Invincible Iron Man #600
“The Search for Tony Stark, Finale”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Stefano Caselli; Alex Maleev; David Marquez; Daniel Acuna; Leinil Francis Yu & Gerry Alanguilan; Jim Cheung; Mike Deodato Jr.; Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy & Scott Hanna; and Andrea Sorrentino
Colors: Marte Gracia, Alex Maleev, Daniel Acuna, Guru-eFX, Romulo Fajardo, Marcelo Maiolo & Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Chris Sprouse & Karl Story (regular)/Alex Ross, Olivier Coipel, John Romita Jr. & Bob Layton (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $5.99 US
This has been celebrated as a major sendoff for writer Brian Michael Bendis, as it’s the last issue he’s written that Marvel has published since he started with the company 18 years ago. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying his Iron Man stories — be it those featuring Tony Stark, Riri Williams or Victor Von Doom — and I was eager to see how Bendis would wrap up the saga. Sadly, the execution here is a far cry from the strong writing we saw from him in the years leading up to this “finale.” At times, the story here is almost unintelligible, and I honestly don’t see what the point of any of it is (other than to restore several characters to their status quos). The constant shifts in art styles doesn’t help matters either. This was a disappointing final moment in Bendis’s Marvel tenure, and really, his far more focused and resonant conclusions to Jessica Jones and Spider-Man (Miles Morales) stand out to me as his true curtain calls.
Newly revived after months of being comatose, Tony Stark sets out to use the same technology that rebooted his body from the brink of death to bring back a dear friend who died not long ago. Meanwhile, Riri Williams and her new armored friends continue to try to track down Stark, while Tony’s birth mother finds herself face to face with a figure from her past – one with a grudge. And the Hood and his gang of B-list super-villains set their sights on a hostile takeover of Stark’s company to achieve global domination in an unconventional way.
There are some great artists contributing to this final issue of the series (all set for another relaunch, sigh), but none of them get enough pages to really shine. Even Caselli and Maleev, who’ve been handling the art chores on this title regularly for a while, barely make their influences felt here. Just about all of the art boasts a rushed look, which is surprising, given how the duties were divvied up among nine different artists and art teams.
The scene early on in this issue, in which the titular character works to bring a friend back from the dead, is rather interesting, because Bendis’s sharp ear for dialogue is put toward bringing the ethical dilemma to life. Unfortunately, that script is a little too effective, because it makes it clear that Tony is definitely doing something he shouldn’t do. His first choice in this milestone issue is to do the wrong thing, and doesn’t paint the character in the best light. What’s worse is that Tony knows he shouldn’t do it, and he selfishly forges ahead anyway. Now, in reality, it’s not a storytelling choice but a corporate one – I know that – but this resurrection just didn’t resonate at all, and felt anti-climactic (especially since before now, it wasn’t even a plot point in the larger story Bendis was telling.)
What’s truly disappointing about this landmark issue is that Bendis fails to offer clear, solid endings to the various plotlines that have been unfolding in this book and Infamous Iron Man for so long. Doom’s story of redemption chaotically concludes with a sacrifice, but there’s no real resolution. Riri’s story just stops abruptly, as if Tony’s return robs her of any purpose or personality of her own. The decision to pick up on a thread from former Marvel writer Jonathan Hickman’s Shield mini-series from a few years ago comes incredibly late in the game, and it’s not explained or capitalized upon at all here (leaving me to believe Bendis was asked to set up other writers’ upcoming plots). Bendis doesn’t really resolve Tony’s interpersonal dynamics with his rediscovered mother at all, and Mary Jane Watson’s role appears to fizzle here as well.
I have to admit I was also disappointed with what’s doing with the character of Parker Robbins, AKA the Hood, here. Writer Brian K. Vaughan’s original vision of a regular guy who happens to become a super-villain in an effort to provide for his family was a great concept, but here, the Hood has been transformed into a typically one-dimensional bad guy. I get that Bendis suggests he’s been taken over by a demonic entity, but I was sorry to see that more relatable and interesting character seemingly eradicated so casually.
Bendis has always had great success in his stories when it comes to major change and how the characters react and adapt to it. But this issue is all about undoing change. I know a certain homeostatis is inherent in corporate super-hero comics storytelling, but after reading this issue, this whole Iron Man chrysalis storyline, as well as Dr. Doom’s personal journey, seems to be rendered completely pointless. Other than Riri Williams’ presence in the Marvel Universe, I feel as though Bendis is leaving Iron Man’s corner of the Marvel Universe relatively untouched, and that’s rather disappointing. 4/10