The Avengers #31
Written by: Jason Aaron
Art by: Gerardo Zaffino, Geraldo Borges, Szymon Kudranski, Bazaldua, Robert Gill, & Mattia De Iulis
Colors by: Rachelle Rosenberg & Mattia De Iulis
Jason Aaron’s run on the Avengers started with the ancient Avengers during prehistoric times in issue #1. As the series jumped from Earthly threats to galactic confrontations, Aaron has continued weave this ancient connection across time and space. Those connections continue to be build in this one off story of “The Last Temptation of Anthony Stark.” Tony is trapped in the ice age and is confronted with his own demons and the real demon of Mephisto. This confrontation of inner and outward demons creates a powerful personal narrative for Stark which end with a powerful reveal.
The ancient Avengers only play a small role here and stay on the sidelines acknowledging that they cannot interfere with Tony and his journey. The time travel element provides a setting that isolates Tony and while not essential to the story it successfully creates a situation where Tony cannot rely on technology or team support. The demonic confrontation with Mephisto first appears as a Biblical serpent and is connected to a devil cult Tony remembers from his childhood. That childhood experience includes Howard Stark as a cult leader. While the childhood memory serves as a framing device, the connection runs deeper in the Stark family and provides a new story thread for Tony and the Avengers going forward.
The temptation storyline could have occurred in any time and place, but the ice age setting provides the various artist the opportunity to work within a darker prehistoric color pallet. The suite of artists provide a unique style to the childhood flashbacks, the time travel, and the modern day confrontation with the devil. The art is consistency strong throughout the book providing both a physical sense of place and conveying the dread and danger of the situation. The dark colors and shadows by Rosenburg and De Iulis echo the darkness in Tony and the demons he has battled throughout life. Collectively, the artwork elevates this book from a side story into an epic personal journey.
Avengers #31 stands nicely on its’ own echoing the origin of Iron Man and reminding readers of the complexity and flaws of Tony as both a human and hero. Readers not following Aaron’s run deserve to pick this issue up as a character exploration. Readers keeping track of Aaron’s connections will find more threads and future story arcs to enjoy. And all will marvel at the artwork that sets this issue apart from the previous arc and standard super hero fare.