Comics

Just Flying Through: 'Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1'

(Marvel)

A chance for Riri (Ironheart) Williams to expand her appeal fails to take off.


Marco Rudy

Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart

Publisher: Marvel
Price: $4.99
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Publication date: 2017-09-06
Amazon

When a new character takes on the legacy of an older one, the greatest challenge is making that transition seem fitting and meaningful. It helps when the older character has a sizable network of friends, family, and side-kicks in the wings, ready to carry on that legacy in a way that feels like a true extension of the story. This is how Batman's legacy can continue whenever Bruce Wayne is MIA, whether it's through Dick Grayson, Terry McGuinness, or the occasional robot.

Unfortunately for the legacy of Iron Man, Tony Stark isn't as keen on side-kicks and family. Throughout his history, he tends to monopolize all things Iron Man. At times, he gives the impression that he only tolerates War Machine because he doesn't use a title or color scheme that undermines his brand. He's akin to a musician who doesn't mind people doing goofy parodies of his music. That may be an effective way to control a legacy, but it does create issues once Tony is unavailable. With no Robin or even a Bucky Barnes waiting in the wings, Iron Man's legacy is especially vulnerable.

That makes the task Brian Michael Bendis undertook in creating Riri Williams all the more daunting. He doesn't have the time or capacity to create the kind of built-in legacy that Batman has. He has to put Riri in this role of filling in for Tony Stark with next to no build-up or dramatic underpinnings. Riri just happens to be in the right place at the right time when Tony Stark goes down in Civil War II. It's the kind of happenstance that can only come at Marvel where Cosmic Cubes, deals with Mephisto, and the Scarlet Witch going crazy constantly skew the odds.

With Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1, Bendis has a chance to forge a greater personal connection between Tony Stark and Riri Williams. In a sense, that sort of connection is overdue because even in his AI form, Tony acts more as a guide than a mentor to Riri. The lack of any deeper undertones still creates the impression that Riri's role is forced and contrived. Creating a more personal connection can help mitigate that impression.

Bendis makes that effort and even tries a different approach, compared to previous iterations of Marvel Generations. Whereas the other stories have taken characters to the past, he takes Riri to the future. That's somewhat more practical, given the inherent themes of futurism in Iron Man. However, pragmatics only go so far. When it comes to actual substance, the story falters and only ends up highlighting the reasons certain fans complain about Riri in the first place.

By taking the story to the future instead of the past, she ends up in a very different world, compared to the one she comes from. This is inherently an issue for her character because so much of her story is tied to her situation in the present. Her family, being from Chicago, and stumbling through the growing pains of being a hero are part of what makes Riri's story compelling. None of that is present in Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1. That leaves Riri isolated and only highlights some of her less flattering traits.

From the moment she arrives in the future, Riri basically acts as her own narrator. It tries to come off as cute and awkward, as is often the nature of teenagers, but it just comes off as annoying and self-centered. She doesn't say or ponder anything that isn't depicted by Marco Rudy's skilled art. When she encounters familiar-looking heroes from the future, including a next-generation Avengers team and a 126-year-old Tony Stark, who also happens to be the Sorcerer Supreme, the moment falls flat. For overly-emotional teenagers, that just goes against the laws of physics.

That's not to say Riri is cold in the story. She does make it a point to hug Tony when she gets the chance. However, that's pretty much the extent of the connection they forge. It's also the extent of the drama in the story. There's no epic battle. There's no shared struggle. One is teased, but goes absolutely nowhere. There's no point where Riri really works with Tony, thereby gaining a better understanding of what it means to be Ironheart. She basically just sits back, watches, and gets a crash course in how great the future is.

While that sort of techno-utopian ideology is a key component to Iron Man, Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1 doesn't present it in a very compelling way. It's mostly done through Tony Stark talking, Riri Williams reacting, and everyone else just shrugging their shoulders. It's as compelling as it sounds. There aren't any moments of real struggle with Riri. She's basically just a guest passing through and not much else. Her passing out when she first arrives is the most she does to move the story forward.

That's not to say there's no overall impact for Riri. Seeing the future and all the beauty that Rudy's art can depict leaves an important impression. It shows that the future she, Tony, and all things Iron Man are trying to build is worth building. That's a meaningful impression, but one that doesn't need to be belabored in an Iron Man comic, which is built on the very premise that a better future can be built. Riri's story already involves plenty of future-building so the impression comes off as redundant.

Bendis has many opportunities to craft a more meaningful connection between Riri and Tony in Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1. Few, if any, of those opportunities pan out. Riri still comes off as an annoying teenager who basically stumbles to success at every turn as Ironheart and Tony comes off as overly coy with his ego. The story succeeds at capturing the futurism themes inherent of most Iron Man stories, but that's all it succeeds with. For someone as capable as Riri Williams and Tony Stark, that's just too low a bar.

4

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

Next Page

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image