Iron Man 1

Given that Dan Slott’s Peter Parker is Tony Stark-light these days, I thought I would check out the real deal with Marvel’s relaunch of Invincible Iron Man. I had not bothered with “shell head” in about ten years, but it looks like I will be sticking around thanks to Brian Michael Bendis’ quality work.

Iron Man Doom

Technology: Check. Espionage: Check. Action: Check. Romance: Check. Magic: Check. Dialogue that says, “This writer takes his craft seriously”: Check.

I am in the dark as to much of what has happened to Mr. Stark since roughly 2005 — other than knowing that Marvel made many stupid moves messing with his history and tarnishing his reputation — but it appears as though they did the right thing by pairing artist David Marquez with Bendis.

Iron Man 2

The first two issues of Invincible Iron Man were exactly what I was looking for in a comic book. I found myself thinking, “What is Madame Masque up to? What the heck is going on with Victor Von Doom? Where the heck is this all going?” It’s a shame that such a well-oiled machine (no pun intended) doesn’t exist with another iconic character using holographic technology as CEO of Parker Industries.

The thing that I have always admired about Mr. Bendis’ work is that even when I don’t agree with some of his editorial decisions, I cannot deny that he delivers a tight, taut product.

If you are a fan of Iron Man, then let me know what you think in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Marvel’s handling of Tony, Brian Michael Bendis’ work on the book, or anything else Iron Man-related.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

12 comments

  1. Huh, so you don’t know about Superior Iron Man? Stark was turned into a semi-evil version of himself due to a silly crossover that inverted the moralities of a bunch of heroes and villains. I actually liked it a lot. Tony’s a little morally gray (Civil War and all that) so his “inversion” resulted in an Iron Man that was heavy on the arrogance and used his tech to make people dependent on him (he made an iPhone app that used Extremis tech to make you young and beautiful with a free trial period and then a heavy monthly charge to keep it going), but still effectively fought bad guys. It was like SSM if it featured Peter using supervillain methods instead of a supervillain trying to be Peter. It was a really solid little series. Unfortunately it was cut short by Secret Wars, and afterward Tony’s back to normal with no explanation (or the explanation was lost in the sea of lame alternate universe titles, who knows).

    The first two issues of this new series (man, what is this, volume 10 or more of Invincible Iron Man?) look pretty good. I hated the “liquid suit” thing but I think this idea is much better, though how you get a Hulkbuster out of a regular sized suit I don’t know. I hope they address that, maybe this version is much more brittle since the metal is more spread out or something. While I’m disappointed that they dropped the Superior Iron Man thing without resolving it (such a Marvel thing to do!) this looks pretty vintage Iron Man. Intriguing and totally in character. A very good start.

    1. I basically bailed on Marvel after it’s cartoonish treatment of Tony in Civil War years ago. Instead of giving him reasonable arguments, Marvel just turned him into their caricatured version of Dick Cheney. Lame. Par for the course at Marvel, though.

      Stark was turned into a semi-evil version of himself due to a silly crossover that inverted the moralities of a bunch of heroes and villains.

      You know my opinion on Superior Spider-Man. 🙂 Once I heard they were giving Iron Man some sort of “Superior” treatment, there wasn’t a chance I was going to check it out. It may have been good, but that is another instance where Marvel’s squandered good-will came into play.

  2. Also I’m totally cool with Tony’s suit having all kinds of new powers. Stark is previously established as a tinkerer who invents this kind of stuff all the time. It’s kind of fun finding out about all the new things various suits can do, as long as they’re not too overpowered. I really liked two suits ago where he had modular suits that had to be refitted with different features depending on what he was up against too, that was a good idea as well.

    On the other hand we have Spider-Man. I’ve always felt like there’s no excuse for ever going back from a bulletproof costume. He really should’ve just kept the Iron Spider outfit, and he should’ve kept the Superior suit. Recolor them all you like, but keep the tech for crying out loud! I can understand not wanting technological vulnerabilities in your suit, but why drop the bulletproof part? You don’t need hackable computers in your suit for that.

    Does anyone understand how the new Spider-Man costume looks, by the way? In two different series it looks totally different. And in one of the ASM issues he pops out a cell phone looking thing from one…arm? Glove? Somewhere. But it’s never in any other shot, so it’s totally unclear where it came from. Is the suit not fabric anymore? How can it have a cell phone embedded in it if it’s made of fabric without there being a big stiff part near his wrist?

    Also, did you notice that they still draw Peter Parker like they did for Superior? He gives weird evil looks and looks like a villain a lot of the time when he’s out of the costume, it’s weird. There’s an example in the Stillanerd review page. I saw it on a page somewhere from issue #2 where he says “I’m going fishing,” he looks like a supervillain. I don’t know why they draw him like that; did they forget to tell the art team that he’s not Doc Ock anymore?

