Review: 2020 Iron Heart

Friends no matter what.

Written by Vita Ayala & Danny Lore, Art by David Messina

The big Iron Man 2020 event is almost at its end. Iron Man 2020 was originally a character created as a potential future version of Iron Man, his distant future cousin Arno Stark, way back in the '80s. When 2020 actual rolled around, Marvel couldn't help themselves and decided to bring Iron Man 2020 back and turn it into a series of event comics. To be honest here: I haven't really been reading Iron Man 2020. That's not a sign of its quality or anything, it's just that I read issue one and didn't like it so I haven't bothered following it any further. Now, I am planning on revisiting it when it's all said and done and read the entire main-series in one go but for now, I simply cherry-picked the one (technically two) tie-in that features a character from my favourite superhero team the Champions. 2020 Iron Heart. Is 2020 Iron Heart a tie-in that you should pick up? I'm disappointed to say that I doubt that you should.

Let´s dive in.

The setup of tie-in is this: Riri Williams, the titular Iron Heart, and her best friend N.A.T.A.L.L.I.E. (an accidentally created A.I. recreation of her deceased friend) go to pick up her other best friend Xavier from the bus. While walking home the three find themselves in a developing situation. Self-driving A.I. cars have gone haywire and are threatening to run people over. While insisting that she's not a hero anymore, see Marvel's Outlawed for the details, through some quick thinking, ingenuity and a little assist from her rocket boots, Riri manages to shut all of the A.I. cars down. N.A.T.A.L.I.E. however, gets infected by the same malicious code that caused the A.I. cars to go haywire and starts to act violently.

While competently put together and having some bright spots, I'd say that 3 things weigh this tie-in down and make me question if it's worth your time and money. Let's look at these 3 things separately starting with what gets a comic book through the door: the art. While passable for the most part, they are some glaring moments of outright bad art here. The faces especially can get pretty darn ugly in panels and never look quite right even in the better moments. The movement and poses feel stiff throughout. I can see that the artist was trying, there are moments in which the art does something a bit more stylistic and creative but it's not enough. The art is 'meh', with some creative moments but also some really ugly ones sprinkled across both issues.

This is what I mean with the art is downright ugly in places. Riri's face just doesn't look good at all.

The second problem is that the entire tie-in suffers from a case of 'been there, done that'. The basic premise is a carbon copy of an old Iron Man story, The man in the Iron Man, and variations of it have been done more times than I can count. This doesn't have to be a problem necessary, even if the basic premise has been done before you can still get invested in it or offer new insights through its execution. Sadly though, this tie-in doesn't offer any of that. It, once more, competently put together but it doesn't offer anything new or interesting for those who have read a story like this before. It's not all bad in this department though, it does one thing that I'm glad for and that is that it averts one of the tropes of this story setup: the evil A.I. When reading the solicitations I was worried they were going to throw N.A.T.A.L.I.E. under the bus and turn her evil for the sake of keeping to the tropes. Thankfully, the story avoids this and I think that was the right decision.

The final problem with the issue is more two smaller problems that play into one another. The ending left a bad taste behind and Riri feels rather out of character throughout the story. As someone who has been reading the character since day 1, she just doesn't feel genuine here. I understand that with some of the traumatic events Riri has gone through lately, once again check out Marvel's Outlawed, but she doesn't behave to these events as I feel Riri should have. Riri has a bit of an ego and doesn't let people tell her what to do. Here though, her ego seems to be missing completely and while I can understand how she might arrive in the mindset she has here, I don't think that this is how she would react to it. It feels like a few steps are missing here that would explain her character change, but there aren't any. If we had been shown such steps Riri's different character might have felt not so jarring, but right here it is.

This brings me to the ending and does it feel forced! I think that Riri's character change was done just so that they could write in this ending, which in of itself is kind of baffling. It sees Riri give up Iron Heart while implying that she might wear the armour again someday, but the problem is that 1: it doesn't feel earned due to the problems I've already talked about and 2: we know that's she'll be back as Iron Heart later this year in the new Champions series. So yeah, a forced ending that is going to be reversed in only a few months. Not a good way for your tie-in to end on.

Those were the three problems but don't think that where it ends. There is also something here that I find very well done. I already said that the story, thankfully, doesn't turn N.A.T.A.L.I.E. evil. Instead of featuring a fight between her and Iron Heart, the book instead chooses to let the two talks out their issues. Not only do I find this refreshing and a good message to readers, but the exchange itself was well written but the art got creative with the visuals here as well. All in all, I quite like this part of the story. Also just a small observation I wanted to make here. While the book is called 2020 Iron Heart I think its just as much Outlawed Iron Heart as well, one could argue even more so than 2020. While the events of the Iron Man 2020 event do play a role here, the events of Outlawed have a much bigger impact on the story. It functions as a double tie-in in that regard and finds that intriguing.

 

Conclusion

So, is 2020 Iron Heart worth your time and money? I don't think it is. While the books are competently put together and does have some bright spots, but there are also some glaring problems here that weigh the book down considerably. If you're interested at 2020 Iron Heart, buyers beware, you might enjoy but they're equal chances that you won't. Don't buy at full price and wait for a price drop or wait for a trade is what I recommend. 

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