Is your animated television series getting stale? Well, how about trying the “kitchen sink” approach? That’s what the creative team behind Iron Man: Armored Adventures did. Just throw every damn thing you have at the audience and hope enough of it sticks that someone somewhere will warm up to it. At least, that’s what it seems like the Armored Adventures team did based on the six episodes collected in the third volume of Armored Adventures’ second season (coming to DVD from Vivendi Entertainment on January 22, 2013). There are Iron Mongers and a slew of other returning baddies, X-Men, time travelers, and, oh yeah, Extremis of all things! Strangely, I find that the strategy worked quite well for them. A dull six episodes this most certainly is not. And I honestly find myself far fonder of the series than ever before after sitting through this release.
Still, all the old problems are present here. The series-specific character designs for established Marvel characters continue to be rather off-putting, especially as Magneto appears here sans cape and with his face completely obscured in shadow beneath his helmet. He honestly looks more like an early Image character than a Marvel character, although grotesque musculature would be needed complete the look of course. Additionally, in these six episodes hundreds more people learn that Tony Stark is Iron Man, and we have to listen to Tony bitch for another half hour about how everybody stole his armor specs, which we all still recognize was totally his fault.
That said, there are some truly interesting developments here. Tony learns of Mandarin’s quest to gather the remaining five power rings, the conflict with Obadiah Stane comes to a head, and Justin Hammer manages to buy out Stark Industries. This last development in particular could lend itself to some terrific narrative opportunities down the line. Unfortunately, by the conclusion of this release, it hadn’t made any difference in the overall storyline really. And while we’re on the subject, I must admit that, although I see the limited appeal of such things in an animated series, I really wanted to know more specifics about the buyout. It really comes out of left field with no explanation whatsoever. Tony hadn’t even heard word one about the event prior to the story breaking on the news, and even Justin Hammer himself admits that buying out Stark Industries was “impossible.” So how the hell…?! Screw it. I don’t know.
Moreover, as welcome as the mutants were to me, that storyline too was botched in the writing. There’s no subtlety to Magneto. He’s pure villain here. What’s more, they try to conceal Jean Grey’s identity behind a pseudonym, but we all know it’s her from the start. And finally, the story ends with the public at large siding with the mutants rather than the politicians who would have them rounded up and registered as threats to society. This is a major betrayal of the mutants as they have always been employed in Marvel comics and I for one do not approve.
Still, this collection moves along at an impressive clip and you have to appreciate the sheer randomness of it all, especially given the volume of repetitive episodes that characterized the last two Armored Adventures DVDs. As per usual with these releases, special features are limited to original artwork galleries, showcasing concept art for Magneto, Andros Stark, and various interiors and exteriors. Just as with Vol. 2, the inclusion of concept art here reveals how great these characters could have looked, especially Magneto. So while I appreciate the inclusion of at least something by way of special features, the artwork here really isn’t doing the series itself any favors.