War has been an unfortunate part of our society since mankind first came together to form large groups and as time has gone on, it's become infinitely more damaging and destructive, especially in the Marvel Universe, where fantastic elements like super science and super powers are a reality. To survive conflicts involving those things you have to be a brave, resourceful and well equipped soldier like James "Rhodey" Rhodes. When Rhodey first met and became friends with billionaire inventor Tony Stark, he was just a veteran Marine helicopter pilot. Several years later, he became the super hero and super soldier known as War Machine when Stark gave his best friend his own heavily armed, high tech battle suit.
As War Machine, Rhodey has won countless super powered skirmishes, but in issue #2 of the recently launched "Iron Man" 2.0 series, he was confronted and soundly defeated by a mysterious opponent. The defeat destroyed Rhodey's current battle suit, but he'll soon don new armor which will allow him to adapt to the changing ways in which war is being waged in the Marvel Universe.
"Iron Man 2.0" is writer Nick Spencer's first work for Marvel Comics, but the writer has already established a large fan base thanks to his highly acclaimed work on books like DC Comics' "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" and his ongoing creator owned series from Image Comics, "Morning Glories." "'Iron Man 2.0' features a different type of military situation than 'T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents,' which has a very international flavor to it. They're based out of the United Nations so the dynamics are a little different. This is a fun chance to get to play around with Washington style politics, the Pentagon and the Department of Defense and obviously Steve Rogers' leadership of the Marvel heroes. It comes out of a different perspective, but I think there are some reoccurring themes pertaining to both stories," Spencer told CBR News "As far as the connection with books like 'Morning Glories,' I enjoy writing long form mysteries, and this is certainly one of those. The big story is going to take a lot of twists and turns and you're going to find out a lot about who our mystery villain is, how he came to be and exactly how he's doing what he's doing."
While Jim Rhodes left the military shortly after meeting Tony Stark, issue #1 of "Iron Man 2.0" Spencer brought the hero back into the military way of life with Rhodey signing on to become the official Iron Man of the U.S. government.
"I think Jim is definitely a military guy through and through. He's just one of those guys where it never really leaves their system, but at the same time he has this tendency where when he doesn't like the orders he's been given, he breaks off and does his own thing," Spencer explained. "Some of that comes from his association with Stark and some of it just comes from his own conscience. But whatever the reason, he's always been able to do that in the past and now he's going to be in a situation where doing that won't be an option. The United States military is so hungry for an Iron Man, if he doesn't fill that role, Tony Stark and everyone at Stark Resilient has realized that the military will find someone else that will provide one."
So far for Rhodey, rejoining the military has been a classic case of the old saying, "You can't go home again." In "Iron Man 2.0" #1 he reported for duty at Mackelroy Army base where he received a contemptuous welcome from his new commanding officer, General Babbage. "During Greg Pak's recent 'War Machine' series, Rhodey was caught up in the craziness of Norman Osborn's 'Dark Reign.' He went head to head against Osborn and basically ended up running some terrorist operations against U.S. military bases because of it. These terrorist operations didn't have any human casualties, but I think you would still define them as terrorism if they happened in the real world," Spencer remarked. "So after years in the private sector doing his own thing, Rhodey is suddenly back inside of the military and he's being confronted by some of the consequences of his previous actions, which I think most people would probably find justifiable, but it's still a situation where there's going to be a lot of anger directed towards him. He's going to be a bit ostracized, and that's just sort of the beginning place for him in this new assignment."
After his C.O.'s warm welcome, Rhodey was introduced to his new support team of intelligence contractors: Mike Zelinsky, Ernst Hoyer and Kaylie Doran. "They're going to be a big part of the series moving forward," Spencer said. "Plus, there will be some more supporting cast members to come, like Suzi Endo AKA Cybermancer, who popped up in issue #2."
In issue #1, Zelinsky, Hoyer and Doran briefed Rhodes on his first mission for the U.S. government to investigate whether or not a brilliant weapons designer named Palmer Addley is dead and to take down whoever is selling his devices to terrorists. "You're going to find out a lot about Palmer Addley's past in issue #4. Then, after the second arc, we're going to come back and do another issue that picks up where that one left off," Spencer said. "The process of finding out who Palmer is, what he's all about, what's motivating him to do these things and how he's doing these things is something that's going to play out over a year's worth of stories."
