORIES WITHIN CONTEXT OF MAIN EVENT! ARGH! HULK HATE LIMITED STORYTELLING POSSIBILITIES ALMOST AS MUCH AS HULK HATES ROBOT TIN MAN WHO KILLED HULK'S WIFE SOMETIME (OH WAIT, HULK NOT SUPPOSED TO REMEMBER THAT)! WAR MACHINE ARC DO NOTHING, JUST BUNCH OF STUPID FIGHT SCENES AND CHARACTERS NOBODY CARE ABOUT. JEPH LOEB'S WINTER GUARD WAS STUPID WHEN HE DID IT AND STUPIDER WHEN OTHER WRITER DO IT NOW! HULK FIGHT SCENES BETTER IN PLANET HULK, THERE MORE EXPLOSIONS AND FIGHTING AND CRAP! MARVEL USED TO BE GOOD DURING PLANET HULK. NOW ALL STUPID SHIT WITH SILVER BLACK ROBOT MAN BECOMING SPACE STATION SATELLITE OR WHATEVER.
CHRISTOS N. GAGE OKAY WRITER, BUT NOT GREAT ENOUGH FOR HULK TO CARE! HULK THINKS KNAUF PEOPLE SHOULD STAY ON BOOK AND MAKE IT IRON MAN AGAIN! HULK HATE IRON MAN, BUT KNAUFS DO GOOD VERSION OF MANDARIN AND HULK WANT SEE MADAM MASQUE ARC! STUPID MARVEL, CANCELLING THAT FOR STUPID JIM RHODES PERSON! RHODES WORST PART OF MOVIE WHICH IS SURPRISING BECAUSE PALTROW WOMAN IN IT TOO! GAGE WON'T BE WRITING WAR MACHINE COMIC ANYWAY SO IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW GOOD HE IS! ART GENERIC AND STUPID! BRING BACK LA TORRE OR WHATEVER NAME WAS WHO DID IRON MAN: DIRECTOR OF SHIELD! HULK THINK MARVEL RUN BY PEOPLE DUMBER THAN HULK THESE DAYS. STUPID MARVEL! STOP EATING HOT POCKETS QUESADA AND PUBLISH BETTER COMICS! ARGH! HULK SMASH!
Well said, Hulk. When compared to other Secret Invasion tie-in stories, War Machine's ranks somewhere near the bottom of those I have read. There is nothing exciting about the story, which is unfortunate for the book because it consists almost entirely of action sequences. The huge satellite War Machine brings to mind the giant Iron Man at the end of Ultimates 2, so that final image at the end of Iron Man #33 is nothing special. Gage portrays a decent Rhodes in that he hits all the notes of his character (i.e., military), but there are some odd racial undertones that detract from enjoyment. In the beginning of #34, Rhodes has flashbacks of his childhood, being beat up by whites for being black and being beat up by blacks for not being black enough. Then the flashbacks show him learning how to fight and him in boot camp. While not racist, it reminds too much of many other black heroes' backstories, as in he learned all his important lessons about self in the hood. Will there ever be a black Marvel character not from the 'street'? Unlikely. I am surprised Hudlin has not yet retconned T'Challa so he truly grew up in Detroit. Combine that with Rhodes being barely a man anymore and the book is...curious.
Take that, politicians.
Sean Chen's art is competent. He adds a few touches to the narrative that I found nice, such as one of the Skrulls attacking Russia having a swastika emblazoned on its chest. In fact, most of the time the most interesting element of the comic was seeing what power combinations the Skrull invaders had. For example, War Machine dispatches an Iron Man/Hawkeye in #34 and another with Kirby dot legs in #35. That most of the time I read the story I was wracking my brain to remember what obscure heroes or villains contributed which part of the Skrull says much about the staying power of the narrative. When not focusing on such minor details as that, one would have to spend more time digesting terrible, 80s action movie style dialogue, such as when Skrulls try to dissect Rhodes and are shocked when he fights back. "No! We removed all its weapons!" "Not possible. I am a weapon." Do you see what I mean?
Although the purpose of this Secret Invasion tie-in is obvious (to serve as a lead-in to a new War Machine series and to boost sales of the series before cancelling it), why Marvel would bother to create a new War Machine series is a mystery. Iron Man struggled to support two series and giving one series to an Iron Man derivative (I say so in the nicest way possible) does not suggest this will fare any better (in terms of sales) than Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. after the initial Initiative banner boost dissipated. Incredible Hercules shows it may be possible for such a comic to prosper at least for more than a year, but it will take excellent writing from Greg Pak (who is handling the writing for the ongoing series) to ensure more than 12 issues. Pak has been hit or miss, succeeding on Incredible Hercules and his Incredible Hulk run, but disappointing with World War Hulk and Skaar: Son of the Hulk. Even if War Machine does succeed financially, I doubt it will deserve to, as the "one man weapons system literally" is not a good premise to base a series around; it brings to mind Image Comics when Image Comics produced extreme superhero flotsam exclusively.