Nestled nicely between the appearance of two blockbuster, live-action films, Iron Man was been made into another half-hour animated show. In the past we have seen the origin and tales of the Stan Lee created Tony Stark and his amazing technology be altered in a 90s cartoon show, the Jon Favreau film(s), and a recent animated film, but the developers of these latest “adventures” take the furthest and riskiest leap from the original source material by making Stark a teenager, along with most all of his friends, and some enemies as best friends Rhodey, Pepper and arch enemy the Mandarin (!!!) are converted to high school chums.
One can assume that all of the changes have been made to reach a different demographic, or to simply shake things up from what might now be an all too familiar character. The thematic approach, the high school setting, the clear movie tie-ins (Jeff Bridges’ character Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger from the film is now the main villain of the series), and the ‘cel-shaded’ animation style are all very reminiscent of the MTV produced Spiderman: The New Animated Series, which arrived just after the first Sam Raimi Spiderman film. Unlike that Spiderman series, it has nowhere near the star-power behind it (almost all of the voice talent, including the regular cast, were all name celebrities) but like that series this take on Iron Man turns out to be a bit of gem. Spiderman only lasted one season in that animated carnation, but this is Volume 2 of this Iron Man series with another season of 26 episodes already green lit.
The characters and stories are handled with some great finesse. This show could easily have been a repetitive telling of Tony trying to prove his worth despite his youth as he faces becoming an orphan and inheriting a Billion dollar industry when he completes high school. There are several villains that are suited for one episode battles but others that have hints of long extending stories that make the viewer crave more. As Stane comes closer to discovering the identity of Iron Man and as the Mandarin comes closer to revealing his true self (here as Tony’s “friend”) one cannot help but get that anxious excitement about the prospect of seeing more as the end credits of each episode roll.
Not to say that this is a stellar creation, that it dwarfs all other Marvel animated adaptations but it is the best in recent memory.
As mentioned, this set is Volume two, which means it contains the last six episodes of the first season. I tend to prefer a complete boxset as this series has storylines that stretch season wide and are worth seeing together, but any amount of a good thing is still good.
Fullscreen 1.33:1. Standard for most television shows. The picture quality is very good. Every line and detail of the ‘cel-shaded’ animation (which, for those that do not know, is the method of making 3D computer graphics appear to be hand drawn by design) is perfectly clear, nothing is hidden and there is little in the way of animation “flaws” to expose, if any.
Dolby Digital 5.1. The audio is very well done. The many electronic sounds that surround Stark at all times surround the listener completely. The battles are all about big blast and explosions which will have you racing for the remote if your neighbours ears are sensitive as they are quite robust here.
Nothing but a series of promos for other Marvel animated shows, namely:
Wolverine and the X-Men: A slightly darker take but still looks just like Evolution, it’s previous series.
The Super Hero Squad Show: Another version of Iron Man pitches this show that makes Marvel characters puffy and kid-friendly (including Wolverine, claws and all).
Iron Man: Armored Adventures: In case you need to be sold on what you’re watching already.
Those missing the “Demon in a Bottle” tortured Tony Stark can wait for the next film (or just read the comics darn it) but many will be just as surprised as I was with the quality of this series. A worthwhile version that many age demographics can enjoy that initially sounds like an awful concept but turns out to be satisfying. We need more nice surprises like this coming from the healthy catalog of Marvel characters.