Now that I’m no longer expecting this series to chart the course for the Marvel Universe going forward, it makes for a more entertaining read. Stark and his longtime friend James “War Machine” Rhodes are hot on the trail of the biohack ninjas who were following Madame Masque in the previous volume, and that has led them to Japan’s underworld. As Stark and Rhodes (and friends) deal with that business, Doctor Doom strikes up a casual friendship with Stark’s new girlfriend Dr. Amara Perera, and the Stark Industries A.I. Friday tries to fend off a hostile takeover of the company with or without the help of Mary Jane Watson. It’s a fun tale of international espionage and superhero action that again finds Bendis on one of his better days. I like his portrayal of Stark as a genius who is also a hot mess who is capable of great things, but needs the help of his closest friends to function. Mike Deodato provides striking art from beginning to end, energizing both the fighting and the conversations. If the story has any problems, it’s that it’s more of an entertaining surface than anything else. Things end with a feeling that not much was accomplished as the series heads into “Civil War II.”
Along with the exit of Stark as the main character of this series, but you likely already knew that by the time you picked up this volume. His successor, Riri Williams, is introduced here building her own Iron Man suit in her dorm room at MIT and using it to stop a few escaped convicts after flying to New Mexico. I’ve got no problems with seeing an African American tech genius take over as Iron Man, but Bendis almost completely whiffs with his introduction of the character. You’d think that in introducing an important character to the “Iron Man” mythos it’d be smart to make them indispensable to the plot. Right? Well, if you took out all of Riri’s scenes here it wouldn’t make any difference to “The War Machines” at all. How hard would it have been for Bendis to insert a scene where Stark goes to judge a science fair at MIT, meet Riri and see her great Iron Man-esque project, and offer some words that either inspire or infuriate her to create her own suit. The answer to that is apparently “too hard” so we’ll have to wait and see if the writer can make a better case for her inclusion in the next volume.
(Oh yeah, and I picked up this volume for $4 digitally from ComiXology while it was on sale. I’ll admit that makes this volume easier to enjoy than if I had paid for a discounted copy of the hardcover on Amazon.)