It feels like we’ve been talking about Marvel’s Secret Wars for so long; now that it’s almost upon us, it seems like it’s already been months since it was out. But aside from Marvel’s Free Comic Book Day offering, the first actual Secret Wars tie-in book is actually Armor Wars # 1/2, a special 16-page prelude to the first issue from writer James Robinson and artist Mark Bagley, which is a Toys R’ Us exclusive. For those who purchase $25 or more worth of Marvel action figures and playsets at Toys R’ Us stores or online at toysrus.com between Sunday and May 9 will receive this issue for free, in advance of Marvel’s official kick-off to Secret Wars this upcoming Wednesday.
Like all the worlds on Secret Wars’ hodgepodge planet called Battleworld, Armor Wars is taken from a popular storyline from Marvel Comics history. Although the 80’s era at Marvel was known mostly for books like Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men and Todd McFarlane’s Amazing Spider-Man among other, Iron Man had a resurgence in popularity during this time as well, mostly due to the Armor Wars storyline, a seven-issue story arc written by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, featuring art by Mark D. Bright and Barry Windsor-Smith, which ran in Iron Man #225-#231. The story focuses on what would happen when the designs for Tony Stark’s Iron Man armor is leaked to his enemies, and Tony has to hunt down those who stole his secrets. It was the loose inspiration for the movie Iron Man 2.
So far, it seems that this Secret Wars version of Armor Wars shares a name with its predecessor, and that’s about it. Sure, it’s clear Iron Man is a main character here, just as he was the first time, but that seems to be where the similarities end. The original Armor Wars storyline was a relatively simple affair-it’s all about how various criminals have stolen Tony Stark’s armor designs and are using them themselves.
This Armor Wars however, is totally different. It opens in the city of Technopolis, which is either New York from some alternate timeline, or just some weird version of a city we’ve never seen before in the Marvel universe. In Technopolis, the residents are forced to wear a suit of armor to live thanks to a mysterious epidemic that’s run rampant all over the city, and Tony Stark and his rival, brother Arno Stark, are the top businessmen in town who seemingly run everything. Tony is referred to as “Baron Stark” for some reason, and James Rhodes, the main Marvel Universe’s War Machine, has the title of Thor, although how he came about it is a mystery for now. He doesn’t seem to have Thor’s actual hammer, but a technical approximation of it. As with any futuristic city worth its salt, there are also plenty of flying cars.
In this 16-page prelude comic, we’re also introduced to other characters from the Marvel Universe, but in somewhat different forms. Instead of Peter Parker as Spider-Man, we get Peter Urich (son of reporter Ben Urich I assume?) as the “Spyder-Man”. Not sure why the word Spider had to be spelled differently, but I gotta admit, this Spi(y)der armor is better designed in my opinion than the armor Tony Stark designed for Peter Parker in Civil War. I’d assume that this Peter also works in the news industry somehow, as he seems intent on revealing the truth about everyone’s medical condition in Technopolis, and why they have to endure living in a mechanized suit to live. I should also not that everyone’s favorite baddie from Daredevil, Wilson Fisk a.k.a. the Kingpin, also makes a small appearance, and it seems he’ll likely have a bigger role down the line, and like everyone else in Technopolis, he’s also got a suit of armor oh his own. Just, you know…plus sized.
This issue comes to us via writer James Robinson (Earth-2, Starman, Fantastic Four) and artist Mark Bagley (Ultimate Spider-Man.) I’ve been a Robinson fan for years, and as evidenced by his runs of both Starman and Earth-2 for DC, he’s a man that’s great at world building, and he’s built yet another interesting world here as part of Battleworld, even if the hows and whys of this world are still a mystery. And Mark Bagley’s art is serviceable. I’ve never been the biggest fan of his art, but then I’ve never hated it either, he seems to be one of those artists who gets the job done but whose style is almost a non style-easy enough on the eyes, but just not terribly memorable. I’ll say this though-if the armor designs are his, then kudos to him, because a lot of them, especially Spyder-Man’s, are pretty darn cool.
So, would I recommend you rush out to Toys R’ Us and grab this issue? Well, no, it’s not that amazing, and unless you’re going to be a Secret Wars completist, I wouldn’t recommend spending $25 dollars at the store just to get it. But on its own, it’s a decent enough setup to a story that seems to be at least somewhat intriguing.
Rating: 3 out of 5 burritos