Iron Man: Extremis | comics review
A lot of influence on the MCU for one story!
Story summary: A landscape of terrifying new technologies threatens to overwhelm fragile mankind! What is Extremis, who has unleashed it, and what does its emergence portend for the world? (Amazon.co.uk)
Extremis is on of those stories that felt big at the time for how it redefined a character as old as Iron Man - even if he wasn't to become known around the world for a couple of years later when Robert Downey Jr and Jon Favreau kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Saying that, the version of Tony Stark that is portrayed in this story might take a little getting used to, for old fans and new.
This is a very serious take on Iron Man, who has had his share of grim moments over his decades of existence, but it certainly isn't anything like the big-screen snarker or the playboy/risk-taker of the comics either. It's quite a cold depiction of a Tony Stark with a bitter sense of humour and a steely determination that might feel a little too different to what you're expecting.
It's an interesting take though, especially seeing which pieces have been cherry-picked for other depictions of the character in multiple media since this story came out over fifteen years ago. It's not exactly a reboot, but it does feel like Ellis was free to ignore whatever came before that he didn't want to use for this story and makes for a pretty complete adventure in its own right, leaving you free to choose whether you want to track down more Iron Man comics, or take it as a one-and-done.
However, the biggest draw for Extremis and its most obvious influence has to be Adi Granov's art, which is frankly incredible - it's pretty bloody easy to see why Favreau wanted the cinematic version of the armour to be based around what's featured in this story, making it genuinely feel like a dangerous combination of powerful weaponry and a daunting physical threat.
Hell, thanks to the extremis technology, it's not just the first Iron Man movie that was influenced, but also the remote-controlled pieces of armour from Iron Man 3 (which is somewhat based on this story), and even the nanotech armours of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. I don't know how much money Granov has received for his Iron Man art, but it better have been a lot.
There are quite a lot of simple, or plain backgrounds, which I think would be an issue for other stories, but fits with this more serious version of Iron Man - it's a visual tone that matches how the story was written and allows you to concentrate on the characters, plus that fantastic Iron Man armour. The writing and the art are inextricably linked, which is about the very best you can ask for in a comic book story.
If there is a problem to be found with the story, it's that the serious nature of what happens means it isn't a piece you'll read and then re-read straight after. Extremis never develops into the pretentiousness of saying "take this story seriously!" as it's 100% happy to be a superhero comic book adventure, but it does feel like it's missing a lighter feel at times, even if just to give the reader a break.
Iron Man: Extremis was hugely influential on release and is still a strong read today, especially now you can really appreciate just how much this single story had not just on the comics, but on the MCU and - as a by-product - pop culture at large. Adi Granov's art is flat-out incredible, but credit has to go to Warren Ellis for re-defining such an old character so completely - ironically, even if it comes across as a little 'mechanical'.