Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

The More Things Stay the Same, the More They Stay the Same

Posted by Don MacPherson on November 7th, 2012

Variant coverIron Man #1
“Believe, 1 of 5: Demons and Genies”
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Pencils: Greg Land
Inks: Jay Leisten
Colors: Guru eFX
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Greg Land (regular)/Adi Granov, Carlo Pagulayan, Joe Quesada & Skottie Young (variants)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

While the piecemeal approach to the repackaging of the publisher’s line of super-hero comics with its Marvel Now! branding seems rather inconsistent and awkwardly staggered, I have to admit many of the creative teams announced for the retooled line piqued my interest. Invincible Iron Man was one of the few regular Marvel titles I was buying month after month as of late, and with the relaunched, I honestly expected to stray away from the property. But when Kieron Gillen was announced as the new Iron Man writer, it was easy to decide to stick with the ongoing adventures of Marvel’s Armored Avenger. I expected something intelligent and different from him here, and while he fulfills the former promise, I was surprised at how the latter aspect was lacking. I still see a lot of potential here, but the plot and tone here seem rather recycled. The result is a first issue that doesn’t seem like a new starting point for the title character at all.

Tony Stark is up to his usual tricks — courting ridiculous beautiful women for meaningless trysts, disregarding the wisdom of Pepper Potts, and plotting the technology that will shape the future. But when a crisis arises, he’s quick to enter the fray as Iron Man. This time, the Extremis tech developed by a former friend has fallen into enemy hands, and he sets out to stop an underworld organization from selling it to the highest bidders, which could bring about an apocalypse. So, you know, par for the course.

I was surprised when Greg Land was tasked with the artwork on this relaunched title. Salvador Larroca’s photo-referenced artwork was a nice fit for the realistic tone of previous Iron Man writer Matt Fraction’s socio-economic themes through their run on Invincible Iron Man, so I was surprised when Marvel tapped Land, who has a similarly photo-referenced approach, to follow up. The art is generally effective; I particularly enjoyed the Olivier Coipel riff in Land’s work when he depicts the A.I.M. enhanced soldiers. But the overdone approach to the female characters, making each of them look like they were plucked out of a Cosmopolitan cover photo shoot, was terribly distracting. It’s easy to see why the Guru eFX studio was hired to handle the coloring chores for this book. The vibrant, glowing tones convey the energy emitted by the tech elements in the story vividly.

The second scene in this issue, featuring Tony and a potential lover being interrupted by an inexplicably present Pepper Potts, felt awfully familiar. It’s painfully similar to early scenes from the first Iron Man movie, and I can’t help but think there was an editorial directive at Marvel to bring the comic-book incarnation of these characters more in line with their silver-screen counterparts. Such scenes in the movie made sense, because they set the stage for Tony’s redemption, for his transformation from self-centered ass to self-sacrificing hero. But here, Tony is already a hero, and the scene makes it seem as though he’s regressing.

Variant coverVariant coverVariant coverMy favorite aspect of the comic was the tone of Gillen’s narration. He captures the same sort of intelligence and vision in Tony’s voice that Fraction did in his lengthy stint guiding the title character. Furthermore, the script offers a fairly accessible recap of Extremis and other past story elements that come into play in this new arc.

Unfortunately, the incorporation of such past elements took me off guard. While I enjoyed the smart tone of the writing, overall, it’s the same tone we’ve seen in Fraction’s run. There’s really little new to be found in Gillen’s take on Iron Man. Extremis resurrected as key plot element. Tony as self-loathing futurist. A frustrated Pepper Potts proving herself as a head of industry. It’s intelligent stuff, but with Fraction’s exodus, I expected a change in direction, in tone. Only thing that seems different is the armor (which is reminiscent of Mainframe, the automated spin on Iron Man from such alternate-future Marvel titles as Spider-Girl and A-Next from the 1990s). 6/10

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One Response to “The More Things Stay the Same, the More They Stay the Same”

  1. Bytowner Says:

    If there’s one thing we know comics for by now, it’s making sure that long-standing characters backslide on their development every few years like clockwork, right? All in the name of “accessibility”…