Audiobook Review: Iron Man: Extremis by Warren Ellis, adapted by Marie Javins

audiobookHello again to you all! Not too long ago I reviewed Spider-Man: The Gathering Of The Sinister Six by Adam-Troy Castro and teased a return to the Marvel universe to discuss the ‘Extremis problem’ as I phrased it then. Audiobook Review: Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours by Jim Butcher . That time has now come.

Both of the Spider-Man audios I previously discussed were original audio adaptations of existing prose novels by the current licence holder Dreamscape Media. This Iron Man related release is somewhat different. Originally released in 2014 – presumably to benefit from the then recently released Iron Man 3 – this adaptation was released by a company known as Graphic Audio known for full cast audio presentations of selected works – including at the time both Marvel and DC comic book prose novels. As a matter of fact it was this adaptation of Extremis which allowed me to discover these things existed. Thankfully when Dreamscape obtained the Marvel license they resold several but not all of the Graphic Audio releases on various platforms allowing me to talk about this one today.

The plot is as follows: Tony Stark is thinking. What is the ‘purpose’ of the Iron Man? Beyond keeping him alive? How can he make amends for his past mistakes and misdeeds? As he tries to answer these questions Tony is contacted by an old ‘friend’ called Maya. Maya has been working on a project: The Extremis Program which greatly increases the power and capabilities of its users. Only something has gone wrong. Maya’s superior is dead and the only test sample of Extremis has been given to a domestic terrorist with extreme views. The only chance the world has is for Iron Man to take on this superhuman killing machine. And hopefully find answers to those questions.

This is a very well done adaptation. Unlike The Darkest Hours and Sinister Six which are both more on the jokey fun adventure side of things, Extremis is something of a character piece for Tony Stark. The original comic version was also intended as the beginning of a modernisation for Iron Man and the version of Tony’s backstory depicted there was used as the basis for the MCU version of Tony’s backstory in the original Iron Man while elements of its plot were used for Iron Man 3.

Tony’s character throughout is constantly questioning himself and others whilst also pitting himself against the genuine threat of a madman with nothing to lose. No limits. What could he do? What would Tony have to do against such a man? He still has his joking sarcastic side. He’s more than willing to be acerbic when needed or very to the point and blunt but as he does it? The story at the core of Extremis is not fun and games.

Other characters also get a good showing. Maya – Tony’s old friend – is a very intelligent woman with the capability to advance science in her various dream fields– namely medical science – significantly provided she is given the chance and herself and Tony can deal with the inherent danger of a wild Extremis test subject. And she’s more than willing to give as good as she gets. The Extremis subject known as Mallen also gets a decent amount of listening time devoted to him and his associates. As much as they may come across as your typical Texan redneck they can be much more dangerous in a variety of ways and get a few unexpected character moments here and there. One final favourite inclusion is Mrs Rennie, Tony’s ex teacher assistant who injects a suitable level of levity and snark into proceedings.

The performances are – for the most part – quite well done. The narrator role is filled by Richard Rohan who infuses the part of the narrator with clear enthusiasm very much in the spirit of comic books from days gone by while still being able to match his performance to the scene of the moment. Richard Cutting performs Tony Stark/Iron Man admirably being able to both play Tony’s sarcastic and showman side alongside his more serious and to the point attitude shown when he isn’t either needling those who need a reality check or playing up to the cameras. In my personal opinion his voice is pretty much perfect for Iron Man and a fairly close match for Robert Downey Jr all things considered. Sherry Berg also performs Maya wonderfully to the point that you can convincingly believe the connection the two have and that Maya has a very engaging and persuasive personality. Several other parts are also played equally well with only one or two very minor roles coming across as over the top in some way.

One thing I will say though is that while listening to Extremis it is abundantly clear that the majority of performers are distinctly American with fairly heavy and pronounced accents. That isn’t a problem by any means especially not for myself but if the strength of a performer’s accent can be distracting for you this is your warning.

The original prose novel adaptation of the Extremis storyline by Ellis with art by Adi Granov was written by Marie Javins a long time editor at Marvel who not too long ago took a high level position at DC Comics. She has also become well known in certain circles as a long time travel writer outside of comics. The writing in the novel adaptation is very strong in my opinion successfully managing to bring the spirit of the original graphic novel to a new medium and enhancing certain details without sacrificing much or losing any important details.

NephriteIn conclusion I very much enjoyed this audio adaptation of Iron Man: Extremis which I hope has come across in talking about it. Extremis may be a slightly more introspective storyline than the last couple I’ve talked about but it’s still very much enjoyable and something I definitely recommend to my fellow fans of the Invincible Iron Man! I just hope there will be a few more Iron Man novels in the not too distant future.



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