If I remember my childhood correctly, my first ever comic was Iron Man #300 — did I just date myself? It was my selection at a laser-tag arcade for how ever many tickets skee-ball wins you. The cover was glossy blue foil and had Iron Man bursting out of circuit boards or something. I was excited to finally own my own comic book, something I had only really read whenever my friends would let me hold their copies. I would at last be able to follow the stories of my favorite superheroes rather than hear about them second-hand or have to watch the watered-down cartoon versions.
However, when I opened the glossy blue cover and started pouring over the pages… I was completely lost. Tony Start was bedridden with some vague illness, having nightmares that looked like they were painted by Salavador Dali. There was some weird giant robot named Ultimo that I never heard of and I counted no less than five different Iron Man suits battling this robotic behemoth. Needless to say, I was a perplexed little boy, not sure what direction the story was going in or was coming from. My love/apathy relationship with the Armored Avenger started there.
That was 1994, and today I’m still in the same spot. Every time I pick up an Iron Man book I have nearly no idea what’s going on even if I’m slightly aware of the state of the Marvel universe. I’m not sure why this happens, I mean there has been some great writers on those stories, but something about Tony Stark and the nature of his adventures somehow lose me after a couple dozen pages.
Hence, I am the perfect target audience for Iron Man #500.1, the premiere issue of Marvel’s “Point One” project, designed to bring the casual comic book reader back into fold through accessible, concise and forward-leaning stories. With the Eisner Award-winning team of Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca behind it, I picked up this issue in the expectation that after reading it I would be both comfortable with my Iron Man knowledge and be expectant and eager for what was to come next.
Sadly, I walked away with neither of these feelings. Iron Man #500.1 does an excellent job of making the new reader comfortable, but did little in making me excited to pick up #501. The issue had no major flaws, nor did it suffer from bad art or dialogue; it just simply didn’t deliver on what I thought it would. Perhaps my expectation was different from the intended point, but Marvel billed this as the issue where we would see the future of Tony Stark and his famed suit of armor. Rather it was merely a look back and not forward.
It basically read like a beautifully written recap page spanned across a full issue. Fraction gives us a smart and touching recount of the life of Tony Stark though the eyes of, well, Tony himself. It respects and gives scope to one of the heaviest hitters in the Marvel Universe, and allows us to revisit some of the key moments of his saga.
Does the issue do its job? Yes, it totally does, but it also holds our hand the whole way there. This is a great jumping-on point for readers, an open ended story that does not need much context to read through. It serves as a celebration of Iron Man, but it’s not extravagant or showy; rather, it’s humble and welcoming. Its drips with Tony Stark, and this creative team knows the character well. I’m not a huge fan of Larroca, but overall there is not much to complain about. The panels and storytelling are as smooth as Stark with a lady friend after a dozen cocktails.
My rating of three and half bullets derives primarily from what was expected and what was delivered. While this issue is successful in being low-maintenance in Iron Man knowledge and as well-written as it is it was billed as the start of something new. Rather, it was a rehashing of the old; a look back at the storied peaks and valleys of one of comic’s most popular heroes. In fact, I think this particular story might have been more suited for avid and long-reading Iron Man fans. It was quite good, and somewhat powerful, but relaxed and soothing. While it did catch me up to date on the current saga, I not yet sure if I’ll be tuning in next month.
The jury is still out on “Point One,” and consequently the next chapter of Invincible Iron Man. A great issue in terms of memorable moments, but I’d argue backwards looking can not be construed as forward momentum.