AS SEEN ON NICKTOONS
Having grown up with Marvel Comics characters (while they were still largely the purview of comic book publishing) back in the 1980s, it's amazing to see the impact that these superheroes are having in the 21st Century. The likes of Spider-Man, Hulk, and Captain America are prolific in popular culture today, from licensed toys and clothing to blockbuster films and animated television series. Even formerly "second-tier" Marvel heroes like Iron Man are now very popular, thanks in large part to the commercial and critical success of the two Iron Man films starring Robert Downey Jr., who really is quite good at bringing Iron Man's alter ego Tony Stark to life on the big screen.
With the success of these films inevitably comes an ancillary television cartoon series for kids that rides on the movies' coattails. Titled Iron Man Armored Adventures, this series tries to do for Iron Man what The Spectacular Spider-Man did for Spider-Man: update the comic book mythology for kids by placing the action in modern times and reimagining central characters as young teenagers. It's somewhat successful at accomplishing this task, although The Spectacular Spider-Man did it a bit better. Long-time Marvel fans may bristle at some of the changes, but I appreciated the series as a whole and think that children, clearly the target audience here, would enjoy the action and visuals.
Iron Man Armored Adventures begins with a 2-part introduction titled Iron Forged in Fire. Here, we meet teenaged genius Tony Stark (voiced by Adrian Petriw) and his best friend Rhodey (Daniel Bacon). Tony has created his mechanical Iron Man suit and hopes to impress his father, owner of Stark Industries. His father, however, is not long for this world, as he's blown up in a jet explosion that also nearly kills Tony. The evil Stane takes over Stark Industries and repurposes Stark's inventions as weapons. Not pleased at all, Tony dons his Iron Man suit and begins his superhero exploits.
As a children's series, several aspects of the original Tony Stark mythology have been ignored to create a young Peter Parker type. Gone, for obvious reasons, are Stark's alcoholism and philandering. Along with Rhodey, other supporting characters are recast as teens as well. Pepper Potts (Anna Cummer) is now an annoying Chatty Cathy type while Happy is a big jock. In the context of the series, these changes work, but The Spectacular Spider-Man worked better with its high school cast of characters. There were more characters in that show, and they were better defined and funnier. Though, to be fair, Spider-Man started off as a high school character so there was more material to work from.
Like The Spectacular Spider-Man, Iron Man Armored Adventures does a good job of incorporating many supporting characters from the Marvel Universe. Villains include the Mandarin, Whiplash, and the Crimson Dynamo, while guest heroes include the Black Panther and the Hulk. These appearances keep the show from growing too stale, as like most cartoon series for kids, the episodes are rather repititive in their story formulas. The animation is a mixed bag. The human characters are very herky-jerky, with unconvincing mouth expressions during dialogue sequences. However, the sci-fi tech itself is colorful and detailed, and for this reason, action sequences should engross the younger set.
All 26 episodes of the first season of Iron Man Armored Adventures are present in this 4 DVD set. A complete episode listing may be found at the Internet Movie Database.
There are better contemporary Marvel cartoon series out there, especially the aforementioned Spectacular Spider-Man, but this updating of the Iron Man mythos is still kid-friendly entertaining. Recommended.
I was a bit surprised to see that this cartoon was presented in full frame (1.33:1 aspect ratio), as most contemporary television programming is now produced in widescreen. Vivendi's box art assures that the cartoons are "presented in a format preserving the aspect ratio of its original television exhibition" however. The visual quality itself is fairly good, with strong colors and sharp details.
The lone audio track is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 affair. It's an efficient mix: dialogue is always clear and sound effects are suitably loud. Subtitles or other language tracks are not made available.
Disc One has trailers and ads preceding the main menu for Wolverine and the X-men, The Superhero Squad Show, and free Iron Man games at marvelkids.com. A Trailers submenu provides access to these and an additional trailer for Iron Man Armored Adventures itself. In addition, there's a music video by Rooney for the show's theme song, and 4 "Suit Profiles" that appear to be 30 second television spots for the series.
Disc Two has a Special Features submenu that ports over the trailers for Wolverine and the X-Men and Iron Man Armored Adventures, and also includes an Iron Man-narrated ad for The Superhero Squad Show.
Disc Three kicks off with an ad about a The Superhero Squad Show online game preceding the main menu. It isn't accessible via the menu system, but a Special Features link does provide two navigable storyboard galleries - Seeing Red and Pepper, Interrupted - and some Original Sketches.
Disc Four starts off with the same ad that Disc Three did. In addition, two more navigable Original Sketches galleries are included: Villains and Vehicles.
All in all, I can't say I was blown away by the extras, but at least there were some spread over the four discs, even if they were mostly promotional. It's more than many other cartoon series receive in their home video releases.
Iron Man Armored Adventures presents a kid-friendly updating of the Iron Man mythology, reimagining Tony Stark and his associates as high school teenagers. The Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon series did this a bit more successfully overall. However, despite some awkward animation, this new take on Iron Man should entertain its target audience: young kids. Recommended.