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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

DVD Review: Iron Man Armored Adventures: S2 V4

Wow. There are so many versions of Marvel stories out there, it boggles the mind. Alternate universes, alternate alternates. Crazy, right?

Iron Man Armored Adventures is yet another variation. Much like Spiderman: the New Animated Series from MTV, this story follows a high-school aged hero, and most of his friends and enemies are around the same age. They interact in more teen-centric ways: for example, The Mandarin has a sort-of relationship with Pepper Potts. I mean, they don't go steady. But almost. The animation style is also similar - all of the animation appears to be 3D cel shaded animation, including all of the people, as opposed to some recent animated hero shows that use 3D for all of the backgrounds and mechanical items, but what appears to be hand drawing for the people.

People look fine, but are a little stiff when animated.

That distinction is probably the only dig I would make on IMAA. While the 3D technique is excellent for a show that mostly has robots and mecha, it still falls short when it comes to human faces, dialog, and movement. Hand animation, even when mimicked in 3D (see Disney's Academy Award winning Paperman), is still far more effective than a 3D looking person in cel animation. That said, once you're used to it, it's not as distracting as some earlier attempts at this style from the 90s.

That's a pretty nice suit, Tony.
Did you finish your homework yet?
The Iron Man suit itself has some spiffy features in this series, most notably Extremis, a system young Stark devises that allows him to, among other things, suit up without appearing to carry the armor with him. He also can apparently gain control of computerized devices with it, which comes in handy sometimes.

Beyond that, there are some really great choices that come to pass story-wise. First and foremost, while this is clearly aimed at teens (and teens at heart), this is not some modular episodic. Like most modern Marvel animated series, this is a serial storyline, and it does make a difference if you don't watch the series from the beginning. If you're considering this disk, I highly recommend seeing it from the first ep of S1. Even though you will quickly get the story, there's a lot of fun to be had seeing it unfold.

Unique to this story variant is Tony Stark as a teenager who early in the series believes his father, Howard Stark, is dead. He discovers the truth on this disk, that's something to look forward to. I hate to spoil anything, so suffice to say that Tony's friend Roadie isn't the only character who ends up with powered armor. As you can see from the cover, S.H.I.E.L.D. figures prominently, as does The Hulk with yet another origin story, and Black Panther, who, if I heard correctly in one of the eps, has a familial relationship with none other than Nick Fury.

You know what they say:
The central thrust to this storyline is Iron Man versus The Mandarin, and they play out the rings mythology all the way through, delving deep into its history, and exposing an origin of The Mandarin that I hadn't seen before.

It all leads to some great possibilities that I found fun to watch and well executed, especially granting the intended audience. It's not as gritty as some other recent Marvel animated fare, but there are real consequences to these characters' actions, and the kinds of travails we expect from Marvel. Stark isn't a drunk, he's too young. But there are comas, mental disorders, ill-advised outbursts, and more.

One thing I found very interesting - at one point, Tony Stark finds himself in a Matrix-like world, trapped by a villain trying to gain the secrets of Extremis. Then, there's an implication that he isn't totally sure of what is real and what is not after he escapes. The series actually doesn't appear to resolve this fully, and one wonders how this may figure into later seasons, if there will be any.

Lovecraft fans will enjoy this character who makes
a deal with Dr. Doom.
Overall, then, this was worthwhile. If you are a DVD user, and like the vast cornucopia of story variants that Marvel has been cranking out in the last decade, this is not one to miss. Oh, and keep a look out for the origin of the Ultimo robot (who looks a little too much like some designs of Ultron to me). Very interesting choice there.

As for the DVD itself, it's pretty unremarkable. There are some concept art galleries, and the packaging is fine, but frankly, there's nothing on the disk (not even alt languages) that insists you buy it rather than watch it streaming on Netflix or other services when it eventually comes out. Series 1 was on Netflix before.

One last thing: this show has one of the better theme songs in recent memory. It's catchy, fresh, and not too kid-oriented. Animated hero shows are definitely doing a better job with theme songs than in eras past, although they don't tell a story like most of the classics (Spiderman from the 70s comes to mind).

Iron Man: Armored Adventures
Season 2, Vol 4


7 out of 10 rings of Makluan

also consider getting the following:

Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Complete Season 1
Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Complete Season 2

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