Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lament for the Attaché Case

When comics were published with more care toward continuity, there were certain events that were given due fanfare. New membership in the Avengers--a replacement in the Fantastic Four--a team disbanding or a character calling it quits--characters from different books meeting for the first time. They were stories that were anticipated--at times, collectors' items--and they usually signalled turning points for the characters. The unveiling of new Iron Man armor was such an event.

It wasn't just the armor that was new, either. With new armor came new improvements--some made because the current situation demanded it, and some just because Stark had been meaning to try them out in a new suit. And, of course, all the features were tested in the very next battle, which gave readers a sense of excitement--almost as if they were being given a new character they they still recognized. A character makeover, in a way. Sometimes the writer went a little overboard. There were some features that ended up giving Iron Man too much of an advantage, and they were eventually "forgotten" about--or a bug was discovered which prevented their further use.

I don't remember a recent Iron Man story where a big deal was made of new armor being cast. I do remember when the silver suit you see here made its first appearance--coincidentally, I'm sure, in the 200th issue of Iron Man. Tony Stark had turned over his last Iron Man suit--and responsibilities--to James Rhodes indefinitely, until a colleague and friend was killed by Stark's nemesis, Obadiah Stane. That motivated Stark to once again assume the identity of Iron Man. He'd been working on the silver suit in secret, refusing to don it until now. The suit bristled with new weapons and features; and the issue ended not only Stane's threat once and for all, but a long drought of issues that hadn't featured Stark as Iron Man.

So while the new suit was definitely showcased, its debut was in an issue that meant so much more to readers. If memory serves, the suit was received favorably, for the most part--helped by its additional exposure in the just-launched West Coast Avengers. I wasn't crazy about its bulk; and though I didn't mind the colors, I was confused why Stark adopted silver instead of retaining the gold. He later reinstated much of the suit's former look when he was forced to destroy the silver suit in an encounter with Firepower, an armored enforcer sicced on Stark when he crossed a lot of lines in his obsession to recover his stolen technology (the so-called "Armor Wars"). The newer suit wasn't quite as streamlined as the former red/gold design (pictured here), but its colors returned familiarity to readers of Iron Man. As was typical, the newer suit contained even more improvements and features. Stark's mind definitely works overtime. He must have a hundred post-it notes littered around his lab.

In later upgrades, the Iron Man armor became something I almost didn't recognize. It was difficult to know where Stark ended and the armor began. Thanks to the Extremis enhancement he was once forced to make, he became basically integrated with it, and gained an annoying ability to interface with anything with an "on" switch. Frankly, I don't know where the armor technology stands these days. I suspect that it's less in flux, perhaps in an attempt to align it more closely with the Iron Man films (if the odd and sudden increase in glowing ports is any indication).

I really don't even know how he suits up nowadays. Stark's identity being in the public domain means that he doesn't have to carry the armor covertly in an attaché case--though frankly, making all that armor be able to shrink enough to fit in a hand-held carrying case meant for contracts or briefs, and still be light enough to casually carry at your side, required a large suspension of disbelief:

"Iron Man In A Case." Almost seems like something you can order, doesn't it? And look how easily "flexible armor" makes the whole thing feasible:

Today, I don't know how the guy transports his armor, unless he's somehow integrated it into tiny storage pods on his skin, so that the armor sheathes him on command. How else would he cart it around on business trips? A really strong valet? He has to have it within arm's reach in case he needs to quick-change, after all. Perhaps this engineer will again return to the tried-and-true attaché case, which never failed him as long as he could grab it and duck into a room somewhere.

Though he might want to look into its usefulness in freefall:

No comments: