Iron Man 2.0 isn't Invincible Iron Man, and the second issue could not make that clearer. While comic book heartthrob Matt Fraction's series has largely focused on exploring the mind and mentality of Tony Stark, the ridiculously talented Nick Spencer is establishing perpetual second banana James Rhodes as a fully-formed character, with his own series of adventures. Iron Man 2.0 has established itself as one of the more unique visions on the character: Rhodey is now a repentant soldier, using Stark technology to go on missions for the government: the antithesis of what Tony would ever have wanted.
Spencer seems to have a better grasp on Rhodey's voice -- in this issue he cracks jokes, shoots down bro talk, bursts through windows and, most importantly, he sounds like his own man, complete with his obvious past with former Stark employee Suzi Endo. A scene where Rhodey watches in awe as Endo extrapolates the location of a terrorist from an unused cell phone transitions seamlessly from informative dialogue (Spencer has a gift for avoiding exposition) to playful flirtation. Frankly, the best thing Nick Spencer might have done for Jim Rhodey is prove he has a dick, and one that isn't mounted on his shoulder.
Characterization aside, the action in this issue is on an even grander scale than the previous. The second chapter of “Parker Addley is Dead” finds its footing much quicker than the first, moving briskly from scenario to scenario, largely due to its improved art. It is bookended with the types of explosions you love to see in espionage books, and Barry Kitson's, Kano's and Carmine Di Giandomenico's art gel much better this time around. Faces and costumes are more consistent, and the layouts are much more dynamic. If you're a fan of two-page spreads with overlaid panels, you've come to the right place. Kitson, Kano and Di Giandomenico seem to work as a unit, to the point that the series no longer feels like an “artist jam” -- something CB bad boy Morgan “Freeman” Davis took umbrage with in the previous issue.
Spencer also injects the right amount of mystery -- the unifying arc of Palmer Addley being invoked in acts of terror (despite his eponymous demise) is the extra hook that this kind of book needs -- it's great to see Rhodey doing shit on his own, and the action is on point, but Spencer's finesse with balancing immediate pacing and larger scale ideas is what makes him the right man for the job.
I enjoyed issue #1, but the clear improvement in issue #2 guarantees that Iron Man 2.0 is going to be a must-read for a while. Whoever's idea it was to bring on Spencer as a Marvel-exclusive: you should be proud as fuck of yourself.
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