Learning responsibility, understanding that every action has consequences, is an important lesson for children to learn. But how to get a child to understand this? We have eons of parenting on which to look back, and somehow we still can’t figure out how to prevent kids from doing really stupid things.
OK, that’s a little harsh. There is a learning curve, and we all continue to learn the most important of life’s lessons by making mistakes. But there has to be a more entertaining and effective way of teaching little Freddy or Matilda about consequences.
Enter Iron Man.
Who’d have thought Marvel Adventure’s Iron Man is a great teaching tool? But think about it: The Iron Man character is focused on making up for his mistakes in the past because of the impact he has had on others, be it through fighting villains he accidentally helped to create or by making technology that improves the world. Iron Man shows us that everyone has an impact on the world – all of us, not just the obvious ones in our midst, and why not use the film as a way of teaching that to our children?
Fred Van Lente
This idea is prevalent through the first five standalone issues of the Fred Van Lente-penned Marvel Adventure Iron Man, which was originally created as an all-ages title to coincide with the release of the first Iron Man film in 2007. The first issue tells a revised story of the origin for Iron Man, cutting out most of the complex politics and violence of the movie and original comic. Instead of Tony Stark getting captured by terrorists in the desert, he is abducted by AIM super-scientists to create weapons for their evil organization. While in the jail, Tony is joined by Dr. Yinsen, a brilliant scientist and critic of Stark International.
Dr. Yinsen’s home country of Madripoor was destroyed by AIM scientists using Stark’s technology for evil without Tony knowing about it. Feeling remorse, Stark aids Dr. Yinsen’s attempt to escape by creating two suits of Iron Man armor. Yinsen ultimately sacrifices himself, teaching Tony that he should take care to be mindful of his actions, not just for his own good but also for the legacy that he leaves.
The following issues pit Tony Stark, along with Jim Rhodes, against a number of villains including Iron Man 3 villain The Mandarin with Plant Man, Spymaster and Commander Kraken. Again, they all reinforce the idea of responsibility. The Mandarin reflects his ego, which causes him to mentally control Tony’s workers. Plant Man is a plant-obsessed scientists who went mad when Tony didn’t pay attention to his experiments. Spymaster works for Justin Hammer who sees Tony Stark as irresponsible, and he schemes to make the world see him that way. The only villain who doesn’t completely fit the idea of responsibility is Commander Kraken, though he steals and uses the Iron Man armor to attack an oceanic research lab.
Unfortunately for parents looking for strong female characters, there are few here. While Pepper Potts does figure into the series as the only recurring female character, she is stuck in the unflattering role of outsider. In the series she does not know that Tony Stark is Iron Man and spends a good amount of time just getting angry at Tony and Jim – and it serves no real purpose.
In issue three, where Pepper is a main character, her role is limited to being the nature-loving opposite of Tony, and she is (naturally) abducted by Plant Man, who sees a kindred spirit in her. Worse yet, she doesn’t get her comeuppance against Plant Man. While Pepper does help Tony more in the fourth issue, the lack of a strong female character in the series is still a bit troubling, though somewhat understandable based on the focus toward young male readers.
This particular comic series does a good job of staying appropriate for the younger demographic, unlike other Marvel Adventure titles. While the book has explosions and cities under attack, everyone is safe and sound in the end in these stories. The motivations for the villains are simple enough to understand, and when there is technology involved with the stories, Van Lente makes his explanations clear and concise while including enough actual science that kids can learn a thing or two.
Overall, the first five issues of Marvel Adventures Iron Man provide simple and fun stories that are short enough to serve for bedtime, are entertaining enough for both parent and child, and that are safe enough for kids to read by themselves.