Episode #3: Secrets and Lies
Original Airdate - May 1st, 2009
The Mandarin believes Tony can find the missing Makluan Rings, so he reverts back to his true identity, sixteen year old Gene Khan, to get close to Tony. After enrolling at Tony’s school, Tony, Gene, and Pepper are taken hostage by Maggia henchmen in effort to undermine The Mandarin and his Tong triad. Tony and Gene must both survive and protect their respective secret identities as Iron Man and the Mandarin.

Story Editor Christopher Yost
Written By Alexx Van Dyne
Directed By Stephane Juffe and Phillipe Guyenne
Review by Arsenal

Tony Stark is not the first superhero to be de-aged for Saturday mornings. Peter Parker and the X-Men took a leap back in age for the Spectacular Spider-Man and X-Men: Evolution, respectively.

The difference is Spider-Man and the original X-Men were introduced as teenagers in the comics. Consequently, the television shows were just drawing from a different part of the characters’ histories.

Tony Stark has always been portrayed as an adult in the comics. This means the creators of Iron Man: Armored Adventures didn’t have the source material from which they could directly borrow. Instead, they had to translate the characters—not just Stark but Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan, James Rhodes and the Mandarin—as teens.

Some fare better than others. Rhodes comes out unscathed. He’s still the sensible one who can temper Stark’s less practical impulses.

Potts has been revamped from a snarky but sweet secretary (or CEO, depending on when we’re talking about) to a hyperactive motormouth. While the character may be different, she fills the same role. She’s one part comic relief, one part potential romantic interest and one part tough girl. (One of the nice things about Pepper is she was always a bit tougher than your average superhero girlfriend.)

This new version of Potts might annoy some people, but I found her amusing.

The Mandarin, Gene Khan, has also been de-aged. It might be ridiculous to accept a teenager as the head of a criminal syndicate, but the series premiere explained it as best it could.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to take Khan seriously when he spouts lines like, “Leave in shame and be grateful for your lives.”

With that having been said, overbearing villainous clichés have been part of the Mandarin’s modus operandi from day one.

Oddly, it’s Tony Stark who has probably changed the most from his comic book version. Gone is the boozy womanizing. (Understandably so, the boozy womanizing is probably inappropriate for this show’s key demographic.) Sadly, the creators have inadvertently stripped away some of the character’s sense of fun, also.

He still makes the occasional quip. (“Let’s not antagonize the armed thugs, OK?” is my favorite.) But Stark had a knack for seeming nonchalant even when the world was falling around him. Iron Teen seems to be more of a worrier.

The problem with this is it makes your lead character difficult to identify as Iron Man. This doesn’t feel like any Iron Man I know. It’s like a Wolverine that settles arguments with chess or a Superman who’d rather chase tail than save the world. It might still be good, but it’s a bit misleading.

The episode “Secrets and Lies” has a trifle of a plot. (Gene, Tony and Pepper get kidnapped and must outwit some D-list criminals. Really, Killer Shrike?) As a result, the focus is on the characters; and, at this point, the characters are not strong or well enough defined to carry a weaker episode.

“Secrets” lays the groundwork for some interesting relationships—for example, Gene and Tony become friends even though their secret alter egos are enemies—but this episode offers little gratification unto itself.

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