Very few Iron Man books that Marvel have put out in the past few years have been able to reach the level that the movies have been able to. While Robert Downey Jr. has been able to bring a level of swagger and bravado to his portrayal of Tony in many of the movies, comic book writers have struggled with making the character match up and be as humorous or as integral to the workings of the Marvel Universe. Yet Brian Michael Bendis has found that sweet spot with the character in Invincible Iron Man, the first volume of which is a fascinating character study of the futurist Stark.
The series looks at Tony’s attempts to get back to the basics of who he is as an inventor. He often refers to his lab as his “church” and that he needs time there in order to better understand himself. But the series takes a sharp turn at the end of the first issue, as Doctor Doom offers his help to Tony in order to bring in dangerous criminals, like the assassin Madam Masque. The ensuing “buddy cop” drama that ensues entertains and builds tension throughout the first volume of the series.
Bendis’ depiction of Tony, as mentioned earlier, is the closest Marvel has gotten to nailing the bravado that Downey brings to the movie version of Iron Man. The dialogue he has often comes off as snarky and witty, bringing a smile to even the most hardened of readers. But it’s the inner thoughts of Tony where Bendis really excels at creating “his” version of Iron Man. Inside his mind, Tony is vulnerable and angry with himself for allowing the mistakes of his past to happen. His new plans as a “futurist” look to shirk these mistakes, and the reader can feel the heavy burden Tony feels many times throughout the opening arc.
But Bendis also manages to characterize Victor von Doom as someone who’s looking for redemption as well, albeit in a different form. Parallel to Tony’s attempts to return to what he knows best, Doom’s quest brings him through a gauntlet to try and redeem himself in the eyes of the people who only know him as a supervillian. The conversation Tony and Doom have in issue two is not only wrought with tension at what might happen, it’s stellar insights into Doom’s new personality and mindset. Bendis knocks every scene Doom is in out of the park.
David Marquez provides the art for the first five issues, and his clean and streamlined styles perfectly match up with the “futurist” aesthetic built through Tony’s journey. Marquez handles widescreen action superbly, offering up many panels that are worthy of the movies. From Tony and Doom battling it out with Madam Masque to smaller moments of reflection inside Tony’s lab, Marquez provides a cool look to the fun adventures of Iron Man.
However, Marquez is only on the book for the first five issues. After that, he is replaced by Mike Deodato for the second arc. This change sees a step down in art, as Deodato’s style brings more shadows and photo-realism to the book. For a comic that relies on bright colors and exciting action scenes, this is a major step down for the series.
The title also has spun out into another Iron Man book, entitled International Iron Man. This new series continues Tony’s adventures, focusing on his quest to find out who his real parents are. This structure of dual storytelling has been done before by Bendis – in his Avengers and X-Men runs – and runs the risk of alienating readers who don’t want to have to read multiple books to get Bendis’ full tale. Plus, with the soon-to-be-released Civil War II featuring Iron Man in a major role, expect this book to soon be lost as another tie-in to a massively bloated event.
Yet the book continues to be a stellar look into the mindset of Tony Stark and his quest to get “back to basics.” For readers who are looking for a great Iron Man book to scratch the itch left by Downey’s performances, along with more than just mindless action scenes, Invincible Iron Man is the book for you.
Invincible Iron Man, volume 1: Reboot is available in comic book shops now, and will be available in most major bookstores on April 19. The most recent issue, Invincible Iron Man #8, is available now.