This animated iteration of Iron Man finds a teenage Tony Stark undertaking the superheroic responsibilities previously associated with Marvel Comics’ adult version of Iron Man. Surely such heavy responsibility would prove too much for one teen to bear alone, but fortunately for Armored Adventures‘ Tony Stark, he has his closest friends James “Rhodey” Rhodes and Pepper Potts to lend him a helping hand. And the trio must indeed work together if they hope to protect the innocent from the evil machinations of industrialists Obadiah Stane and Justin Hammer, not to mention graduate high school.
The season opens with the return of Tony Stark to New York City after an extended leave of absence, during which he had searched for his father, Howard Stark. And Tony has returned just in time, it seems, as Justin Hammer, the 21-year-old billionaire Chairman of the largest weapons manufacturer in the world, has set his sights on taking over Stark Industries. Meanwhile, Obadiah Stane, the Chairman of Stark Industries, looks to procure the schematics for the Iron Man armor in order to prevent the takeover by dominating the arms market. This places Tony smack dab in the middle of two ruthless enemies.
Stopping these powerful men won’t be easy, either, since Rhodey, as War Machine, is getting his ass handed to him every episode and Pepper is a chatterbox nitwit. So they’re not much help. And Tony himself proves to be an exceedingly incompetent superhero, as, in episode four of the second season, he lets the Ghost walk right in to the Iron Man armory, steal his schematics and the Mark II helmet, and even learn his secret identity. That teenagers would falter under the pressures of superherodom does not surprise me in the least. I do, however, find it surprising that these particular teenagers, who are so often trounced in these six episodes alone, somehow managed to survive an entire season’s worth of super villains prior to this volume. Discerning viewers will find much to be desired in the performance of Iron Man and gang here, but their flaws ultimately come across more as the product of weak writing than deliberate characterization.
That said, the series does utilize a continuing narrative rather than an episodic format, which I always approve of. However, a lot happened in the first season that requires explanation apparently, so the episodes in this set tend to be rather exposition-heavy. I had not seen the first season prior to diving into this volume, so I appreciated the recapping, but I honestly found myself overwhelmed by the amount of exposition the writers doled out in large, continuous chunks. I would have preferred play catch-up as I went along than have it dished out all at once.
For these reasons and more I’m not crazy about Iron Man: Armored Adventures. I do like the animation, though, which is done in a 3D cel-shading style. Unfortunately, this DVD release doesn’t do the visuals any favors. The lines of the animation consistently appear pixelated rather than smooth and continuous as they should, and this, to me, indicates that Armored Adventures should really have been released on Blu-ray. Yet only the first six episodes of the series received a Blu-ray treatment, and this BD must not have performed well enough with consumers to warrant additional Blu-ray releases, presumably because the distributor insists on releasing the series in annoying six-episode volumes.
Special features on the DVD release of Season 2 Vol. 1 from Vivendi Entertainment are limited to two original artwork galleries featuring finalized artwork for the Iron Man Mark II armor and some interesting early concept art for Justin Hammer.