    1. Also, I always feel like improved suits for Spider-Man make him seem dumb in the past for not using that before. Why leave himself vulnerable to bullets for so long when it wasn’t necessary? Even in SSM, when Peter Parker returns he puts on the regular, non-enhanced suit (that could be excused due to not knowing what tech was corrupted, but still). Why not have enhanced webbing if it’s possible? Why didn’t he at least keep Ben Reilly’s impact webbing and stingers, which were already functional?

      I guess the issue is power creep. Regular webbing (with cartridges) plus moderate super-strength plus spider-sense and super-agility equals exciting storytelling possibilities due to powers which are visually interesting but limited in ways that lend themselves to good fight scenes.

      If he has all these kinds of webbing now, first, where does he store them, second, how does he activate them (it was already pushing believability that he could have such fine control over the webbing in the first place), do they run out, does he have so much of each one, etc. And if this stuff was all possible and he can develop it in the span of a few months, why didn’t he ever do anything like that before, whereas now he has multiple types of crazy webbing, none of which have anything to do with Reilly’s versions.

      I guess I don’t ask these questions about Stark’s tech because he’s never really been limited by real-world issues. His tech has always had its own in-story sci-fi rules. Peter’s stuff was only a little past what was real and was always supposed to operate in a mostly believable way, so it’s more distracting when his new suit makes no sense with what we know about what’s in it and how it operates (i.e. it can’t be fabric anymore based on all the stuff that’s in it, but it looks basically the same as it always did except for the silly-looking glowy bits).

    2. I will admit that certain aspects of Tony’s new armor are a bit ridiculous to me. What I don’t get is how it can be a normal suit, and then apparently grow in mass to turn into “Hulk-Buster” armor. Huh?! Some of the tech in Iron Man over the years has induced a few eye-rolls. It’s an easy-out, creatively.

      With Spider-Man I liken it to some of the issues troops had in Iraq and Afghanistan. The guys in the nice offices pushed all sorts of armor out to the field and wanted the infantry guys to wear it. There’s only one problem — it’s heavy. It’s bulky. It’s hot. It takes away speed and agility, and sometimes hampers hearing and vision. Sometimes less is more.

      That is precisely why I don’t particularly care for Peter Parker-Wayne-Stark-Bond. He always just-so-happens to have a new gadget the reader wasn’t aware of up his sleeve. Again, it’s creatively lazy. I don’t think the writers should have a “lazy-crutch” at their disposal like that.

  3. I’ve been enjoying the last two issues of Iron Man too. I actually got back into him with the Superior Iron Man story, which I feel was a far better read than Superior Spider-Man, I particulary liked how they developed Pepper, showing her gradually lose faith in Tony but still holding on to who he used to be in a vain attempt to “correct him”. Bendis I hear will use her again, so looking forward to that, and of course, Mary Jane is coming on board in two issues time.

  4. I actually got back into comics around 10 years ago because of Ironman. I was intrigued by the Civil War storyline and picked up a handful of different titles to see what I liked. My favorite title growing up was Xmen, but as an adult I found myself gravitating towards the more serious plots of Ironman and Ms Marvel.

    Ironman has had some pretty awesome stories during your hiatus. My favorite title was Ironman: Director of SHIELD. It had an added flavor of espionage to it and some really intense moments. As you’ve said, the writing takes itself seriously, and the art is rock solid. You should pick up some of the trade paperbacks.

    That said, there have been weak points. Marvel can’t not inject politics into its story lines, and Tony Stark is no exception. The good stories tend to outweigh the political soap boxing though usually. Also, near the end of my subscription there was a story that featured Tony falling off the wagon. I thought this would be a huge crossroad in the character’s life, like it would be for any recovering alcoholic, but marvel dropped the ball by promptly forgetting the incident. Tony Stark, the raging alcoholic goes on a drunken binge with some asgardians and walks away from the incident completely unaffected because there’s no time for character development when marvel has yet another cross-promotional stunt queued up.

    And that’s ultimately the only truly bad mark on the Ironman titles. Marvel is always pushing some cross promotion, so you’re usually only getting half the story. “Skrulls are invading. We don’t know why, but Ironman is already knee deep in battle with them by the time you get the first issue.” “Hulk is back and waging war on earth. We don’t get to see that, but Ironman is already there in his Hulkbuster. You’ll get dropped off on a cliffhanger by the end of this issue, but don’t worry, we’ll be on to the next promotion by the next issue.” It was so frustrating trying to navigate the labyrinth of Marvel cross promotional titles that I just gave up on it. But otherwise, ironman is far and away a better title than just about anything else at Marvel.

  5. As someone who’s primarily a Marvel movie person, I’m curious, is the comic book version of Tony Stark much like the MCU version, or is there a distinct difference?

    You didn’t mention much about the plot. Is this the sort of comic that a newbie can pick up and understand or are there back issues needed to be read as well? Also, is Bendis using decompression like he did on “Ultimate Spider-Man” (which was usually like a graphic novel released in serial form before the actual book) or is this like a chain of one-shots that build on each other?

