Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Doom’s Date

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 27th, 2017

Infamous Iron Man #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist/Cover artist: Alex Maleev
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

As I’ve written previously, I purged a significant number of Marvel titles from my pull list, ultimately deciding I wasn’t getting enough out of them to merit the $3.99 US price of admission, but there were a few Marvel books that survived the cull, and Brian Michael Bendis’s two Iron Man titles were among them. I enjoyed this issue because its pairing of both the protagonist and antagonist with other Marvel characters with which they share links (either personal or thematic) put me in mind of the classic team-up titles of the 1970s and ’80s I so enjoyed as a kid. Mind you, this issue is low on action and big on dialogue, and as a mature comics enthusiast, I was just fine with it. I continue to follow Infamous Iron Man because it’s essentially a great character study of a long-standing Marvel figure. Unfortunately, that history is also the book’s greatest liability, since the knowledge of the continuity leading up to this point in Doom’s life is rather integral to one’s full appreciation of the story.

Concerned Victor von Doom is tainting the legacy of Tony Stark by calling himself Iron Man, young heroine Ironheart seeks him out to confront him, against the advice of the Stark-copy artificial intelligence in her armor. Meanwhile, the Thing finds himself face to face with Reed Richards, unaware it’s the Reed from an alternate reality who has malevolent intentions.

Another easy selling point for this book is the participation of frequent Bendis collaborator Alex Maleev. His depiction of the digital displays in Ironheart’s armor are sharp, and even more striking is the full-page splash of a future player in the drama. The colorful, digital readouts remind me of the style of J.H. (Promethea) Williams III, while that closing splash evokes an easy comparison to the style of Tony (Starman) Harris. Ultimately, though, I have to note that the tech-leaning elements of the characters here don’t exactly play to Maleev’s strengths. His is a dark, gritty but essentially grounded style, and sleek armor and rocky heroic hides don’t really allow those strengths to shine through. In the Marvel Universe, Daredevil is a good fit for him. Espionage thrillers featuring S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are a good fit for him. Iron Man and the Thing… not so much.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this tale of Doom’s quest for redemption, but his encounter with Ironheart at the beginning of the issue begs an important question: why adopt the Iron Man brand? He doesn’t just want to atone for his crimes — he wants to be seen doing it. I suspect he not only wants credit, but adoration and respect for his actions as well. It’s consistent with his previous role as the ruler of Latveria. It’s all quite interesting, but hindering the plot and characterization somewhat is the vital nature of the larger context. If one isn’t familiar with his background, especially the recent Secret Wars crossover event, how Doom came to this point might prove to be confusing. The same can be said of alt-Reed Richards. Knowing of the odd history of the Maker (from the defunct Ultimate Universe, Secret Wars and subsequent Marvel titles) is required to appreciate Reed’s foreboding appearance and role as the villain of this former villain’s story.

With this issue, it’s pretty clear what motif Bendis is embracing when it comes to crafting the story of Infamous Iron Man: role reversal and opposites. Doom seeking public redemption by becoming Iron Man is an obvious flip-flop in his characterization, but this chapter of the story clearly demonstrates the switch approach is meant to define the story. We get an evil Reed Richards looking to taken down the formerly evil Doom. We get a science-oriented hero turning up at the end of the story in a distinctly non-scientific mode. And the long, intricate history of Doom and the Fantastic Four makes for an interesting and amusing juxtaposition for the inexperienced Ironheart.

It was after I finally lost interest in his Avengers comics a few years ago that I thought I’d outgrown Brian Michael Bendis’s writing. While I’d considered his take on the Avengers sharp at first, its edge dulled, and I wasn’t taken with All New X-Men either. I never bothered with his Guardians of the Galaxy. But then I realized, I still loved Bendis’s writing, and still do. Spider-Man, Invincible Iron Man, Jessica Jones… these were among my favorite Marvel titles. And Scarlet – oh, Scarlet, one of the finest modern comics that I fear is sadly overlooked due to Bendis’s 21st century rep as the Man from Marvel. I realized Bendis’s writing is as great as ever, when it’s more focused. Team books aren’t his forté. Solo titles are where it’s at for this particular writer, and I’ll continue to follow his work in that regard. 7/10

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