Find the theme song for this show somewhere on the Internet. That theme song? That’s a bad theme song. A very bad theme song. A bad theme dong that describes a premise. A very bad premise. Teen Iron Man, balancing school with superheroics, fighting a teen Mandarin who secretly goes to his school! By the end of the song my expectations could not be lower. And after 52 episodes, this is easily my favorite cartoon since I started this stupid project.
Especially the first season of 26 episodes, which weaves together three or four plot threads throughout the first 26 episodes - teen Mandarin trying to fulfill his destiny by finding the Five Rings (I know, but it’s on purpose), Obadiah Stane’s machinations to take over Stark International after the death of Howard Stark, gang wars between the Maggia and the Tong… it just keeps going.
And it’s all good. The characters are written mostly like people, the plotting is mostly impeccable, and even the rudimentary cel-shaded mid-2000’s CGI comes off as stylish and ambitious. Pepper Potts is especially well-defined in the first season, hyper and obsessive but also smart and capable.
Season 2 is a bit rougher, at least on the face of it. They introduce Justin Hammer, as a bratty rich kid that Pepper Potts swoons over, and devote a lot of time to seemingly random introductions of other Marvel characters instead of focusing on the core stories. Mandarin’s search for the OTHER five rings happens almost in the background, losing a lot of the complexity of the first season. Pepper’s swooning over Hammer is the first of probably half a dozen more traditionally “feminine” character traits they graft onto her for no good reason.
But even with all that, it’s still very good. And when you get to the finale, and the reason for what were seemingly stand-alone episodes become clear, well, the payoff is huge by Saturday morning cartoon standards.
IM:AA is also notable because it’s the first post-MCU Marvel cartoon, pulling from the first two Iron Man movies for designs, characters, and relationships, and somehow even getting a Stark tower despite ending two years before the release of Avengers.
Are there other nits I could pick? Absolutely. Rhodey becoming War Machine is hella abrupt and requires a pretty drastic ignoring of a lot of his character development. There’s the usual cartoon thing where the relative powers of two people in a fight vary WILDLY depending on which way they want the fight to be going at any given moment. There’s a second season episode about a teenage Mad Thinker that isn’t bad per se but it stretches the credulity of the world quite a bit. But these are small things and absolutely didn’t affect my overall enjoyment. If you haven’t seen this, and you probably haven’t, look it up.
As for me, I’ll be moving on to 52 episodes of Super Hero Squad, which probably won’t be as interesting. it’s
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