As announced at Thursday’s Mondo Marvel panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Christos Gage’s upcoming arc on Iron Man: Director of SHIELD starring War Machine will lead into that series being replaced by a new, ongoing War Machine series following the conclusion of Secret Invasion. The new series will be written by Greg Pak, and illustrated by Leonardo Manco.
As Pak revealed, this War Machine will be Tony Stark’s longtime friend and confidant, Jim Rhodes, a character whose star has been on the rise thanks to his supporting role in the Iron Man film as well as appearances in Avengers: The Initiative.
“I remember a scene from an older Marvel comic in which the hero stumbles across a fight between opponents he knows nothing about -- but he jumps right in to help out the weaker guy, saying something like, ‘When in doubt, I always stick up for the underdog!,’” Pak says when asked about his view of Rhodes. “That's classic Marvel -- and that's Rhodey, heart and soul.
"But combine that willingness to scrap for the little guy with the fact that Rhodey's a military man, with a significantly different angle from the average super-hero on the use of force, and we're in for massively explosive consequences from page one of the new series.”
Editor Bill Rosemann agrees. “James Rhodes has walked through fire and been forged into a living tank. He was bullied as a child, so to escape the mean streets of Philly, Rhodey gained the skills and experience in the military – and later through his adventures both solo and with Tony Stark and the Avengers – that allow him to deal with the ‘bullies’ of the world. And his preferred method of handling them usually involves huge freakin’ rockets!”
As for Rhodes’ relationship with Stark in the new series? “As we've seen in the pages of Matt Fraction's supercool Invincible Iron Man, Tony and Jim, best friends from almost the day they met, are on very good terms right now,” Pak says. “And as we'll reveal in the pages of War Machine, Tony was involved in the events that resulted in Rhodey's current capabilities. But how Rhodey will ultimately view that involvement remains to be seen...”
“Current capabilities” of course being Rhodes’ physical status, having gone from a man wearing an armor suit to something of a man-machine hybrid, and possibly full-time weapon. Those latter capabilities will see Rhodes beign true to his namesake, Rosemann explains.
“Throw a dart on a map of the world and you’ll most likely hit a hotspot where those with power are oppressing those without. So whether it’s invading aliens or vicious dictators, War Machine will blast through bureaucratic red tape and rain down justice as a one-man army!”
Not skipping a beat, Pak expands on Rosemann’s summation of War Machine’s mission statement with, “Every day, somewhere in the world, tyrants and madmen commit the most heinous atrocities imaginable, yet no power on earth seems to be willing to take the responsibility for stopping them. We're going to explore the explosive mayhem and shocking repercussions that ensue when one man steps up to take that responsibility -- upon his massive, armored, rocket-launcher-equipped shoulders.”
That said, the overall tone of the new War Machine series can be summed up in two works, according to Pak: “Hard. Core. The Hollywood pitch could be ‘Iron Man meets the Punisher.’ We're also pulling together a great, quirky supporting cast (with some surprisingly familiar faces) and a real emotional arc for Rhodey that will get to the heart of what it means to be the man inside the War Machine.”
And on the art side of things – Rosemann has nothing but praise for Manco.
“Whether you look at his Blaze of Glory and Apache Skies westerns, his cyberpunkish Deathlok, or his urban horror scenes in Werewolf By Night and Hellblazer, you’ll see that Leonardo Manco delivers grit, atmosphere and power,” the editor says. “As we began discussing the destruction that War Machine will deliver, my mind kept flashing to the huge, steam-belching locomotives in Blaze of Glory. Leonardo is a master of using texture and darkness – he brings true passion to the table. Greg has incredible ideas for the new series, and Marvel scored another superstar when Leonardo agreed to join the team.”
With the first issue not set to debut until December, the team is loathe to discuss what’s coming up in specifics, but hey, this is comics, and the tease is this industry’s bread and butter. So what will people going to be saying after reading the first issue?
Rosemann: “Hopefully you’ll be talking about how much Greg and Leonardo ‘get’ James Rhodes as a character – and how crazy the twists and turns his life is once again taking. It’s time to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Rhodey’s first appearance...with a big blow-out!”
Pak: "Holy Hannah... I can't believe they actually let them do that!"
Holy Hannah indeed.