Judge Clark Douglas can't wait for the animated, angst-ridden teenage version of The Punisher.
Our reviews of Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Volume 2 (published January 25th, 2010) and Iron Man: Armored Adventures: Season Two, Volume Four (published April 20th, 2013) are also available.
Power up to adventure!
Marvel Comics' characters have been experiencing quite a lot of success on the big screen during the last decade or so, but only recently have they made a resurgence on television. Marvel has had reasonable success in terms of re-tooling their characters with new programs like The Spectacular Spider-Man, The Super Hero Squad Show and Wolverine and the X-Men. Tony Stark also gets the Y7 treatment with Iron Man: Armored Adventures, which takes everybody's favorite alcoholic, government-endorsed billionaire business mogul/superhero and turns him into a hip teenager.
As the story begins, Tony's father Howard passes away. Howard Stark was the founder of Stark Industries, a very powerful industrial manufacturing company that creates everything from construction machinery to kitchen appliances. The company will be Tony's when he turns 18, but until then it has been placed under the supervision of the not-so-secretly villainous Obadiah Stane (I do love that name, I truly do). Immediately after Howard Stark passes away, Stane decides to use the resources of Stark Industries to create high-powered weapons for the government. Tony is not terribly thrilled about that, but what can he do? He's just a teenager. Insert an accident, a high-tech cure and some innovative thinking on Tony's part, and voila! He's a superhero nicknamed "Iron Man" (because he wears a flying suit made of iron).
There are six episodes included on this disc:
• Iron, Forged in Fire—Part 1
I have mixed feelings about the program, but let's start by focusing on the good. These adventures may fall short of the high standard set by (awed silence, please) Batman: The Animated Series, but they're reasonably engaging as such things go. Head writer Christopher Yost (whose work in the field of comic books is similarly adequate) does a nice job of including many aspects of the Iron Man mythos, fusing both the more realistic real-world stuff and the fantastical mystical elements. Unlike many children's programs, this one actually does manage to include some ongoing plot threads, most notably Tony's ongoing efforts at stopping Obadiah Stane from achieving his many evil goals. However, each episode is also satisfactorily self-contained, as Tony deals with problems ranging from nasty supervillains to runaway trains. It's all presented in a fairly appealing blend of CGI and traditional 2-D animation, which works like gangbusters during the action sequences even though it makes conversational scenes feel a little awkward and creepy.
However, things aren't all good in this revamped animated world. I know it's not a very fair comparison, but it's hard not to compare this version of Tony Stark with the one presented in Jon Favreau's live-action film franchise. Frankly, the biggest problem with Iron Man: Armored Adventures is that this version of Tony Stark doesn't feel one bit like Iron Man. Aside from the fact that he's pretty confident and wears a suit of Iron, there's no real connection between this Tony Stark and the traditional version. In fact, Tony comes across as being a whole lot more like Peter Parker in this series, particularly when you work in the fact that he's an ordinary high school student rather than a high-powered business owner during his free time. Pepper Potts? She's an ordinary girl who goes to his high school. Jim Rhodes? Yep, just an ordinary guy who goes to his high school. As you might expect, they're all given "typical high school problems" to deal with in their personal lives (it makes them sooooo relateable). Again, this stuff is the bread and butter of much Spider-Man material, but in the Iron Man franchise it just feels out of place. Truthfully, this series probably should have been called Iron Boy: Angsty Adventures.
The full-frame transfer is quite sharp and detailed, considerably better than the average DVD release for an animated children's program. I've noticed a bothersome trend among discs of this sort; the producers often seem to put less care into the transfers due to the fact that few adults will be watching. Thankfully, that's not the case with this disc. Detail is excellent throughout, the broad color palette comes through with vibrance and blacks are rich and deep. Audio is also stellar, though I did find the theme song ("His teenage life will never be the same!") a bit loud in contrast to everything else. Otherwise, this 5.1 track gets the job done. The only extras on the disc are a couple of cheesy music videos and some suit profiles offering details on Tony's armor.
The 5- to 10-year-old action junkie in your home may find this stuff entertaining, but it's less impressive than both the X-Men and Spider-Man programs available right now. I'd go for those first before checking out this disc.
Not guilty, yet not exactly worthy of much praise.
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