James “Rhodey” Rhodes is a born soldier and has fought other men’s battles for decades; but in the upcoming series Iron Patriot, the longtime Iron Man ally is finding himself at odds with the people he’s fought for… and all signs point to it leading to his death.
Announced at New York Comic Con last October, the Iron Patriot miniseries was promised by series writer Ales Kot (Secret Avengers, Zero) and artist Garry Brown as a “sci-fi action thriller” dealing with the consequences of Rhodey being a warrior and the face of the American military. But in the recently released solicits for April’s Iron Patriot #2, Marvel has upped the stakes by hinting at outside control of Rhodey’s armor and, more directly, his death with the three simple words “James Rhodes dies!!!”
With Iron Patriot #1 set to launch this March, Newsarama caught up with Kot to get a briefing on what’s in store for Rhodey with this new series, from quitting the Secret Avengers to uncovering a conspiracy within the rank and file of America’s military elite. And of course, Rhodey’s promised death. We're also debuting the first interior art from Garry Brown!
Newsarama: Some people have a stereotypical view of Jim Rhodes and Iron Patriot, but from what I’ve heard you’re bucking the status quo. What can you tell us about Iron Patriot and breaking the idea of just who Rhodey is?
Ales Kot: James Rhodes is committed to his ethics. He wants to do the best by everyone. He doesn't want conflict; he wants peace. He wants to help people. What is being a patriot really about, on a human scale? Is it about being true to your nation? Or to your species?
Rhodey faces these questions and comes up with a renewed game plan. And just as he comes up with it, a plan set in motion long before starts moving…a plan that can threaten everything he stands for, his family, his beliefs.
The question is, what is really at Rhodey's core?
Nrama: What is Rhodey up against in this series?
Kot: America's conscience. Or at least that's what the person behind it, someone we meet on the first page of the first issue, considers themselves to be. There is a bigger conspiracy in place.
What else can I say? Oh. Rhodey dies.
Nrama: Rhodey dies?! I read as much in the recent solicits, but it's still a shocker. I have to ask – if Rhodey dies, how can an Iron Patriot series continue?
Kot: What kind of an artist would I be if I gave you an exact answer to that question in an interview? Not the kind I want to be, that's for sure. The only answer I am willing to give is this: come and see. There are multiple meanings to things. There are possibilities. Black and white are not the only two colors in existence.
Nrama: James Rhodes has been a major character in the Iron Man corner of the Marvel U, and especially in the movies. What was the conversation that led to this decision like?
Kot: I promised I would end my reign of stopping by the Marvel offices naked except for a skirt made of my new Marvel pitches. Everyone graciously accepted before they shoved me back into the elevator.
What we do in the comic...it felt natural, that's the true answer. The decision was simply accepted. Going further in explaining it could take the joy of exploring the story for the first time from the hands and eyes and minds and souls of the readers.
Nrama: The solicits promise we’ll get to see more of a personal side to Rhodes at times, including his family. Can you give us a sneak preview at building this broader portrait of a man we know so little about?
Kot: Here’s an excerpt from the script:
...she's standing in the door, grinning at the two men she knows quite well. She's sees through them. her eyes are intelligent beyond her years. she's wearing welding gloves and welding glasses that are on her forehead.
LILA: ARE YOU GUYS COMPLAINING ABOUT HOW STUBBORN BOTH OF YOU ARE AGAIN?
Close on the two men. They respond in unison, totally declining the obvious. And it's hilarious.
TERRENCE: THAT'S NONSENSE.
RHODEY: TOTALLY NOT.
We get the entire kitchen in this shot, but it can be quite tight – all we need to see for sure are all our protagonists. Rhodey is not turned towards Lila, while Terrence takes another sip of the cocoa.
RHODEY: WHY DON'T YOU SHOW ME WHAT YOU'VE GOT GOING IN THE GARAGE?
Second big shot. Rhodey and Lila in the garage. She's facing Rhodey, who is looking at the Iron Patriot armor on the work table. He's attempting to look stern but he's a bit too amused to pull it off properly – one of the corners of his lips is twisting up a bit.
