By Kevin Mahadeo
This February, Jim Rhodes once again suits up and busts out the big guns for the all-new ongoing series IRON MAN 2.0. However, this time around, writer Nick Spencer and artist Barry Kitson take charge and send the walking tank known as War Machine into a battle that questions his very purpose and place on today's front lines.
"The thing that most interests me about War Machine is that I think it's such a symbol of sort of the old way of fighting," explains Spencer. "He's got really big guns and if you were to face him head on and confront him directly, you'd lose, which I think is an interesting parallel for U.S. military strength--it seems very top heavy and very direct. The problem is, that isn't how most wars are fought anymore. One of the first things that I thought of when I thought about this character is that, if you were to drop Rhodey in that suit into Afghanistan today, it wouldn't do much of any good. So, this first arc, and really this story on the whole, [are] about the changing ways that we fight wars and about a soldier like Rhodey really having to find a new way to fight."
Spencer first encountered Jim Rhodes at a young age, back when the bunker-blasting hero went by a different moniker: Iron Man. When his close friend and predecessor Tony Stark found himself incapacitated, Rhodey temporarily took over as the man in the iron mask. Spencer says that coming into Iron Man at that particular point has proven advantageous for him in the present when writing Jim Rhodes in IRON MAN 2.0.
|IRON MAN 2.0 #1 cover by Salvador Larroca|
"I think that was beneficial in terms of my approach to the character because I had seen him initially as a leading man and not as a supporting character," he notes. "So, it was easier for me to look at him as someone who could steer his own destiny and face his own struggles. He was a character that I had always been a little interested in just because I think he's always existed in the shadow of Tony Stark and in the shadow of Iron Man. There is a lot to explore in terms of who he was and what his own goals were, what his own fears were, what his own struggles were."
Spencer also looks forward to giving readers another perspective on the U.S. military and its relationships with arms manufacturers. The writer says that he feels many works of fiction often unjustly portrays the military often as an organization constantly seeking better and bigger ways to cause destruction, aggressively acquiring the latest technology "so they could fight very recklessly."
"That's a very typical narrative in traditional stories. I looked at it and said, 'That isn't really what you see in the real world.' The military itself is actually very reticent to get into conflict and you have very aggressive sales pitches from the arms manufacturers to meet their bottom lines and enormous pressure on the military to fight for business. I thought that was something that would be very interesting to explore here. We've been getting one side of the story for years now and I'm certainly eager to dive into the other side."
Artist Barry Kitson, known for his tight pencil work and distinctive art style, joins Spencer. Spencer says that as a fan of his collaborator's work, he has been thoroughly enjoying working with him.
"He's an amazing storyteller is the first thing," Spencer raves. "Barry cares about telling a good story and that's so important. It's not just drawing crazy visuals. He wants to be part of the creative process, he wants to be a part of the storytelling process. He's very involved. He really has a passion for not just drawing big fight scenes and big explosions, but he really wants to focus on the characters and tell a really strong story. As a writer, when you meet an artist like that, it's someone you want to work with forever."
Of course, considering what the writer reveals about the upcoming story and how the current state of war brings into question the effectiveness of the current War Machine suit, readers might wonder if that means the hero might receive an extreme, ass-kicking makeover in the near future; the writer coyly provides an answer:
"What I would say is that this book is about how difficult it is to adapt to change in war. We see this in the real world all the time. The U.S. military in particular struggles to adapt to the changing state of conflict these days. Rhodey is going to be a symbol of that. The ways that he adapts, some will be very tangible and others will be mental. You'll definitely seem some changes in the works, I can say that."
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