Created by Larry Lieber
Starring John Reilly, Robert Hays, Jennifer Hale
The 90’s brought us some of the best animated TV ever. Even though Spider-Man couldn’t punch anyone in his series he did manage to deal with emotional issues of love and growth in ways that young viewers could learn from and older viewers could appreciate too. The X-Men series covered racism and dealt with issues of being different from the norm in a way that could share the message but still be fun storytelling. This isn’t Oscar caliber storytelling but for animated TV it is solid stuff. Then there’s Iron Man, one of the coolest characters in the Marvel Universe with one of the most dramatic human stories making the move to animated TV.
Sadly this series doesn’t really delve into Stark’s darker story outside of some minor hinting at his womanizing. Most of the series follows Stark building weapons and selling them to the government and villains trying to steal said weapons. The Mandarin is ol’ Shellhead’s arch enemy and he’s involved in most of the adventures in this series. Iron Man doesn’t keep the peace solo though he’s got a team behind him. Hardcore comic book fans might ask; the Avengers? The answer would be no. The heroes that Iron Man works with come from a weird amalgamation of characters and stories from the Marvel Universe. Basically he has a group of heroes for hire that help him out in a pinch that include Hawkeye the archer, Spider-Woman, Scarlet Witch, and War Machine.
The biggest problem with this series is that the story arc for the series isn’t defined at all. This may sound like to complex of an expectation for a cartoon but the fact is that the shows’ contemporaries namely Spider-Man and The X-Men were able to build a story for the characters that carried throughout those shows lifetimes. This show actually takes a few steps back to the early 80’s when it comes to storytelling. It comes off much like The Superfriends in that it focuses on some action scenes more than trying to tell a story. That kind of cartoon worked fine in the early 80’s but by the mid 90’s the fanbase for animated TV had gotten much older. Fans of Batman The Animated Series, Superman The Animated Series, or Spider-Man and The X-Men surely expected more of this Iron Man TV show.
Hardcore comic book fans will be taken aback by this series too because it appears that the writers of the show took some fairly extreme liberties with the characters by changing their look, their personalities, and their back-stories. Again, in the 70’s and 80’s this kind of retooling of characters and stories was commonplace but in the 90’s creators started to realize that fans of the comics were the ones watching these shows and they started to respect the source material a bit more.
It’s not all bad though. It’s never a bad thing to see Iron Man zooming around and handing out beat downs and he does plenty of that in this series. It’s just too bad that the writers didn’t dig into the character a little more and that more of Iron Man’s fun and interesting villains didn’t make appearances in the show.
The full frame 4:3 aspect ratio presentation is fairly vibrant considering the age of the source material. Often colors are so hot, reds in particular that the colors bloom over the lines a bit. There are some horrible Reboot style 3-D sequences when Tony Stark gets into the armor that doesn’t hold up well on DVD. Animation and detail aren’t as strong as they should be either but that’s more due to the execution of the source material than the transfer to DVD. For a series that’s over 15 years old it has held up better than you might expect.
The audio suffers from the age of the source material a little worse than the video actually. The basic stereo presentation is listenable for sure but it often sounds muffled and the levels aren’t well balanced at times. You do get all of the dialogue though so stories are easy to stick with.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The 3 disc collection comes packaged in a standard amaray case. The case features a glossy slipcover with art that matches the cover art. The art features Iron Man blasting through the clouds with the floating heads of his enemies haunting him. The art is sure to bring back memories for fans of the show.
There are no extras, absolutely none. Yes there are some trailers for other movies but you can’t call a trailer for When in Rome a bonus feature for a fan of Iron Man the Animated Series.
For fans looking for a fun and well executed Iron Man animated series along the lines of X-Men and Spider-Man will be disappointed for sure. If you’re looking for some cheap thrills and cotton candy cartoon action then this one may still be worth a look.
Overall (Not an average) 6/10
The Series 5/10
The Video 7.5/10
The Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 0/10
Overall (Not an average) 6/10