WRITER: CHUCK AUSTEN
ARTIST: CHRISTIAN MOORE
U.S. War Machine ended with the sequel hook of an armoured-up Tony Stark, backed by Happy Hogan and Beth Cabe, learning of SHIELD's War Machine unit and setting out to get his tech back. When the sequel came, though, it was to be a disaster.
Firstly Austen was busy writing an undeservedly huge chunk of the Marvel universe and certainly wouldn't be undertaking art duties. Not a problem, he was never more than a capable artist anyway. Only the man they got in was one Christian Moore; I've been unable to find out much else about Moore but given the results here it's not hard to see why. You see, U.S. War Machine V2.0 is computer rendered and not well. In fact, it's genuinely hard to think of an uglier comic. The tech isn't there, everyone has blank open mouths, there's no texture, explosions look silly and damaged flesh is represented by a weird dapple thing that actually makes it difficult to understand what's going on. It looks like the end result of a piece of software from a basic Windows 98 starter bundle.
The other problem is that it's only three issues and reads like this was a late choice. The opening two issues set up the confrontation and touch base with Rhodes & co while also putting a little more attention Stark's way and introducing this universe's version of Captain America (a recently promoted Bucky), Clint Barton and Sam Wilson. Stark and his gang arrive above the Helicarrier at the end and we're all prepared for a smackdown and then...
Suddenly, inexplicably Stark's Iron Men and SHIELD's War Machines are working together to stop a nuclear bomb set in London. Moore's backgrounds turn into abstract slabs of orange while Stark is rapidly shown up to be some kind of hesitant liberal peacenik before sacrificing himself to stop the bomb, his comatose brain being linked into the Avengers fantasy used to sedate Darkhawk. It all makes for a very random shift of focus from Jim to Tony and there are all sorts of other bizarre moments, like Doctor Doom turning up and immediately getting shot through the head by Barton with an arrow. It's almost like a deliberate salting of the Earth but could also just be really bad writing. It's in line with Austen's record for starting well on a title and then just adding characters and plot threads at random without ever doing anything in a satisfactory fashion.
So yes, if you read the first volume and enjoyed the frustration of that dangling cliffhanger is nothing compared to the frustration of reading the follow-up. There might be a certain morbid curiosity to seeing if Christian Moore''s art is as bad as I'm saying; I don't generally put frames in short comic reviews but I'm doing so now so you can see for yourself and not waste time.