There are two reasons for buying “War Machine” #3: Leonardo Manco’s art, and the insane glee and reckless abandon Ares has in fighting War Machine. There are several reasons for not buying “War Machine” #3: the clunky writing, the convoluted plot, the lame and so-bad-it’s-cliché bad guy, and the overwrought dialogue as James Rhodes confronts his violent tendencies.
Ares is quickly becoming the new Wolverine by seemingly showing up everywhere, but with a comic called “War Machine,” it would be wrong to not have the god of war appear. He’s been sent in to interfere with War Machine’s attempt to rescue an imprisoned scientist and wife of his “one-man pit crew” from a government contractor in Aqiria, a fictional stand-in for Iraq or Afghanistan, it seems. Norman Osborn observes and has an unclear motivation, but orders Ares to stand-down, which is when he decides to engage with War Machine.
The fight between the two is exquisitely drawn by Manco, particularly the joy that Ares takes in it. Eyes wide, mouth open in a horrific grin, machine gun blasting in one hand, battle-axe in another, Ares looks like death incarnate here, truly a force to be reckoned with. Not to be outdone, the technological mishmash that War Machine has become is intricately rendered and, somehow, Manco manages to make Rhodes’s machine face look almost scared of Ares, adding to the god’s presence.
But, the fight scene works best if you ignore the words as Ares taunts Rhodes about his true nature -- the joy he takes in violence -- while Rhodes responds with variations on “No! That’s not true! I’m really a nice guy!” that obviously ring hollow and make for an uninteresting character overall. Characters who are in denial about who they are can be great, but when they call themselves War Machine and abandon their human bodies to do their job better, a little bit of self-awareness and recognition is in order. His denials are laughable.
Aside from the fight between the two men of war, the plot here is uninteresting and needlessly convoluted in its presentation. Obviously, Pak and Manco are trying to cram as much information in as possible, but when it boils down to military contractors are raping, killing and experimenting on people, it’s better to just say it. That the CEO of the contractor is so over-the-top in his nonchalance takes away much of the impact of the story, which should resonate with the real world, but is too simplistic and cartoony here to be taken seriously.
“War Machine” #3 is not a good comic, but does have some good elements. The use of Ares here is fantastic and appropriate, particularly his actions at the end of the issue. He actually seems like the god of war here rather than a big thug. Leonardo Manco’s intricately detailed art outdoes Greg Pak’s inept writing by miles, and nearly redeems the issue, but not quite.
(Leonardo Manco’s art is beautiful and, thanks to CBR’s preview, everyone can see it!)