Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Yildiray Cinar, Laura Braga
Let me say this right off the bat: I do not like Tony Stark. My read on the character has always been that he is an overly talented, overly privileged individual who has never really had to work hard for anything. The only time I have really been a fan of Iron Man was when it was James Rhodes in the suit. And in one mini-series that focused on Stark as an engineer. So I come into Superior Iron Man ready to be bored, unimpressed, and overall disappointed. Needless to say, I have been wonderfully and enjoyably surprised by the work of Tom Taylor and his creative team. This is simply one of the best trades that I have read in a long time. It, in fact, rivals my Green Lantern Volume 5: Test of Wills and Martian Manhunter: Rings of Saturn. Not an easy feat to pull off when the star is a character that I pretty much despise.
This is a wonderfully constructed trade. Unlike most hardcovers, this one dispenses with a separate jacket cover and just has the cover art and summary copy directly imprinted on the hard cover. It seems to be a skosh oversized in comparison to most standard issues and other trades. The art therefore seems a bit larger and more poster-like as you leaf from one page to the other.
Superior Iron Man: Volume 1 – Infamous, collects issues #1 through 5 of Marvel’s new series which launched last fall alongside the Captain America and Thor reboots. However, while Cap and Thor got diversification makeovers and relatively positive spins, Tony got the villain end of the reboot stick. In Volume 1, Stark goes toe-to-toe with Daredevil, meets a new variant of the Abomination, and behaves in a manner which is very Malcolm Merlyn-like (that is the CW version). He easily earns himself a reason to be reviled, and that makes me happy.
The art here is wonderful. The opening issues do not particularly grab me right off the bat, as they veer towards the cartoony end of the spectrum in the opening issues. But penciler Yildiray Cinar draws a particularly sharp She-Hulk during her cameo in issue #1. Most artists these days seem to focus on slimming her down and focusing on a sexy She-Hulk. Which, overall, I do not have an extreme problem with. But she is a heavyweight in her own right, and Cinar captures some absolutely great panels with her muscled and ripped while still allowing her to be feminine. Let me also say that despite the cartoony aspects of his artistic style, Cinar is arguably one of the best action artists in comics today. There is a LOT of combat in these books, and it is done absolutely exquisitely.
There is some great capture of facial emotion in the artwork. Tony’s maniacal megalomaniac half-smile and eyebrow raises are great flourishing touches. Ditto for Daredevil who, when he has the mask on, is difficult to render with any emotion unless you capture the knit in the center of his eyebrows, which Cinar does. The art improves in issue #4, when new inkers Cory Hamscher and Tom Palmer join the creative team. One of the things which invoked a level of disinterest when I saw this comic advertised before its launch was the notion of a monocolor set of armor in chrome. I have always liked the Iron Man armor for the bright gold and crimson or black color schemes. But when you see the intricate detail in the Superior Iron Man set, which turns out to be partially symbiotic, you will be amazed. Even better, as good as Cinar is, artist Laura Braga, who takes on the artist’s reins in the final issue, blows his work out of the water.
The story in this five issue arc is just spectacular. Rather than go with all-out guest appearances by a cavalcade of Avengers, Tom Taylor focuses on more intimate appearances and interactions with other denizens of the Marvel Universe for some skyrocketing levels of character development. The several issue arc of appearances and the conflict with Matt Murdock is some of the best super hero foil work that I have seen in a while. Daredevil proves the perfect antithesis for this version of Tony Stark. Further, it has moved the character Matt Murdock to a place in my view that puts him in the same vein as Barry Allen. He is, as much as Steve Rogers, one of the best examples of human spirit and philosophy in comics today. When he is given the opportunity to have his sight fully restored and turns it down…a totally moving scene.
It is kind of funny and ironic that what makes me love this book so much is the manner in which Taylor portrays Tony Stark as the complete tool that I believe him to be. Sure, he is under a certain influence. Still, he seems like the more genuine Stark to me. You know what they say; that when mankind or a single man is bereft of a lot of the constraints that societal acceptance places on our behavior, you see more of what the man really is. This is just a wonderful piece of craft in every aspect of comic book creation. While I normally float from trade to trade with little regard for reading an entire omnibus of a single title, I will be keeping an eye out for Volume 2 of Superior Iron Man. It may be the best Tony Stark story I have ever read, and I hope that it is able to maintain the superior quality that is on display in Volume 1.