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War Machine: Finding Humanity

Writer Greg Pak discusses James Rhodes’ future and the need for every bullet to have a consequence

cover by
"Matt" Mattina

By Tim Stevens When writing a character called War Machine, temptation runs high to fill the page with some of that good old ultra-violence and call it "entertainment." WAR MACHINE #5, written by Greg Pak and drawn by Leonardo Manco, hits shelves on April 29 and reveals considerably more going on with the title that just pounds of munitions and gallons of blood. Indeed, Pak would not be satisfied with that simplistic an approach. "With issue #1, we started with a bang to introduce readers to Rhodey's shocking new willingness to use extreme violence to save innocents from tyrants and madmen around the globe," Pak acknowledges. "[However], I'll just say that every [violent action] in the book has consequences and a massive payoff is on its way." Editor Bill Rosemann echoes the sentiment: "One of the major things we want to communicate is that we're exploring the nature of violence. Is it ever called for? Does anyone deserve it? What does it do to those who commit it?" At the center of that question stands James Rhodes, the man in the high tech armor. How he copes with his actions promises to be a driving force in the title as it moves forward.

preview art by
Leonardo Manco

"There's a major emotional and dramatic story arc for Jim Rhodes over the course of the first 12 issues or so that will become clearer as we move along," Pak reveals. "On an individual level, we're exploring what it means to be a soldier and the terrible price that's often exacted from those who serve." Ares, the God of War offers a contrast to this sober perspective as Rhodes' co-star in the first arc of WAR MACHINE. As opposed to War Machine, who seems to struggle with his conscience, Ares embraces his actions wholeheartedly. Pak, however, sees their relationship as a bit more complicated than simple opposites. "Ares is a big blowhard, which means he can be entertainingly over the top, which is a blast when you're telling a super powered action story," the writers explains. "But at the same time, Ares has unplumbed depths related to his mythological past and his role as the God of War. In WAR MACHINE I've loved having the chance to explore the reasons Ares might be interested in Rhodey. One of my favorite pages in WAR MACHINE #4 includes a few panels the brilliant Leonardo Manco drew of Ares just staring out over the desert, then looking back at us in a moment of stillness. The chance to show Ares in a moment of honest reflection with a fellow warrior was something pretty special."

preview art by
Leonardo Manco

Of course, a book like WAR MACHINE can't be all stillness and philosophically pondering violence. An undeniable sense of action and excitement balances the intelligent take on super heroics. "As the first story arc has progressed, we've delved into some key moments in Rhodey's childhood and built his supporting cast all while battling retrofitted Sentinels, the war-tech of Eaglestar International, Ultimo-infected super soldiers, and Ares," Pak points out. "The idea throughout has been to maintain the series' insanely high-octane action while constantly raising the emotional stakes for Rhodey and his crew." The next arc will embrace this mission as Rhodes takes on the biggest, strongest enemy he has ever grappled with. "We raise the stakes yet again when War Machine and his crew take on a massive new target: the United States of America!" the writer divulges. "[Don't you] dare miss the shocking first chapter of 'Homeland' in WAR MACHINE #6! 'Homeland' also features the insanely cool Jason Strongbow, aka American Eagle, a character that Warren Ellis and Jason Aaron have done phenomenal things with over the past few years. And Rhodey's mom, of course! What's not to love?" Explore equal parts action and philosophy with WAR MACHINE #5 on April 29. Not a subscriber to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited yet? Join now! Check out the official Marvel Shop for everything Iron Man! Download episodes of X-Men: Evolutionicon now on iTunes!

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