An Overview

No true Iron Man fan should be without knowledge of this dimension of the Marvel Universe because it rounds out the Shellhead legend and spotlights one of Marvel's greatest supporting characters: Jim Rhodes. But War Machine was an uneven comic at best.

A much-anticipated Iron Man spin-off, War Machine ran for only twenty-five issues. Though it often showed potential, the book was held hostage to stupid, long crossovers that didn't allow War Machine, or his supporting cast, to develop on their own. (Almost half the issues are in service of Marvel crossovers.) In the end, even the introduction of a new alien armor didn't prevent the War Machine title from stumbling and dying in #18—although no one informed the creators for another seven issues.

If the crossovers had been good stories, maybe War Machine would've survived. Unfortunately, the title had one more bad strike against it. War Machine suffered the curse of ever-changing writers/artists during its short life. And when a permanent crew (Abnett/Haynes) finally settled in, things didn't get any better. While writer Dan Abnett's stories were good enough (excluding crossovers), what killed War Machine was the art. Certainly writing is the most important thing in comic storytelling—but no matter how good the story is, you've gotta be able to look at it. Fred Haynes, the man who drew WM into the grave, is the worst penciler that I have ever seen in a published comic (and this is still true in 2006). His artwork is inconsistent and child-like. (One expects that at the Marvel level, an artist could draw the character's face the same from one panel to another on the same page. Fred Haynes demonstrated a unique ability to be consistently inconsistent, an inexcusable sin at the professional level.) I'm quite sure that the title would have endured longer had the artistic quality been even just average. Anyway . . .

More below ad . . .

War Machine

This page is copyright 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009 by Tim Rassbach

Iron Man and all associated characters are the property of Marvel Comics.

When diplomacy fails and international law breaks down, James Rhodes—head of the human rights group, WorldWatch—dons his solar-charged steel mesh battle armor to become the world's number one weapon in the struggle against injustice and oppression!

In The Beginning

Although War Machine started out as just another one of Tony Stark's armor upgrades , it soon became a full-fledged alter-ego in the hands of James Rhodes.

Built as an all-out offensive armor by Stark just before his "death," a modified version of the War Machine armor was left to James Rhodes so that he could continue the Iron Man legacy while Stark was gone. Upon Stark's return, an infuriated Rhodey gave up being both Iron Man and Stark's friend, taking the armor as he went to search for something to believe in.

The Ends Justify The Means

Rhodes found something to believe in and, not coincidently, his own monthly title, in War Machine #1(April, 1994). A pilot, sometime super hero and former CEO, Jim Rhodes believed that he could help make a difference in the world if he could just find the right way. Vincent Cetewayo, a visionary man of peace known the world over, offered Rhodes just such a chance. But then a brutal thug of a dictator captured the peaceful Cetewayo. When no one, including SHIELD and the Avengers, would help Cetewayo, Rhodey was forced to make a choice—forced to act.

Every super hero since Spider-Man has had to live with the knowledge that with great power comes great responsibility; Rhodey was no different. He could not sit by while heroes and nations did nothing to alleviate suffering and oppression. James Rhodes put on the War Machine armor to act where others had failed to, to right the wrongs others refused to. In the face of worldwide condemnation, War Machine took an active role in maintaining human rights around the globe. He began by going to Imaya to free Cetewayo. While the journey would not be entirely successful, War Machine struck a blow against oppression and complacency, freeing a nation in the process.

More below ad . . .

A New Job

James Rhodes returned to America, settled in LA, and became the Executive Director of WorldWatch International, the human rights group Vincent Cetewayo had founded. As War Machine, he became the world's number one human rights advocate, alienating even his closest of friends at the same time. Rhodey's penchant for confrontation, along with his by-any-means-necessary approach, soon put him on a collision course with the law and other super heroes, culminating in his first battle royale with his former friend Tony Stark (as Iron Man) in WM #8/IM #310. This led to the “Hands of the Mandarin” arc (the only good crossover WM had a part in; issues 9 and 10 for WM). During the story, Rhodey reconciled with Tony and took on the Mandarin and his minions, the Avatars.

Bring On The Bad Guys

In Imaya, during his first solo outing Rhodes had his first encounter with the Advisor, a devil that walked the earth in human form and promised to be his most sinister foe. Although the Advisor seemed an ideal arch-nemesis, nothing much would come of him in the end as the creators just seemed to forget about him.

War Machine really picked up in #12, where Rhodey encounters the Rush Club. A clichéd premise executed well produced some pretty awesome armored villains.

But #15 is where the title really started cooking. In it, War Machine entered the Time War (#’s 15–17). (Of course, full disclosure, I've always been a sucker for Nazi bad guys. And they prove their evilness again with a time-traveling saga that really delivers story and art-wise. (The Nazi V3 armor is awesome!)

War Machine also took on the many lives of the psycho hit man, Deathtoll, and battled the Cold Warrior.

Costume Change
A dramatic shift in Rhodes' life was the introduction of a new armor. Departing from Stark's designs—Stark’s shadow—was a daring yet necessary step if Rhodes was to ever become a fully developed hero in the Marvel Universe. After losing his Stark-designed armor in the Time War, Rhodes looked forward to returning to civilian life. But unknown aliens had other ideas. Enter the Eidolon Warwear System, the pinnacle of xenotechnology. Rhodes was fused to the suit, which was a sentient being in its own right, at the genetic level. The result was a cross between Venom and Spawn, tempered with Rhodey's new outlook on life. More on the Eidolon Warwear.
The Story Continues
After a knocking around a while (as a SHIELD agent in the pages of U.S. War Machine and then as a hero taking on street-level thugs in The Crew), Rhodes recently donned an all-new suit of armor as part of the Stark-backed Sentinel ONE program.
Back to War Machine Armor tech specs
Return to Rhodey’s bio