Images & Words – Ultimate Armor Wars #4

Ultimate Armor Wars 4

[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]

I love comics — honestly and earnestly, at that. As such, I definitely spend more money on Wednesdays than I should. Not only do I pick up  titles that will be remembered for years to come, but some of their more timid brethren as well.

It is with this preface that I present OL’s comic of the week: Ultimate Armor Wars #4

As the final issue of a limited series taking place within the Ultimate universe, this book is hardly “mandatory reading.” In fact, I can’t even remember whether or not I’ve read all three of the preceding issues. Fortunately, this isn’t really of consequence and the comic could work fine as a one-shot about Tony Stark.

How can this be? Three word answer — Warren fucking Ellis.

While I’m sure that the story would’ve made more sense if I had carefully followed the entire Ultimate Armor Wars series, Ellis demonstrates his complete mastery of paneled images in a mere twenty-two pages. Unlike most comic book writers, Ellis can create works of legitimate merit (such as Doktor Sleepless and Transmetropolitan) and still triumphantly return to the world of capes and superpowers. So even though I can imagine Warren Ellis banging out the script for Ultimate Armor Wars in a thirty minute haze of Red Bull-induced freneticism, it’s still stronger than most of the garbage released on hump-day.

So, what’s the plot? Again, I’m not even completely sure. I know that it involves Tony Stark fighting people who wear knock-off Iron Man suits, having sex with a babe who double-crosses him and realizing that his grandfather is a cyborg. And not just any cyborg, but one that threatens his life in the hopes of learning the secret of some technological wonder. It’s chaotic, kooky and all over the place, but somehow it works.

Again, what makes the book work is the writer’s grasp of the Tony Stark character. While it seems easy for  creators to make  Stark either too much of a hero or too much of an arrogant playboy, Ellis has stumbled upon the perfect balance. Take note of the following bits of dialogue, muttered by Iron Man in the midst of battle;

“I quite literally cannot afford for you all to get killed. I’m not as rich as I used to be.”

“Dammit — everywhere I go, people in metal suits trying to turn me into dog food–”

Hell, Ellis even gives Stark a great line to describe his grandfather;

“Like Ernest Borgnine in an ill-advised love triangle with farming machinery and the wreckage of a Lincoln Continental.”

If you’re weary of spoilers and think you might  buy this book, stop reading right now. But Ultimate Armor Wars #4 gets the feature in Images & Words because it ends with one of the best monologues I’ve seen attributed to Tony Stark in awhile. Having saved the day, the billionaire-genius heads to a bar to toss back a few shots and shed a tear.  Below are the words of a man who realizes that his capacity for good is only rivaled  by his capacity for evil.

Here’s to killing things.

Here’s to stamping out evil. Heh.

Here’s to liars and cheats and what they deserve.

Here’s to the life of a bachelor and an orphan.

Here’s to saving the world.

From me.

Oh, God.

Ellis knows just which question to ask – Is Tony Stark a sad superhero or an inspiring drunk?

Fortunately (for the readers), he seems to be both.