REVIEW: Iron Man: Hong Kong Heroes #1

Iron Man: Hong Kong Heroes #1 / Writer: Howard Wong / Artist, Inker, Colorist: Justice Wong / Letterer : VC’s  / Publisher: Marvel Comics / March 21st, 2018

A few months ago I saw this title, Iron Man: Hong Kong Heroes available for pre-order, so I added it to my pull list on Comixology. I had absolutely no clue what it was about. I didn’t see any solicits for it or any advanced press. It was quite literally a mystery to me.

I knew that Marvel was attempting to make forays into the Asian market, and I just assumed this comic had something to do with that. What was it going to be about? Some sort of launching pad for a new Chinese hero? Would this hero appear across Marvel Comics? Would this be an English translation of a comic only available in Asia? Only time would tell as I waited for the release date.

This is a bit embarrassing considering all the amazing comics that came out this week, but as I returned from my local comic shop, Challenges Games and Comics, I slid this comic out of the bag to read first. The anticipation was killing me. It was half the idea of a new magnificent discovery and half the nagging morbid curiosity. I had a feeling this comic was either going to be a small gem, or a Hulk fart.

Hong Kong Disneyland Gift Shop Cover

Now, before I go on to the review, I feel like I need to reveal some important information that I was not aware of when I purchased the book.

This comic was actually produced as a gift shop item for the Iron Man Experience ride and showcase at Hong Kong Disneyland. It’s been available at the park since the opening of the ride, since early summer 2017.  This week’s release was the American ‘coming out party’ for the issue. Marvel employed the Honk Kong talent of writer Howard Wong (After the Cape, Image Comics) and artist Justice Wong to bring this comic into reality, overseen by Marvel Editors Mark Basso and Mark Paniccia. It’s a one-shot and no further comics under this title have been produced.

As opposed to standard review, at first I’m going to go a bit more into  ‘short synopsis’ territory at first, because I feel many Marvel readers will never pick up this issue, but may be very interested in the basic plot.

Our story begins in a large house-like structure floating “Somewhere hidden in the folds between dimensions.” Doctor Strange is in the structure looking over a mystic relic, The Portal Nexus. It’s a magical device used to grant magic users access to other dimensions and mystical energies. Baron Mordo and Arnim Zola appear with the goal of stealing the relic. In order to protect the relic, Doctor Strange teleports it away, but not before Zola creates attack robots and Mordo imbues them with dark magic. As Strange’s magic doesn’t work so hot against technology, he’s got to find the right man for the job. And that man just so happens to be made of Iron.

Meanwhile, in Honk Kong China, Tony Stark, decked out in full armor arrives to open the Stark Expo Hong Kong. Introduced at the expo is some new Stark tech, designed by Stark Industries Asia’s VP, Wendy Wong. Stark Asia has created a new suit, designed for use by people like first responders and emergency personnel. They call it the Stark Emergency Response Exosuit, or SERE-X for short. One could describe it as bodysuit made with special threads that give it an armor-like quality. It can attract external components that can self-attach to the suit, thus making it customizable for each mission.

Mordo and Zola, along with their ‘magical robots’ attack Hong Kong where the magical relic appeared. They battle Iron Man, as well as Black Panther and the Hulk, who happened to be there for….well, I have no idea really. Moral support perhaps? (insert laughing with tears emoji). Wendy Wong’s sister Arwyn, also in attendance, reveals herself to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and throws on the SERE-X suit. She and Iron Man battle the robots and when they seem to be overwhelmed, Doctor Strange appears and teleports in Hawkeye, War Machine, Black Widow and Captain America. I can only assume they kick some butt together, because after the ‘Avengers Assemble!’ cry, that’s the last you see of them. Literally, that panel is the last you see of them. I have no clue what they did or what happened to them.

The bad guys are defeated, the relic is returned to Doctor Strange, and the only ones who remain in Hong Kong are Tony, Arwyn and Wendy Wong. Tony suggests that Arwyn and Wendy work together to protect Hong Kong as heroes. Arwyn asks “Does this make me an Avenger?” and Tony replies “Let’s start with Arwyn Wong, the armored hero of Hong Kong!” (ohhh, it rhymes). THE END.

Ok, so given what you know about the origins of this comic, let’s look a little closer.

The writing by Howard Wong is a tad sophomoric. There’s nothing challenging or mature about the dialogue or text. Remember, this is a gift shop item for children and adults alike. If I had to put an estimate on it, I would say this was written on about a third or fourth grade reading level. This shouldn’t be an indictment on Howard Wong’s talent or capabilities. I’m sure he was specifically asked to script the issue in this manner. I’m not a master of language translation, but I would venture a guess that by keeping the vocabulary and grammar at a more basic level, that it’s easier to create a more pure and easier translation into other languages. This book was first available exclusively in Honk Kong, so it was available first in Chinese, and then in other languages for international tourists.

As you look at the art by Justice Wong, you might be reminded of a very high quality children’s picture book. It’s wonderful art, just not something that lends itself well to the comic book format. Justice Wong is an exceptional artist, with much of his large format work in the fantasy and swords and sorcery genre. I truly believe his talents should be harnessed by Marvel as they create more children’s merchandise, like first-readers comics and hardcover picture books.

Justice Wong’s poster for Marvel themed dinners in Hong Kong.

The art in this book however feels very flat with very little texture or detail. Justice Wong first came to the attention of Marvel Comics in 2015 as the poster artist for a series of celebrity chef, Marvel themed, Heroes & Villains dinner events in Hong Kong.

Is this book a must buy? No. Not at a cover price of $3.99.

VERDICT: 2 out 5 Arc Reactors.

If you are interested in The Iron Man Experience ride and attraction at Disneyland Hong Kong, here’s a few images and videos to give you a better idea of what it’s like.

About

Adam Paul. AKA ChecK The CircuiT. An avid comic reader for over 35 years, my ride-or-dies are The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man and have been since I was old enough to walk.  Much like Garfield, I hate Mondays and I love Lasagna. My love of scifi and fantasy began at an extremely early age with The Land of Make-believe on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I’m a high school ESOL/ELL teacher and I hold a Master’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School for Public Communications at Syracuse University.

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