There were many cartoons I remember watching as a kid. Most of them starring heroes from the marvel universe. X-men, Spider-man, and the incredible Hulk were some of my favorite shows to look forward to every Saturday morning. However I can barely recall one other. One that I know for a fact existed but never stuck with me the way the other shows did. This was the IRON MAN cartoon released in 1994. It only ran for two seasons until 1996 before being canceled. I am going to split this review into two parts, one for the first season and one for the second. It only seems fair since marvel made the decision to go with a new animation studio, new writers, and a new music composer for the second season. You know how I don’t really remember this show? There is a good reason why.
As soon as the opening credits finished I had a pretty good of idea what I was getting myself into. Cheap animation, cheesy dialogue, and a storyline relating to that of the super friends. Century, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Spider Woman make up the Force Works, the group who assist Iron Man in battling The Mandarin, the main villain of the series, in every single episode. Funny, I always thought Tony Stark to be the lone ranger type, in fact The Avengers had a hard enough time recruiting him and now he has a posse of 3rd rate marvel heroes to back him up? I wish I could say the story, or lack thereof, is the only problem here, but that is only where it begins.
The series looks, sounds, and plays out like a 70′s cartoon with every episode having its own little story, conflict, and quick resolution.The Mandarin always makes cheesy jokes no real villain would ever make. To make sure we know he is evil he almost kills one of his henchmen for not watering his flowers correctly…seriously? There is no larger picture and no consistency, just The Mandarin with his goons doing what villains do and Iron Man stopping them. He is the only villain they face, I kid you not. Imagine if Batman only fought against the joker in every single episode of that animated series, it wouldn’t be as fun would it? On top of that the dialogue is silly, awkward, and cliché.
I thought I knew how bad the animation would be from the opening sequence, but that was just the bitter taste of things to come. We are treated to some primitive cg whenever tony stark puts on the Iron Man suit that makes Beast Wars look like James Cameron’s AVATAR. Of course it was 1994 and I can’t expect it to be great, but I wish it wasn’t there at all. It feels out of place and looks dreadful even for that time. Oh and get used to that stock footage of Tony Stark suiting up, they use it every single time he does. The music is as lazy as it is repetitive, and the sound effects are laughable. But It seems that Marvel realized all this and revamped the entire direction and look of the show in an attempt to salvage it. Did they succeed? Well now we have Iron Man season two.
The difference in quality is immediately noticeable. The cheap opening is replaced by something decently animated with a much better guitar theme song . The story actually has some consistency and we are treated to better writing, better animation, and better music. No goofy sidekicks are seen and finally there are different villains in each episode who are not the Mandarin, not to say he is completely out of the picture. Now we have an actual plot tying all the episodes together and that is The Mandarin recovering his ten rings of power. But Crimson Dynamo, the Leader, the Incredible Hulk, and many others make appearances in what I have to admit are very enjoyable episodes.
The narrative has much more depth here and is a much welcomed change to the cheese we were force fed in the first season. Marvel also decided to include the fact that Tony Stark needs the suit in order to live this time around. The one thing that annoyed me the most about season one was that Tony Stark looked perfectly fine. They actually tackle serious issues in these new episodes, my favorite being the “Armor Wars” where Tony Stark’s technology falls into enemy hands and results in a nuclear detonation in Russia he feels directly responsible for. He goes on a one man crusade, shutting out all his friends and allies, to pursue every armored villain in the world who may possess his technology. This is the arrogant and stubborn Tony Stark I love. He is a deeply flawed man who tries to do the right thing, but in that process completely loses his mind as he obsesses over stopping anyone who may possess his technology, whether they be bad or good. Unlike season one this shows Tony Stark for who he is. He is a brilliant individual who deep down under his superhero skin is a spoiled, selfish, and self-absorbed man.
The second season still has its flaws but it is a major improvement over the first and I actually enjoyed watching it rather than wanting to stab my eyes out. This dvd set is a mixed bag, containing one season of some of the worst marvel cartoons ever conceived, and season two being quite enjoyable. As far as extras go this set is pretty bare bones containing only the episodes. Though the series, even with the improvements, still lacked the depth and drama the other marvel cartoons achieved, it was still a decent effort. I give it a 7/10.