Armor for everybody! (except you, Hulk.)
After a three-year hiatus, Iron Man: Armored Adventures returned for a second season. It was not a good time to be a Stark. Neither Howard nor his son Tony had much go right, but in the end they did overcome kidnapping, financial ruin, corporate shenanigans, maniacal mutants, maniacal armor wearing morons, megalomaniacal armor wearing doctors, manic Pepper Potts in armor, and oh, an alien invasion.
The look was even better than season one. The cel shading style still closely emulated Skyland. The number of quality assets constructed for this season was large, yet the French and Indian animation houses produced fantastic visuals on a television budget.
Where season two could have been better was in the writing department. Many of the individual episodes were well composed, but the overall flow, the arc of the season lacked focus. The finale involved Gene Khan’s Mandarin, but the set-up was weak. We see across multiple episodes, frustrating cameos of Gene manipulating cruelly a kidnapped Howard Stark. But there is no development of Gene since last season, except that he is less palatable.
Let’s cram season two into a sentence: Tony’s father Howard is not actually dead but kidnapped by the Mandarin and forced to help him acquire more power while Iron Man tries to carry on despite his company being stolen, and just about everybody from corporate big wigs to AIs and even nutjob students taking aim at him, though ultimately unsuccessfully thanks to his whiny friend James Rhodes, bi-polar friend Pepper Potts, and an almost completely reassembled cast of the Avengers movie.
Who dons armor this season? (The shorter list would be who doesn’t.) Yes, Pepper does, to our chagrin, corporate nutjob Justin Hammer, Howard Stark, even Tony’s grandson from the future, plus of course the entire armored rogue’s gallery of the Marvel Universe. Even non-armored characters like Magneto wore armor.
But the stand out depiction, and the most pleasant surprise of the season was that of Doctor Doom. It was the best depiction we have seen of him since John Byrne’s Fantastic Four run back in the day. A great voice and modulation, and his wacky mix of tech and magic. Okay, they retconned his magic to be “really advanced quantum technology.” It was the only slip up, and unnecessary.
It was great to see young Iron Man, before he came into the fullness of his power, get his butt swiftly and mercilessly kicked. He was totally outclassed, which was a nice change up since he kicked butt all season long. Doom’s visual effects were different and exciting. He was not dumbed or powered down. We give props to shows when they do not emasculate the powerful veteran to make the newbie star look good (Huntik also handled this well).
Iron Man: AA offers a fun glimpse into lesser known Marvel universe characters. Their depictions are solid and worthy of them. We can even forgive the shameless latching-on to the phenomenally successful Avengers movie cast. Tony, in slightly unbelievable fashion, cranks out new armor types to please fans of the franchise. (Most of them, thankfully, retain the round uni-beam.) Overall, it is a finely crafted show still worth watching.
PS – This looks like the end of production for Iron Man Armored Adventures. It was a good and entertaining two-season run. We would enjoy seeing more of it.