Addley, a new character created by Spencer, was introduced in issue #1 where readers saw that even after an apparent suicide, the cunning inventor is still causing problems for the U.S. government by arming terrorists with high tech devices and dropping cryptic clues that he might still be alive. In issue #2, Addley further demonstrated his guile by ensnaring Rhodes in a trap that destroyed the War Machine armor. "I think what Palmer is doing is very much representative of asymmetrical warfare. It's representative of the new ways of fighting that opposition forces are adapting when they're confronting a military like the United States has," Spencer said. "Palmer is a symbol for the changing face of war and for the need for military forces to adapt to current conflicts. It's really going to challenge Jim's way of thinking and the way that Jim has approached most of the fights in his life."
"Iron Man 2.0" #3 is in stores April 6 and brings the series introductory arc to a close, finding Rhodey and Tony Stark designing and building the series titular battle suit. "That 'Iron Man 2.0' teaser we dropped in 'Iron Man' #500 sort of falls in between the pages of issue #3. It deals with the fallout of what we saw happen in issue #2," Spenser stated. "By the end of issue #3, we'll have unveiled the new armor. Our big goal, creatively, was, we wanted to make Rhodey something more than just Iron Man with a few extra guns. I think we really succeeded in giving Jim a new power set that's going to really set him apart and explain why he truly is now Iron Man 2.0."
The introductory arc of "Iron Man 2.0" features art by three different artists: Barry Kitson, Carmine Di Giandomenico and Kano. "What happened was Barry Kitson came down with pneumonia during the production of the book and unfortunately wasn't able to do all of the first three issues like we planned. So we got really lucky and Kano and Carmine stepped in and did a fantastic job," Spencer explained. "I knew that was going to be the case by the time I was writing issues #2-3, so I was writing knowing the art duties were going to be shared, so I think it will feel cohesive. For as long I've been writing books, I've been writing for the particular artists I'm working with. So if I know it's coming, it's not hard for me to tackle the beats of the story in a way where the art changes won't pull the reader out of the story."
Spencer is working with artist Ariel Olivetti on "Iron Man 2.0" #4, a stand alone issue focusing on Palmer Addley. "Some serious revelations come to light in the issue and I'm very excited about it," the writer remarked. "It's one of the best single issue stories I've ever been a part of. It's a story you can really pick up and read without having read any of the previous issues. I think it stands alone as a story and I think it has something important to say. I can't be really specific right now about what exactly that is, but I think it's something that's going to strike a chord with a lot of folks.
"Plus, I'm a huge fan of Ariel's. I've seen what he's doing on issue #4 and I think it's his best work yet," Spencer continued. "I think it's very different in some ways than what people have come to expect from him. He's really knocking his issues out of the park. He's done a phenomenal job with these pages. Again, issue #4 has me as excited as I have been about anything in my career."
Spencer and Olivetti continue their collaboration with issues #5-7 of "Iron Man 2.0," which features a story that ties into Marvel's upcoming "Fear Itself" storyline. "We take a little break from our long form story and we're going to do a really fun 'Fear Itself' tie-in that will guest star the Immortal Weapons," Spencer said. "It's going to be a blast. I get to write Iron Fist, and that's something that I've been looking forward to for a long time."
Spencer knows that with today's economic climate, fans can sometimes be wary of investing time and money in a new ongoing series. With that i mind, the writer promises he'll do his best to make "Iron Man 2.0" an exciting series that delivers plenty of payoffs for long term readers. "Like a lot of my work, this is a series that requires a long term buy in and I'm very excited about the stories we get to tell here," the writer remarked. "This series has something to say about why we fight and the way we fight. For me, the thing that's intriguing about Jim is that he's of that warrior class. He's your classic soldier, and to get to tell a story about the way the planet is changing under the feet of these guys right now is something I'm very excited about."