IRON PATRIOT #1/ Written by ALES KOT/ Art by GARRY BROWN/ Colors by JIM CHARALAMPIDIS/ Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Ales Kot and company have a particular challenge on their hands with Iron Patriot. James “Rhodey” Rhodes is in no way a stranger to the spotlight. He’s been Tony Stark’s best friend and a key supporting character practically since his introduction, filled in as Iron Man no less than three times, helped found the West Coast Avengers, served on the Secret Avengers and in the Secret Wars, and co-starred in three of the biggest movies of all time. The guy’s kind of a big deal – or he has the potential to be.
Rhodey had three solo books prior to this one. While War Machine volume one lasted a respectable 25 issues, volume two and the poorly-titled Iron Man 2.0 only made it to twelve – the latter in part because absolutely no one wants to buy a book called Iron Man 2.0 (and, surprise, no one did). For any number of reasons, Rhodey’s solo titles just haven’t had staying power.
Precedent says this is an uphill battle, and so two things are key to a successful Iron Patriot book. Marvel has to market this book aggressively and market it well, and the creative team needs to be fantastic. Unfortunately, Marvel is just about the worst ever at multitasking and spent all of its energy advertising Ms. Marvel. Then whoever is in charge of these things decided to stop even pretending to try because they downgraded the book from an ongoing to a miniseries before it even premiered. You thought we wouldn’t notice, Marvel, but we did! So to compensate for all that nonsense, Ales Kot, Garry Brown, and Jim Charalampidis would have to knock this book out of the park Black Widow #1-style for some word of mouth advertisement.
And maybe it’s not Black Widow #1, but that doesn’t mean the book isn’t great. While not without issue, Iron Patriot is an enjoyable first issue and a good starting point for a series. To get the flaws out of the way: Kot’s dialogue can be stilted and way too on the nose, particularly with Rhodey and his family. As a result, the family scenes are the weakest, which is a problem because Terrence and Lila, Rhodey’s father and niece, are set up to be at the heart of the book as Rhodey’s central relationships. Outside of the (thankfully) isolated stiltedness of their dialogue, Terrence and Lila are pretty good characters. Lila in particular is fun as a teen tech genius who’s after a father figure in Rhodey.
As for Rhodey himself, it’s no wonder writers keep coming back to him. He’s a natural leading man: charismatic, dependable, brave, cares deeply for the people in his heart, and best of all he loves being a superhero. Rhodey is at his most fun when he’s having fun, which is while he’s beating the bad guys. Kot nails all those aspects of Rhodey, creating a likable, relatable hero. He struggles with his family relationships, finding a balance between work and home, and manages to be an inspiration to his family as well as men and women across the globe. What a guy!
Kot’s also got a smart plot line going for Rhodey. Rebranded as Iron Patriot, Kot asks Rhodey if he is a true patriot – and this question also asks what is patriotism, and what is patriotism for Rhodey. It’s a difficult question many people face in their lives, and Rhodey’s conflict with the matter is sure to make for a good story. The matter is complicated by the involvement of a Mr. Fujikawa in a secretive plan against Rhodey. While you don’t need to know the name to be interested in this mysterious man, longtime Iron Man readers will recognize the Fujikawa name easily. Fujikawa Industries merged with Stark Industries in the 90s, and Rumiko Fujikawa, the corporation’s heiress, became a supporting character and Tony Stark’s girlfriend until her murder. Could this Mr. Fujikawa be Rumiko’s father? Could Ru’s death have something to do with whatever it is he wants?
Ales Kot’s strong script is partnered with a great art team, Garry Brown on pencils and inks and Jim Charalampidis on colors. Their art style is well suited to the book – Charalampidis’s strong, solid colors work terrifically with Brown’s pencils and inks. It’s sturdy, but not static. Flow and motion are still clear, and Brown’s scene transitions are well-done. Charalampidis’s color palettes were typically well-chosen, particularly the opening flash-forward, heightening the tone and/or urgency for each scene. It’s a smart start, and a striking aesthetic style is just what was needed.
Marvel has really done this book a disservice with what is essentially anti-marketing. Iron Patriot is a quality first installment and a promising start for Rhodey and the reader. More than ever, future issues depend heavily on sales, so head to Comixology or your local store today and pick it up.