Cameron's Reviews > Iron Man: Execute Program

Iron Man by Daniel Knauf
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Aug 18, 2011

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bookshelves: graphic-novels, reviewed
Read in February, 2011

According to eyewitness reports, Iron Man is going around killing people across the world. This, combined with Tony's sudden reckless and arrogant behavior since being injected with Extremis as well as the victims connections to his imprisonment in Afghanistan, is making it hard for S.H.I.E.L.D. and the superhuman community to believe claims that he's innocent. Thus, Iron Man is labelled a rogue superhero and all manner of crazy shenanigan ensues.

At it's core, Execute Program is fun. It's "don't think about it too hard" entertainment. Unfortunately, since reviewing a book sort of makes it impossible not to think about it too hard, multiple problems made themselves apparent as I began writing this review. For instance, the entirety of the story is set up as a mystery. Why is Iron Man murdering people in cold blood? Is it really him? Who's behind all this craziness? Those are the questions this mystery poses. Ones that are asked frequently by all the cast. The problem is, we get the answer to all those questions by the end of page two, before the questions are even asked. You really have to not be paying attention to miss it, which kind of takes all the fun away from reading a mystery.

In harmony with the above precedent, the book acknowledges that the "villain" of the story isn't meant to be viewed as something menacing, but then spends a good portion of the book trying to convince the reader that he is anyway. The story isn't so much about the person pulling the strings as it is about Tony and company reacting to the strings that are pulled. Despite this, in an embarrassingly transparent attempt to make the bad guy seem extra evil, he stabs a man for no reason in the opening pages of the comic. The whole scene feels so pointless. Why are we being shown that this guy has no regard for human life in this way when that fact would have been abundantly clear without that scene anyway? Are Daniel and Charles Knauf just trying to aggravate nit-pickers like myself. Mission accomplished if so.

Not everything's bad though. As I said, there's a fun story in this here book. I'll admit that it was fun to get caught up in the "mystery" of the story and Tony's behavioral change is fun to read about. The action too is fun to see.

This book has a much simpler presentation than the previous volume. Abandoning the paint-like style of the last story in favor of a more traditionally modern art style, the transition going from one to the next can be rather jarring. In addition, while the art is serviceable and the coloring is very well done, unnecessary lines are frequently added to many scenes. Not only is it distracting, but it makes everything feel cluttered. It also makes every character look like old Aunt May with wrinkles out the wazoo. (Hmm, that sentence really doesn't make any sense. Note to self: Either remove said sentence before posting this review, or leave it in because it sounds funny...)

Execute Program seems to really enjoy throwing in pointless visual references. Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, The Matrix and Old Boy, among other pop culture staples, all receive visual nods in this book. Now, while references can be used in fun, clever, and even insightful ways, they're, with rare exception, at best used as a means to convey a message using someone else's talent and, at worst, used as a meaningless inclusion into a story. Execute Program falls into the latter category. It throws visual references out in a way that says "Hey look! I know these things exist!". Nothing is gained by their inclusion and the story doesn't benefit from their presence. Perhaps this isn't a very big deal, but it's something that's always bothered me.

Execute Program is a book with a solid and entertaining foundation surrounded by a pile of minor complaints that grows larger and larger with each page turned. It's sad to see such a good story marred by a plethora of nit picks, but it is what it is. If you can avoid thinking about it too hard, Execute Program is an enjoyable read, but it's likely to at least annoy anyone who thinks about it beyond the point of closing the book.
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