Tony Stark is Not the Center of My Universe – an “International Iron Man #1” Review
International Iron Man #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Color Artist: Paul Mounts
There is, admittedly, quite a bit of static that gets in the way of me enjoying this book. So take my review and this score with a grain of salt. That being said, I did have high hopes for this issue. I kind of cannot stand the character of Tony Stark. I don’t relate to the character at all, and when I first started reading comics, he was a complete alcoholic. James Rhodes has been and shall always be my Iron man. Still, there are takes on Tony Stark that I do like. I love Stark as the engineer, the metallurgist, the smith working in his Forge (see what I did there). And I did like the Infamous arc in last year’s Superior Iron Man series, which I read in trade. Main thing, I had high expectations for this re-launch. Because it takes a really special Tony Stark story to interest me at all. So….salt. I’ve tried to not let my higher than usual expectations influence my score, but, obviously, a fan of Iron Man / Tony Stark, is likely to have rated this issue higher than I have.
International Iron Man #1 is a take on Stark out and abroad in locales other than the US; or at least places other than New York or Silicon Valley, I guess. In this issue, we get a very lengthy flashback and setup, detailing a back-story of a girl that Stark knew while attending college in London. Did that ever happen? Or is this material a retcon? Or are we in a reboot where all back history can be rewritten? Shrug. So Stark chases this débutante, eventually having dinner with her family, where he discovers that apparently the family name is something that incites Hydra to riot. Bullets fly and something happens that causes this old flame to carry a grudge with her into the present day, which we get maybe two pages of (the present day that is) in the whole issue.
So let’s unpack my problems with the story. It bugs me when it is not clear to me what Marvel or an individual creative team is trying to do with a #1. And, no, it’s not my job (despite this writing gig) or anyone’s job to have to go hit Marvel’s website or read some other website, or read the solicits the quarter before, to figure that out. It should be in the book somewhere. So after the Secret Wars fiasco, I do not know if this is a reboot of the Marvel Universe, a soft reboot, where Secret Wars / Battleworld was just a skip of a record, and we’re just back to a new norm, or if history got overwritten somehow. It has to be something, otherwise there would be absolutely no godly reason why sooooooooo much of this book would have been spent on the back-story. This is a first issue. There had better damned well be something to encourage me to onboard with this arc and the creative team and settle in for a popcorn-worthy story. And there’s not. I did not feel any connection to the events or the Stark-Cassandra love story. Because Stark up to this point has been such an amorous character who falls into and out of relationships overly easy, that I was not able to tell why I should care about this one, or what was supposed to be special about this one.
The dialogue in the book is expended on a lot of detailing of the estranged relationship between Stark and his father. Kind of been over that before. There are a few bits of script that are witty. “You’re going to get tasered”, “Does it hurt?”. But largely the story is predictable and, I hate to say it, but boring. Tony meets a girl, they’re both the kids of rich and powerful families with reasons to be kept apart, they defy those notions and try to date anyway, something tragic happens, years later they are enemies. 18 pages of a 22 page comic are expended setting that up. I just did not need that, and I did not find that time spent reading enjoyable.
The art had a chance to be something on the edge of special. But it falls apart in the end sequence, which is a gunfight outside the restaurant where Stark is having dinner with Cassandra’s family. I completely lost track of who was being shot and who was shooting who as the fight progressed. Also, because I could not tell if we were completely rebooting Iron Man, I was not sure if this setup is the new story of how Tony has his heart damaged and decides to put on the suit. It’s a rough bit of story-telling in terms of panel arrangement, and feels like it should not be the way that a firefight is depicted. I also did not care for the depiction of Tony Stark as Dean from the Gilmore Girls as the art model for college-Stark.
I am sure that there is going o be a payoff for fans of Iron Man who decide to get on this new ongoing. I mean, it’s Bendis and Maleev, after all. But I think it is definitely not for me. My guess is that, like the MCU, this series is going to wend Stark’s story through scenes with a bunch of Marvel characters and organizations that we’ve never seen or heard of him interacting with before he became Iron Man. That’s cute, but it feels like more content I don’t need to invest my time in reading. Stark for me is at his best when the focus is on his engineering talents. And that at a very pragmatic, hammer on metal, level. I would also be interested in seeing Stark as a slightly different character makeup, in other words not as a complete butt-munch. And maybe this is an effort to paint the back-story of why he is not a raging hemorrhoid in this continuity. I would rather have seen some of that up-front in the current time-line, and then take me back to the past to show me the why. That way I’m interested in hanging around to find out why this Stark is different. Maybe I get so focused on that, I stop worrying about the re-boot/re-launch/ret-con issue. My guess is that issue #2 will be in the current time, and, if I read it, I would have wanted to have had issue #2 be issue #1. But it’s likely that I’m not going to read it. As a first issue, International Iron Man #1 is a shortfall for me, lacking many of the things that I would have hoped for in a #1 issue. Also, the cover, which paints Stark as Bond with what looks like it might be Pepper Pots and maybe the anti-hero “Bond girl” from the storyinside did not set up my expectations well, because we did not see any of that Tony Stark in the book. I’ll be sure to ask someone how this series is shaking out in a few months, but I do not see this being on my personal pull anytime soon.