Regular readers of this blog know that I have been following the relaunches of Invincible Iron Man and The Amazing Spider-Man. Since one features Tony Stark and the other features “Tony Stark light,” it is interesting to see how each writer handles his respective superhero. One thing readers will get from writer Brian Michael Bendis’ Tony Stark that they will not from Dan Slott’s Peter Parker is a clear understanding of the character’s inner being.
Take Stark’s conversation with his new love interest, Amara Perera, for instance:
Perera: Don’t you have superhero friends that you can commiserate with when things like this happen?
Stark: In my line of work…there’s always somebody with a much worse story. ‘Oh, man. I almost died tonight.’ ‘Yeah? I was almost eaten by Galactus.’ ‘Oh Yeah? I died and was resurrected as my own child.”
Perera: And you found yourself thinking about me?
Stark: I might not actually have a lot of friends.
Perera: You do.
Stark: I know a lot of people. But…people don’t want to hear me talk about any of my problems because, well —
Perera: You’re rich.
Stark: I can see their eyes glaze over. I can hear the ‘Aw, poor baby.’ Like my problems aren’t problems.
Perera: Money can’t buy happiness? That is disappointing to hear.
Stark: Sorry to be the one to break it to you.
Perera: Maybe you don’t know a lot of people that challenge you intellectually.
Stark: A few. But they are very, I want to say…
Bendis’ Stark is a character who has psychological meat on him. Slott’s Peter Parker literally died and was resurrected, yet he treats the experience like a bad trip to the dentist.
Bendis’ Stark is surrounded people, but lonely. He is rich, but not happy. He wants to become a better person (as demonstrated in another conversation later in the book), but he never can find the right mentor to help him begin the journey.
Anyone can fill a comic book with fights and gadgets and zingy one-liners, but none of that matters if the characters are one dimensional. Bendis’ heroes and villains have depth and breadth. They have gravitas, which makes the magic and the mystery and the fight scenes exponentially more satisfying than anything you will find in The Amazing Spider-Man #3.
For those who are not up to speed, the story breaks down as follows:
- Madam Masque is on a mission to collect rare magical artifacts that have essentially slipped through “dimensional cracks” and found their way to earth. Tony does not know why she is doing this, since it does not fit her psychological profile.
- Doctor Doom wants to help Tony on his mission, but won’t explain why.
- Tony wants to become the kind of man who “deserves” to be with famous biochemical engineer Amara Perera.
It is comforting to read a mystery where the writer methodically lays out a bread trail for readers to follow. Each crumb Bendis places before his audience is there for a specific reason. Whereas Dan Slott lets his imagination toss him around like young bull rider, Bendis controls his imagination like a seasoned rancher overseeing the herd.
If you get a chance, then check out Invincible Iron Man. It’s shaping up to be one of the few books worth a $4.00 cover price.