With Iron Man getting everybody all hot and bothered, it seems like everybody wants to get their own robotic AI body armor. Even the nerds at Hackaday are getting into it, with a roundup of all the best real-life power suit body armor you can buy (or make). But is Iron Man's body armor really the coolest in fiction? There are a few other contenders that I think could smack him down.
First of all, let us consider Gundam armor, featured in the anime Gundam but also in about a million other animes. Usually it merges entirely with your body, and jacks into your nervous system. Sometimes it's insanely giant, sometimes it's sentient. But it's always a lot cooler than Iron Man's.
I am personally fond of the suit Ripley wore in Aliens to fight the big bad lady alien. Sure it was just a cargo loader suit, similar in some ways to power suits you can buy right now. It had no AI, and it wouldn't talk to you in a lame British accent like Iron Man's. But it got the job done and it had cool pincer hands. Similarly, the cargo suits in Matrix: Revolutions got the job done. Seeing a whole bunch of fighters in the cargo suits, ready to fight the Machines, was pretty damn cool (yes, I am one of the dorks who likes the last Matrix movie).
If you're in the mood for Jackie Chan, and who isn't, then you must see the awesome "power suit" in The Tuxedo. Not only does this super-powered tuxedo have a James Brown setting, which allows the wearer to get funky, but it also looks damn dapper on Chan. Plus, there is an amazing moment when he gets to do the "pants only" defense when he loses the jacket, which seems to consist mainly of lying on his back and kicking the bad guy in the face. But Jackie Chan style, so it's just awesome.
In Iain M. Banks' novel The Algebraist, the humans who hang out on gas giants live inside these amazing suits/tiny ships that allow them to deal with the pressure and atmosphere on Jupiter-like planets. Plus, they can fly and sense all kinds of chemical/electrical shifts in the air. Banks does an amazing job capturing what it would feel like to have all your senses re-routed to a computerized suit.
We've already discussed the many virtues of the giant robot suits in Robot Jox, so we needn't get too excited about that here.