Emma’s 30 Days of Marvel [Day 8]

30 Days of Marvel Day 8: Favourite Movie

Stunned silence, right? I know, I’m just so wildly unpredictable. At this point it’s basically Emma’s 30 Days of Iron Man and Female Mutants. The thing about Iron Man 2 is that you’ve really got to know Iron Man continuity to understand why it’s such a great movie, which is also it’s Achilles heel. Something that us Generation Y kids don’t really think much about is that Iron Man is the superhero who was the most deeply rooted in the Cold War. Sure pretty much everyone under the sun fought a few absurd Soviet villains and may have even had a Soviet knock off of them to kick around but Tony’s main purpose for years seemed to be beating back the Soviet Union and proving the superiority of American engineering.

The thing about Iron Man 2 is that while it’s antagonist Ivan Vanko is pretty clearly a pastiche of Titanium Man, The Crimson Dynamo, and Whiplash, it isn’t in service to nostalgia. The point of bringing Iron Man back to a Russia/US battle is to show how starkly the two countries have changed since the fall of the Berlin wall if you’ll forgive the pun. In the battle between Tony Stark and Ivan Vanko, we are no longer looking at a grand ideological battle between two powerful empires.

Tony embodies an America that projects an image of strength and success but is secretly rotting from the inside. Existential polonium poisoning, if you will. Meanwhile, Ivan Vanko is not exactly Soviet propaganda poster material. He is very meticulously presented to be one of the legendary Thieves in Law, who are frequently and wrongly referred to as the “Russian Mafia.” The Thieves in Law are more accurately described as a criminal counter culture that originated in Stalin’s gulags and spread throughout the Soviet prison system. For reasons that I’m not sure anyone can properly understand the newly minted tycoons of the 90s began springing the highest ranking Thieves in Law- men who had been in prison for in excess of a decade- from jail to advise them and assemble their gangs of enforcers. They didn’t really talk about that on CNN. After a while, and I’m basically paraphrasing one of them, the Thieves in Law figured out that they could just kill the tycoons and take the whole lot for themselves. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s probably because short of actually murdering Justin Hammer and taking over his company, that’s pretty much Ivan Vanko’s character arc in Iron Man 2.

So yes the fight in Monaco is basically a reconstruction of Tony’s first fight with the Crimson Dynamo, but we’re left shaking our heads at how the mighty have fallen on both sides of the equation. Think about that the next time you watch it and Tony’s carrying around that Shepard Fairey print of himself. The other genius bit of Iron Man 2 is the sub plot of Howard Stark and the Stark Expo and how closely it mirrors the collapse of American post war futurism into modern cynicism portrayed in The Venture Brothers. Science for Howard Stark was ostensibly all about projecting a brighter and happier future for all while for Tony it’s a desperate struggle to keep himself alive.

Also, the guy who created the Power Puff Girls storyboarded the action sequences, which were pretty damn cool.

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About emmahouxbois

Emma Houxbois is a fiercely queer trans woman from the wilds of Canada, most recently spotted in the Pacific Northwest. She is currently Comics Editor for The Rainbow Hub, a two time IWC Women's World Champion, and has written for the web since 2005 for sites including Playboy, Bitch Media, and Graphic Policy.
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2 Responses to Emma’s 30 Days of Marvel [Day 8]

  1. Literally the only thing I was able to complain about when I left the theater (with my dad and sister, both of whom are completely uninterested in comics but LOVE these movies) was how they pronounced Ivan’s name and the way he said bird. That should tell you how much I loved it, because usually I can ALWAYS find something worth pointing out. When all I’m left with are language pet peeves, you know I enjoyed something.

  2. Pingback: Friday Five: 30 Days of Marvel, Pt. 2 « Graphic Policy

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