I am, at best, a dabbler in comic books, and I'll freely admit that my main knowledge of and interest in Marvel Comics comes via the excellent Marvel...moreI am, at best, a dabbler in comic books, and I'll freely admit that my main knowledge of and interest in Marvel Comics comes via the excellent Marvel Cinematic Universe. The "best of" compilations offered in the Marvel Platinum series are therefore ideal for someone like me - you get to read the stories in their original medium and gain some insight into the influences and adaptation process behind the films, without having to sort through 50+ years' worth of publications to decide which ones you want to read.
I read the first Marvel Platinum: The Definitive Iron Man book earlier this year, which covered a number of key events in the Iron Man series, such as Tony Stark's first appearance as the eponymous superhero, his final battle with Obadiah Stane, a run-in with the Hulk on a bad day, and half a dozen other stories that were enjoyable despite my lack of contextual knowledge of the rest of the series. I felt that Iron Man: Reloaded was more self-consciously aimed at the Cinematic Universe fans than its predecessor - and it can't be coincidence that this book was released in the same month that Iron Man 3 came out in the cinema - and there seems to have been more of a conscious effort to keep the material presented in this volume geared towards stories that are adapted or referenced in the Cinematic Universe. This is something which I appreciate, as I'm sure will others who primarily follow the films; I can't speak for those who prefer their Iron Man fix in comic book form, but I don't think there's anything here to actively offend purists, although someone who knows the comics better and the films less well will probably get different things out of reading this collection. Still, from my point of view it seemed like it's set up to be a good all-round crowd pleaser.
Special mention from this reviewer must go to the inclusion of Iron Man Vol.5, #19 - which features Black Widow, Maria Hill and (my favourite character) Pepper Potts in the "Rescue" armour; a rare all-female superhero team-up, which wins bonus points for never making a big deal out of (or even referencing) the fact that all the characters are women. Well played, Marvel, and it goes a long way to making up for the fact that Pepper's characterisation in the first couple of comics included in this volume can only be described as eye-wateringly sexist (but fortunately so camp and outdated you can have a good laugh instead of getting offended). Having always loved Gwyneth Paltrow's portrayal of Pepper Potts in the films, I was sad to see her almost entirely absent from the first Definitive Iron Man collection (she gets one crowd-scene cameo and a brief mention in Tony's character file), so the fact that her presence here was much stronger - and that the reader gets to witness her develop from a vapid and scheming gold-digger to an ass-kicking superhero in her own right - was one thing that encouraged me to read this anthology in the first place, and one of the aspects I enjoyed the most.
The majority of the comics collected here in some way involve The Mandarin (whom my fellow comic book novices will best recognise as the villain of the third film - once again, the publishers were clearly courting movie-goers), which gives rise to a fantastically upbeat two-page spread basically apologising for all the outdated portrayals of racial stereotypes while trying to keep the tone nice and light. Asian characters do not get always get a very balanced portrayal in the earlier comics collected here, and I won't pretend that I can personally understand the issues surrounding that as well as I can the problems with the way women were characterised in older comics, but again there's a noticeable evolution in attitudes as the series continues, and as long as the reader isn't inclined to take the cartoonish villainy too much to heart I think that these stories were still good fun.
Other fun features of this collection include: some significant appearances by Tony's best friend James Rhodes and his War Machine armour; a couple of cameos by Spider-Man; blink-and-you'll-miss-them appearances by Captain America and Thor; and a dystopian alternate future in which Tony and Pepper's son and granddaughter fight in a war to save humanity from the Mandarin's super-human armies on a worn-out planet Earth. A very good and quite quick read (took me two days) that I would recommend to anyone looking to familiarise themselves with this comic franchise.(less)