How cool is it to have an "Iron Man" comic, written by the director of the kickass "Iron Man" movie, come out the week after you just saw the movie in the theater? Pretty cool, I think. Years ago we were teased with Bryan Singer writing some X-Men comics, but that never materialized. And we have Richard Donner working with Geoff Johns on some Superman comics, but that was 25 years after the films came out. But having the hot director from the hottest movie in America write a comic staring the character who will make him a superstar director? That is synergy.
Too bad the comic isn't any good.
Jon Favreau's writing, in movies like "Swingers" and "Made," works best when his characters brandish their witty dialogue like toy lightsabers, gleefully whacking each other without causing much more than a slight sting. Favreau is certainly known more for his dialogue than his story structure, and that's why this premiere issue of "Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas" is so disappointing. The dialogue is insipid, lacking the flair of Favreau's screenwriting or the sass of the Tony Stark character from Favreaus' film.
An attractive woman sitting next to Tony Stark on a passenger plane asks, "Can I ask why you aren't flying in one of your planes?"
"This is one of my planes," replies Stark.
"I meant one of your private planes."
"What's your name?"
A terrorist loaded with explosives pops up in the aisle, shouting "Nobody move! I have a bomb!"
And it goes on like this for a few pages, except with more yelling about the bomb.
Perhaps the scene with Tony Stark and the woman would have built to some witty repartee if it hadn’t been interrupted, but, based on the rest of the issue, I think not.
Later, when a swarm of reptiles invades Las Vegas, Tony Stark sees them and says, "leaping lizards." Seriously.
There isn't much plot to the issue to make up for the flat dialogue. Basically, Iron Man rescues a plane from a terrorist -- a scene which ends with the passengers calling Iron Man a "brute," and telling him to "go back to America." If Favreau were using this series to explore American foreign relations and the notion of the superhero as diplomatic sledgehammer, then the scene might have fit. It would have been heavy-handed, but it might have made sense in context. Here, it just seems like an excuse for Tony Stark to go on vacation in Las Vegas, where he tries to score with some tattooed girls, and then a plague of lizards walks into town. That's it for the entire issue, except for a bit of foreshadowing about some piece of evil sculpture that's been installed on the strip.
Adi Granov's art doesn't help to liven up the issue. He draws a great Iron Man, but all of his humans look like those horrible motion capture monstrosities from Robert Zemeckis' "Beowulf" or "The Polar Express." They look like mannequins -- distorted mannequins when they're trying to emote -- who lack any semblance of life. After seeing Robert Downey, Jr.'s version of Tony Stark, this plastic simulacrum doesn't cut it.
If you haven't read an Iron Man comic in a while, and you are jazzed about the character after seeing the movie, this isn't the comic for you. The one for you is "The Invincible Iron Man," written by Matt Fraction. That comic is everything this one is not.