by Ales Kot, Garry Brown
James Rhodes. Rhodey. War Machine. Iron Patriot. That is a lot of names for a supporting character with very little draw. With so many superheroes and solo books, pitching one about this smaller character requires enough bite to change that perception. Is it possible to get readers to care about an Iron Man stand-in? Ales Kot and Garry Brown have a real challenge on their hands in making Iron Patriot a title to which readers should pay attention. If they wanted to give people a reason to take notice, Iron Patriot #1 is a solid opening statement.
Kot’s issue one of Iron Patriot starts with its climax, or maybe even aftermath. Readers are dropped into a setting they don’t recognize and a character looking down on Rhodes that is unfamiliar. Then, the lead character apologizes. Kot decides to start at the end before working backwards. This plot structure, used often, is a great choice to introduce a series. It creates a mystery before anything else is introduced. Readers don’t know any of the players, the personalities or the status quo. But this opening mystery is engaging and makes the argument: it’s not the name scrawled across the cover of the book, but the story that matters.
Additionally, this first issue isn’t just a series of unanswered mysteries without any substance. Kot is quite skilled and knows exactly how to use the space he has. As the story flashes back a few days to fill in the gap, Rhodey and his father talk about decisions, perceptions and making time for family. It’s an intimate exchange and one with little catering to the reader. Kot doesn’t waste time with introductions and exposition, but through a very natural interaction between father and son, readers will glean much about James Rhodes and find themselves caring all on their own.
About mid-issue, readers are shown a glimpse of Rhodey and his father during Rhodey’s youth. It is not terribly apparent why a dream-flashback is the best choice to further accentuate a point, and it is a slight misstep in the first issue. For an otherwise very tightly controlled story, this moment feels a bit contrived. However, its brevity and the overall very strong script for issue one makes it a minor grievance at most.
As the story moves into its final pages, the mystery thickens; a new character is introduced and though the story doesn’t quite return to how it opened, the way that it may get there seems to have a lot more involved. Kot’s writing in issue one is quick. The story shifts settings many times and there appears to be much at play. Kot, though, manages to introduce these many elements without overwhelming the reader. Instead it feels like great drama and it is an excellent promise for what is to come. Garry Brown’s art is a good pairing and it carries the story just fine. While most of the issue maintains a number of small-setting focuses, the two-page spread of Iron Patriot in action is the issues strongest visual.
Readers may not have had a reason to pay much mind to Iron Patriot before, but Kot and Brown do a good job of changing that.