    Maybe a long-term “Iron Man” fan can clear up some confusion I’ve had. My favorite “Iron Man” villain in the movies was Justin Hammer from the second film. He appeared once in “Ultimate Spider-Man” as a very different character, a older guy with a Southern accent who, as Spidey points out, looks like Grand Moff Tarkin, and appears to be mostly working in illegal superpower experiments, rather than technology development (he dies at the end of the story). Which of these two versions is closer to the original comics version, and is there any indication that he’ll be popping up in the current series?

    As far as Spider-Man’s costume goes, it would seem likely that a cloth suit would be easier to conceal under his clothes, which would work better for the non-CEO Spider-Man. My personal bias is that non-Peter Parker Spider-Men should have their unique costume, but, not counting minor stylistic tweaks (like the size of the eyes, design of the spider on the back, or exact shades of color), Peter Parker’s costume shouldn’t be changed stylistically (nor does it need to be, given how timeless the design is). As far as gadgets, despite the webshooters, Spider-Man is not a gadget user the way Batman or Iron Man is, so I’d vote “no gadgets,” but that’s kind of part of the new genre, so I guess it kind of needs to be there until a new status quo is created.

    1. You can definitely pick up the first issue without worrying about what the heck happened last month, last year…or ten years ago.

      Long story short: Madame Masque is trying to obtain weird relics, Doctor Doom is back (mysteriously as a handsome guy without scars), he needs Tony’s help stopping her, and that’s it for now.

      The book at this point is not a series of one-shots that build on each other.

  6. I’ve never been a fan of Bendis, apart from “Secret War” and the comic Secret Warriors, which I read recently and was actually pretty good, though it might be because he had a co-writer. The latter has plot points that have been used in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Agents of SHIELD.” I still can’t get over the hack job that was “Avengers Disassembled,” in which Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye and a bunch of other characters were pointlessly killed off so Bendis could put his pet characters (Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Spider-Woman, etc.) onto the Avengers when it was relaunched a year later.

    As for Web Lurker’s comment regarding Iron Man enemy Justin Hammer resembling Grand Moff Tarkin from “Star Wars,” that was actually intentional. When the character was created in the late 1970s, he was explicitly modeled after British actor Peter Cushing, who played Tarkin and is also well-known for his long association with Hammer Horror Films, playing characters like Van Helsing and Dr. Frankenstein.

    1. “The latter has plot points that have been used in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ and ‘Agents of SHIELD.'”

      I’m a big fan of the “Winter Solider” movie and have watched some of “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” but haven’t heard of “Secret Warriors.” Out of curiosity, what parts were inspired by the comic?

      I’m probably a Bendis fan by default, since I’m a big fan of “Ultimate Spider-Man” (Peter Parker era only) (actually, it’s the only comic series I’m collecting at all). I haven’t actually read any of his other stuff, but I’ve gathered that USM and his own creations tend to be his most acclaimed stuff, with the rest of his Marvel writing having more mixed reception.

      The only real criticism I can offer, based on his USM writing, is that he sometimes retcons preexisting material to accommodate later stories. Like Ultimate Peter’s Spider-Man career was described as being one year long in the Miles Morales comics, despite the fact that the original stories clearly take place well over twelve months. Carnage and Gwen Stacy’s stories also got a little messy in regards to Carnage’s original death and cloned resurrection. However, I think it was overall a strong series, largely because of the good characters. (Unlike others currently spilling ink for this franchise, I think it can safely be said that Bendis “got” Spider-Man, his friends and enemies, and the world they lived in.)

      “As for Web Lurker’s comment regarding Iron Man enemy Justin Hammer resembling Grand Moff Tarkin from ‘Star Wars,’ that was actually intentional.”

      Thanks for sharing that, Carl. Never knew that Ultimate Spider-Man calling him Tarkin in that issue was actually an Easter egg, nor that Hammer’s last name was part of the Peter Cushing homage. I’ll probably “hear” the character with Tarkin’s voice and a mashed-up British/Southern accent now, whereas before, I “heard” him sounding like Yondu from “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

    2. “I’m a big fan of the “Winter Solider” movie and have watched some of “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” but haven’t heard of “Secret Warriors.” Out of curiosity, what parts were inspired by the comic?”

      The bit about HYDRA infiltrating SHIELD comes from “Secret Warriors” and the earlier series “Nick Fury vs SHIELD.” Also, Daisy Johnson forming her team comes from Secret Warriors, as do the bad guys from “Agent Carter,” Leviathan.

      “The only real criticism I can offer, based on his USM writing, is that he sometimes retcons preexisting material to accommodate later stories. ”

      That’s always been one of my main criticisms of Bendis as well.

      “Thanks for sharing that, Carl. Never knew that Ultimate Spider-Man calling him Tarkin in that issue was actually an Easter egg, nor that Hammer’s last name was part of the Peter Cushing homage. I’ll probably “hear” the character with Tarkin’s voice and a mashed-up British/Southern accent now, whereas before, I “heard” him sounding like Yondu from “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

      No problem.

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