Iron Man fans know that the clock is ticking on Tony Stark. Brian Michael Bendis is relaunching Invincible Iron Man with a new character — Riri Williams — as the protagonist. This young woman, who Bendis said is “probably” smarter than Stark, will call herself Ironheart.
It is my belief that Marvel has once again botched an opportunity to diversity its stable of superheroes without annoying long-term readers. Check out my new YouTube video on the subject and let me know what you think in the comments section below.
Marvel’s Civil War II doesn’t kick off until June, but readers have been given teasers with a release on Free Comic Book Day and Civil War II #0. The question many fans are asking now is: Did Marvel learn anything from the debacle that was Civil War I?
Anyone who has seen Captain America: Civil War knows that hero vs. hero tales can be entertaining — provided the writers don’t let political hackery get in the way. Marvel’s first attempt at a “civil war” between heroes was a pathetic Bush administration allegory gone wrong, but the “pre-crime” angle this time around may deny the writers the rope they would undoubtedly use to hang themselves.
Before we go on, here’s what you need to know about the Civil War II content released thus far:
- Jennifer Walters (aka: She-Hulk) defends Jonathan Powers (aka: The Jester) in a New York City courtroom. She claims he was the victim of “entrapment” by the government while “talking shop,’ but he is convicted of a non-disclosed crime anyway.
- The Jester is killed in prison before his sentence can be appealed.
- Captain Marvel wishes she could stop disasters before they happen.
- Ulysses, an Inhuman who “experiences” the future, teams up with Captain Marvel to try and learn more about his condition.
- Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, War Machine, The Inhumans, and others use one of Ulysses’ visions to get the jump on Thanos before he can raid a facility housing the Cosmic Cube.
- The group does stop Thanos but War Machine and She-Hulk are gravely injured in the process.
At a cursory glance, Civil War II looks like it has enormous potential.
- When Bendis is on his game, he produces all-star work.
- Oliver Coipel’s artwork is excellent (as was Jim Cheung’s in the Free Comic Book Day release.)
- Exploring Minority Report-like themes with Marvel characters is a no-brainer.
The problem Marvel’s comics division faces is that it’s often its own worst enemy. The company’s track record suggests that a ready-made winner will be turned into a loser by writers who use the event to take political potshots.
My guess is that Civil War II will be much better than the first incarnation, if for no other reason than because President Obama is still in office. Instead of feeling some bizarre social responsibility to convey to readers that all Republicans are evil, writers will focus on broader themes that transcend petty politics.
If you’re on the fence about whether to check out Civil War II or not, then stop in here over the next couple months to get an update. I plan on reviewing the event unless it goes completely off the rails.
When Invincible Iron Man fans last left off, writer Brian Michael Bendis led them to believe Tony Stark, James Rhodes, and Spider-Man died in an explosion perpetrated by a mysterious enemy. IIM #9 picks up four weeks later and Tony Stark is still missing.
Investors want answers because a dead man cannot run a company. James Rhodes wants answers because he and Spider-Man apparently survived. MIT student RiRi, a teenage genius, is also looking for the billionaire in a suit she made from stolen parts because … why, exactly? The reasoning Bendis gives her is pretty flakey: Fate.
Before returning to RiRi, here is what you need to know about IIM #9:
- Rhodey returns to Osaka, Japan, to press Yukio for answers on Tony’s disappearance. He threatens to shut down her illegal gambling operation if she doesn’t talk.
- S.W.A.T.-type agents raid Yukio’s establishment when she refuses to help. An anonymous man beats up Rhodey and takes her to safety during the chaos.
- Doctor Doom convinces Stark’s girlfriend, biochemical engineer Amara Perera, to illegally test her experimental Alzheimer’s drugs on humans.
- The man who helped Yukio escape, “Mr. Franco,” turns out to be Tony Stark in disguise. He somehow faked his own death to get closer to the organization that tried to kill him.
IIM is now nine issues into its run and, quite honestly, not a whole lot has happened. While Bendis does a good job laying out breadcrumbs for readers to follow, there is only so long one can walk before fatigue sets in.
At this point it seems like a legitimate question for fans to ask, “When will we get the payoff?”
