The biggest challenge "Iron Patriot" #1 faces is to avoid being a knockoff of Iron Man. Ales Kot establishes the supporting cast of the series and general thrust of James Rhodes' new mission, supported by impressionistic artwork from Garry Brown and colorist Jim Charalampidis. Unfortunately, the entirety of "Iron Patriot" #1 fails to leave much of an impression.
Despite a shocking opening scene, Kot reverts to an almost by-the-numbers story quickly, seizing the opportunity to introduce Iron Patriot in his mundane new digs and with his new purpose, which isn't earth-shattering. On the heels of that, Kot introduces readers to Rhodes' father, Terrence, and niece, Lila, who are introduced as Rhodes' anchors as he attempts to establish a more civilian-friendly life. They serve as a sounding board and a method to provide story exposition, but Lila and Terrence don't offer much emotional investment and, by the end of the issue, Kot has them positioned as plot devices and potential story fodder.
Brown's art exhibits hints of Tom Mandrake, Phil Hester and Mike Mignola, but not overtly so, hedging closer in appearance to images run through the Photoshop posterize filter. Brown isn't beholden to the stiffness that photo-referencing produces, but his characters have a rigidity to them that is further enhanced through Brown's use of heavy shadows. Charalampidis' colors are strong throughout the issue, lightly textured, but not overbearing. The same can be said for Clayton Cowles' letters, which serve the story and avoid impeding the artwork.
With a somewhat predictable debut, this mediocre launch to the latest adventures of James Rhodes leaves a bit to be desired. The basic concept of Rhodes' transformation from War Machine to Iron Patriot has already been handled more succinctly and with greater animation onscreen in "Iron Man 3." That makes the declaration of becoming a hero for the people simply boring and almost tiresome in this issue, consuming space that could have been filled with action or adventure. "Iron Patriot" #1 isn't Marvel's biggest whiff of the All-New Marvel NOW! lineup, but it most definitely isn't their strongest offering. Kot and Brown have their work cut out for them to make this a destination title noteworthy of readers getting excited for something different. I hope they get started on that path in earnest next issue.