Saturday, November 27, 2010

Iron Man: Hypervelocity

Iron Man: Hypervelocity (2007) - Written by Adam Warren (Dirty Pair, Empowered) art by Brian Denham (The X-Files, Nova)

Adam Warren and Brian Denham’s Hypervelocity is a prime example of using science in creative ways. Iron Man has a long history of shouting “redirect power” and “reboot system” at various levels of intensity, but Adam Warren takes the Iron Man tech to an entirely new level, using realistic scientific theory to back up the Iron Man armor upgrades. Well, as far as my high school level physics knowledge can vouch for. He shows his work at least once.

What really puts Hypervelocity apart from every other superhero book on the stands is a heightened sense of dramatic tension; there’s no guarantee our hero will survive the adventure. You see, this book doesn’t quite follow the exploits of Tony Stark. He actually spends almost the entire book in a coma. The Iron Man flying around in Hypervelocity is an emergency memory-containing brainwave scan with personality emulation capabilities and tactical processing directives. In other words, Tony Stark created a software backup of himself. This backup protocol (nicknamed Tony 2.0) is to activate in case Stark (Tony 1.0) is incapacitated in combat. Tony 2.0 is activated during an attack on Stark Labs when Tony (1.0) Stark is near-fatally shot. Moments after his creation Tony 2.0 is framed for the attempted murder and he must uncover his attacker’s identity, outmaneuver Shield’s “cape-killer” division, and outsmart a sultry, sarcastic computer virus trying to erase him from the armor.

So why does casting an external hard drive as the main character add to the intensity of the story? A) Tony 2.0 is as great of a character as the original, and B) Because everybody knows that Tony Stark can’t die. No popular comic character ever can; they’re too valuable. Being a fan of mainstream comics means you must look past that and enjoy the story in spite of the Great Beast from Marketing looming over the entire creative process. Spoiler alert, Tony Stark is alive and well by the end of the Hypervelocity. But what of Tony 2.0? He’s disposable. Without his own toy line and movie deal, he’s get a target the size of Rungrado May Day Stadium (the world’s largest soccer stadium by seating capacity) painted on his back throughout the entire book. His fate is in the hands of the writer.

Although the story is superb, I take issue with some of the dialogue. Hypervelocity was written in 2007. If you’re using the phrase, “yo” unironically, I question not your sense of taste but your sense of decade. Major Tom Aramaki, a character who appears to be a in his 40s, is the shield operative charged with taking down rogue superheroes. Problem is, he occasionally talks like a fourteen-year-old on an IM chat. In fact, there’s a lot of dialogue in the book that is extremely jarring because I wasn’t sure where the technical jargon ended and the 90s era Internet slang began. This itself is a forgivable sin, but it made me aware of the book’s only major flaw: Adam Warren writes for Adam Warren. That is to say, Adam Warren is a great artist with a unique voice and a distinct visual style. I would be crazy to call Brian Denham anything but a spectacular artist. However, Warren’s larger than life (yo) dialogue simply doesn't mesh with Denham’s straight-laced visuals.

It’s not a huge complaint, and if the book hadn’t included Adam Warren’s layouts for Hypervelocity issue 1, I wouldn’t have been able to put my finger on it. Look at some shots for comparison.

Those are "layouts"? Shoot, Marvel, just print that! Adam Warren’s original pencils are absolutely radiant. No copy-and-pasting in sight. No sleight meant towards Denham, but I would totally buy a black and white manga style Iron Man series written and illustrated by Adam Warren. Place it outside of regular continuity and call it Iron Manga. Until that day comes, I recommend picking up Hypervelocity. It’s not a tangled mess of cross-comic-continuity, so if you’re new to Marvel or Iron Man and looking to get a taste of high tech hijinks, this book is right up your alley.

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