True, IIM has had moments of action, but they still have not really brought readers any closer to knowing what is going on with Madam Masque, Doctor Doom, or bio-hacking ninjas. The slog may be worth it, but at this point Bendis is testing readers’ patience. Spending time on a character who appears to be just the latest effort by Marvel to fill out a diversity checklist (i.e., We’ve got a new Iron Man — but’s it’s an Iron Woman and she’s a minority. How do you like us now?) exacerbates the problem.
Will RiRi be a cool character? Perhaps. It just seems as though Marvel is on a weird quest to make female and minority versions of countless established characters.
Peter Parker, meet Miles Morales. Thor, meet She-Thor. Steve Rogers, go be an old man and make way for Sam Wilson. Logan, meet X-23. Bruce Banner, step aside for Amadeus Cho. Tony Stark, meet Iron Riri.
If you have been reading IIM, then you should give Bendis a few more issues to deliver a decent payday before possibly jumping ship. If you have not been reading IIM, then you should probably wait until “The War Machines” wraps up before investing in the title.
Say what you want about Brian Michael Bendis, but the man’s self-awareness is better than 95 percent of the rest of the writers employed by Marvel. When he knows a particular story is open to criticism, he tends to find ways to subtly acknowledge the problem within the issue as a way of disarming bloggers like yours truly.
Take, for example, Invincible Iron Man #8, which is bursting at the seams with all it’s trying to accomplish. It is busy, busy, busy — but at one point Spider-Man says of the situation, “Ninjas and robots and Rhodey in his embarrassing boxers, oh my!”
Touché, Mr. Bendis. Touché.
For those who have not been reading the story, it goes as follows: Tony Stark offered a job to Mary Jane, Rhodey disappeared in Japan trying to find bio-hacking ninjas, and Spider-Man was called to help find him.
IIM #8, again, is a very busy issue. Mary Jane appears to walk away from Stark’s job offer (we know that won’t last), Iron Man and Spider-Man look for Rhodey, and it all culminates in a battle involving a horde of ninjas and a gigantic Iron-Man-inspired suit that utilizes mysterious technology.
Question: Is it a good issue?
Answer: Yes — with one minor caveat.
The problem with writers who take on Tony Stark and Peter Parker is that sometimes they use the sarcasm button too many times in a single issue. Yes, both men are masters at the one-liner. Yes, both men use sarcasm to mask all sorts of fears and insecurities, but it is possible to overdo it. Using such a trait when it’s uncalled for makes a character come across as a jerk. Luckily for Bendis, he realizes that one way to add extra gravity to the book is to find a situation so dangerous that it finally shuts Tony up.
Whoever this new villain is, he or she found a way to leave Tony speechless by the last page. It was a welcome surprise after countless panels of Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Rhodey all basically blowing off what appeared to be a serious opponent.
In many ways IIM #8 was going to succeed or fail based upon what happened on the final page, and it is safe to say that Bendis … detonated it.
Invincible Iron Man continues to be one of Marvel’s most carefully crafted books. If you want stories by a “writer’s writer,” then you should check out Bendis. If you want “nuke the fridge” moments reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, then I suggest checking out Dan Slott’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man.
If you’re like me, then you were glad to see that Bendis seems to feel the same way about Spider-Man’s stupid glowing spider on the new suit. In response to finding out that Iron Man’s suit has A.I., Spider-Man says, “Cool. My spider glows now for no apparent reason.”
The issue of Invincible Iron Man that Mary Jane fans have been waiting for has arrived. The seventh issue on Bendis’ run features MJ’s first day at work for Tony Stark, and before it’s over she needs to reach Peter Parker at his emergency number. It may be the character who is introduced on the final page of the book, however, who Stark fans should be talking about.
One of the things Bendis understands, which certain other high-profile writers at Marvel do not, is that sometimes it is absolutely necessary to slow things down and just focus on character development, character development, character development. (Should I say it a fourth time?)
IIM #7 dedicates almost the entire issue to Tony’s first professional interactions with his new hire. They talk…and talk…and talk, but in this case it’s okay because standards are set, boundaries are established, and chemistry needs to form.