The garage is pretty much completely converted into a hackspace. Garry, if you need visual info on hackspaces, shoot me an email and I'll send pics. Basics are cables everywhere, the place is a bit of a mess, there's a lot of interesting hardware around, most of it is at least half-open in a sense that cover parts of the boxes are sometimes missing. The light on the table is on. Other than that it's a lot of small hardware lights illuminating spots around the place.
The Iron Patriot armor has the chest place off. It's taken off clearly, not welded off, but Lila is positioned in a way that lets her hide the welding torch and some other gear behind her back and slowly push them towards the bin without Rhodey realizing they were there...
RHODEY: ...I WAS VERY PRECISE WHEN I SAID I DIDN'T WANT YOU TO TURN THE ARMOR INTO A FRIENDLY ROBOT WHO WOULD CLEAN UP AFTER YOU.
Nrama: One of the cool parts about having a man in a sci-fi suit of armor is the toys and tech involved. Can you tell us about the capabilities you’ll be using in the Iron Patriot suit in this miniseries?
Kot: One of the first scenes includes underwater drones investigating cracks under New Orleans. Apart from that…you'll find out that this story is much more about the man in the suit than the suit itself. This doesn't mean we don't fly straight through the head of a gigantic monster by page 18 of the first issue.
Nrama: Getting back to this idea of serving his country, in Newsarama’s earlier interview with you during NYCC you said that the series is about Rhodey wrestling about fighting a war “wearing the American flag.” As the series is closer than ever to coming out, can you talk more in depth about that struggle?
Kot: Sure. What happens when Rhodey's confronted with the realization -- after being a member of Secret Avengers -- that he doesn't necessarily always even understand why he's being ordered to do what he does? This goes back to the answer I gave you in the beginning of this interview.
Nrama: In that same interview you tease some political intrigue and some hidden secrets in American history. Knowing you, I get a Manchurian Candidate type of vibe – am I completely off mark?
Kot: What comes is brought by the general disillusionment of someone who was once a very different person and by the idea that brutal force can change things for good. So you're not completely off mark, no!
Nrama: When we’re talking Rhodey and the name Iron Patriot, I have to ask about Iron Man; is Tony a factor in this series at all, and what does Rhodes think about Stark currently?
Kot: Tony is not a factor in the arc -- almost until the end. And his arrival is not about saving a day. It's about something else, about paying his respects to someone, about doing good.
What does Rhodey think about Stark? He loves him. They are friends. They respect each other and see each other for who they truly are. That is how true friendship is forged -- through that, and through connected experiences, which they have plenty.
Nrama: Working with you on this is the hot newcomer Garry Brown from Dark Horse’s The Massive. This Kubert School grad has really made a name for himself, coming into comics roughly the same time as you as well. What’s it like partnering with Garry for this series?
Kot: It's wonderful. Here's a good example – I gave Garry a double-page spread that called for about 24 panels in a pretty strict grid, but I always start a collaboration by telling the artist that he or she is welcome to change things, because at the end of the day, the final visuals are their job first and foremost. So Garry came up with something quite different than what I asked for, something much less classical, and when he sent in the layout of it… here I was, immediately admitting that this was the way. Why? Because the story matters. And thankfully, my ego understands that the way to get the best story is to go with the best idea regardless of who comes up with it.
I love Garry's ink lines. His use of black is so integral to how the comic sucks me in when I look at the pages. Every line works for the larger whole. It's so fluid -- I feel that something Garry nails especially well are people and water, which makes sense considering his work on The Massive.
Nrama: Last question, Ales – out of all the new series coming out in 2014, why is Iron Patriot one fans shouldn’t miss?
Kot: Well, I am not here to tell people what they should or shouldn't do, and I believe Rhodey would see it the same way. It's up to each one of you reading this interview. All I can say is that I am giving this series what I've got and that I believe it's worth my time and energy and that it looks real good and focuses on things that are on almost everyone's mind these days in one way or another.
At the core of it, it's about one man's quest to be the best version of himself he can be. And that, I believe, is something we can all relate to. It's a big blockbuster, sure, but it's also about something we all have in common. And I believe it says a thing worth saying.