Iron Man Noir #2

Scott Snyder is either very brave or he’s a madman. Two issues into this four-issue series and Tony Stark hasn’t even come close to putting on the Iron Man armor and repulsor-punching the bad guys. The series title is misleading in a couple of ways, since it lacks Iron Man (so far) and it’s certainly not “noir.” It’s more like “Tony Stark and the Raiders of Lost Atlantis.”

But, you know what? It’s good.

I assume Snyder is both brave and a bit mad — you’ve read “American Vampire,” right? And that’s a comic that shows he can out-duke Stephen King when it comes to intelligently vicious horror — and “Iron Man Noir” is one of the more interesting comics to come out of this surprisingly-long Marvel experiment in four-issue, out-of-continuity, alternate reality tales of days gone by. While the best of the previous “Noir” comics were artist showcases, this one is more writerly. More of an homage to the pulps and adventure serials. More about jaunty wit in action than stoic tales of the mean streets in an uncaring world.

And that’s a nice variation, because although Manuel Garcia does a respectable job telling the story, there’s nothing particularly attractive or dynamic about his art. It doesn’t seem like inker Lorenzo Ruggiero adds much depth or character to the pencils, either, and Marta Martinez drowns most of the issue in murky blues and browns. The story doesn’t suffer because of the art, but it’s not the kind of graphically-arresting art we’ve seen from other “Noir” titles. It’s certainly rougher around the edges, and I suppose that’s okay for a rugged adventure tale.

Because in issue #2, Snyder gives us plenty of adventure. Sure, the armored suit — looming as a presence on the cover and even on the recap page — might not make an appearance, but here’s what we get in the comic: Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, with Pepper as the men’s adventure chronicler de jour; Captain Namor, with pointy ears, a grizzled look, and surely some kind of hidden secrets; Atlantis, Plato-style; and Baron Zemo and plenty of Nazis. And it’s all framed in a way that’s like “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” if that Wes Anderson movie were directed by Howard Hawks, starring a time-traveling Charles Bronson in the lead role. I don’t know if that makes any sense to you, but that’s the pleasurable mix this comic evokes, and it does it all without a single scene of “Iron Man power, activate!”

Oh, and there’s a cliffhanger at the end. So now we have to come back to the theater next week (or the comic shop next month) to see how our hero could have unbelievably — yet thrillingly — survived.

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