Readers simply need to imagine what a similar introduction between Peter Parker and Pepper Potts would look like in The Amazing Spider-Man. Instead of devoting 95 percent of the issue to authentic human interactions, Pepper would get a cursory introduction and then a calamity would strike. The audience would weirdly be expected to care for the new relationship simply because it’s Pepper and Peter working together — and then Comic Book Resources would give it the obligatory glowing review.
Perhaps one of the few awkward things about Stark’s decision to hire MJ is his cluelessness about her past. He invites a woman into his inner circle but does not really vet her. Only issues before he was telling his girlfriend about telepathic espionage, etc., and now he impulsively hires a former club owner. Regardless, Bendis’ scenario as it is written passes the smell test (barely).
Aside from MJ’s meeting with her new boss, the rest of the issue is dedicated to Rhodey, who was sent to Japan to investigate a group of bio-hacker ninjas until Stark can get around to it. Rhodey goes missing, and through a strange twist of fate it turns out that technology titan Peter Parker is in country.
“You know your bodyguard, Spider-Man? Is he doing anything right now? Listen, I need a favor. It’s kind of a big one,” Stark says after getting Parker on the phone, which nicely sets up IIM #8.
One would think the issue would end with Iron Man racing to save his friend, right? Wrong. Bendis cuts to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where a young woman appears to be making her own “Iron Man” suit in one of its labs. She is scolded by some older staffers who call her a “kid” in the final panel.
Who is this kid genius? Why is she making “Iron Man”-type armor? (And yes, I realize I am asking these questions when “to be continued…” obviously means that we will get answers in due time.)
The previous questions need to be asked because Marvel has made no secret of its desire to social justice the heck out of its own universe. It seems entirely plausible that Bendis could be setting the stage for Tony to be “killed” or temporarily replaced, just like Captain America, Thor or even Spider-Man (e.g., Bendis’ Miles Morales wants to be seen as “the” Spider-Man”).
If you have thoughts on IIM #7, feel free to share them below. I’d love to hear what you thought of MJ’s first day on the job, Bendis’ mystery character, or predictions for the next issue.
The trailer for ‘Captain America: Civil War’ premiered on Tuesday night, and somewhere out there Steven Spielberg of “superhero movies will go the way of the Western” fame wiped egg off his face.
For those who don’t remember, The Hollywood Reporter noted Sept. 2:
Two years ago, Steven Spielberg famously predicted an “implosion” of the movie industry because of its over-reliance on big budget summer blockbusters. In the wake of the success of Jurassic World, which Spielberg produced, that hasn’t changed, he says.
“I still feel that way,” Spielberg told The Associated Press while promoting Bridge of Spies, his upcoming Cold War-era thriller. “We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western. It doesn’t mean there won’t be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns.”
Spielberg didn’t “predict” anything because his diagnosis of what ails the movie industry is not even correct. It has been big-budget summer blockbusters allowing the industry to tread water now that Hollywood is just one of many outlets Americans use for entertainment and escapism. But I digress.
Tony Stark says to Steve Rogers:
Stark: Captain, you seem a little defense.
Rogers: Well, it’s been a long day.
Stark: If we can’t accept limitations, we’re no better than the bad guys.
Rogers: That’s not the way I see it.
Stark: Sometimes I want to punch you in your perfect teeth.
Boom. Stark nails it.
In a world populated with beings as strong as gods, capable of mind control, or able to alter space and time, the federal government would have a vested interest in knowing who those individuals were. To not track human nuclear bombs walking among the civilian population would constitute a level of negligence by elected officials worthy of prison time.
The problem Marvel will face on the big screen will be the same one faced by its comic book writers — who failed miserably with Civil War. They heavily put their thumb on the scale to make Steve Rogers the “good guy” and Tony Stark the “bad guy” instead of telling a nuanced tale.
If directors Anthony and Joe Russo demanded more of their writers than Marvel Comics did with Civil War, then fans may get the best MCU movie to date. If they did not, then Steve Rogers will once find himself fighting for Kilgrave’s “right” to anonymously rape young girls.
Will the MCU be one where it’s right for the government to demand an ID to get a drivers license but wrong if a man has the power to blow up an entire city? Let us hope the Russo brothers once again rise above the petty politics routinely demonstrated by Marvel’s comic book writers. If they do, then Mr. Speilberg will be picking egg out of his beard for many years to come.