Iron Man must find a way to build Doctor Doom’s time platform in order to stop Birch, a forgotten enemy, from using the Dark Phoenix to destroy the earth. I have to give credit to Rob Williams and the rest of the writers of this excellent mini-series. I really didn’t think the story would be this engrossing, but it was. I also didn’t believe the different artists per chapter would maintain the level of quality begun, but they did. Iron Age is the exception that proves the rule.
Everything made sense in this story. The Big Bad’s use of the Dark Phoenix was brilliant. You don’t need a technobabble doohickey to destroy the earth when something already established can do the job for you. Not that there’s anything wrong with technobabble doohickeys if done right, but exploiting the Dark Phoenix was original, elegant and required less explanation.
The employ of Iron Man as the hero was a smart move because he had experience with Doctor Doom’s time machine in the Camelot yarns which were likely more widely read than say the Osborn stuff. Iron Man’s also one of four humans in the Marvel Universe capable of constructing a time machine. What’s more, Tony had a lot of atoning to do, as this series hinted at, and that made his journey through time more personal since he almost invariably met up with people he slighted. In that sense, Iron Age was a souped-up version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with racing stripes.
The conclusion is in itself an excellent story with a beginning, middle and end. Rob Williams could have finalized the last chapter with Iron Man succeeding in reassembling the time machine. Instead, the Big Bad knew, he would always fail. The previous issues of Iron Age have been in effect a massive deception perpetuated by Birch to bring Iron Man to the brink of physical exhaustion and mental despair. Iron Age is Iron Man’s Knightfall.
Iron Man must build his time machine from scratch, also anticipated by Birch, and Williams’ yarn begins properly at the end of the first chapter, with one difference. Iron Man and his team of world savers — Captain Britain, Cyclops, Dazzler, Power Man, Iron Fist and Johnny Storm — interrupt Birch’s plans to engulf the world in Phoenix’s power, but will that instance be enough?
Birch implies not. You see has experienced this “rescue” before in alternate timelines, and it ends the same way, every time. With his victory. What makes this tour different? The answer may be that Iron Age’s Iron Man is not the Iron Man who betrayed all in Civil War. Iron Man rebooted himself with a previous copy of his memories. He therefore is innocent of those crimes perpetrated by the other Iron Man. As such, our Iron Man is more likely to consult his peers and admit to his errors. Although still egocentric, he’s less arrogant than Civil War Iron Man. He’s willing to learn from his mistakes, and that difference makes all the difference.
Before an ace slips out of a sleeve, Williams draws upon the basics of writing to flesh out his story. The character interaction is fun. The team of heroes behave according to their history. As a result Iron Fist and the Human Torch notice the Dark Phoenix’s beauty, prompting a quip from Dazzler, answered by Captain Britain. The Dark Phoenix’s history with Cyclops is a constant underlying theme in the tale, but Iron Man justly becomes the ultimate hero in the finale. Tony Stark dopes out a foreshadowed means to stop the apocalypse. Spoiler Alert, I suppose: the heroes win.
Rebecka Isaacs’ artwork is far above average especially for something like Iron Age, which had the unfortunate luck of being released during all the Fear Itself nonsense. She captures the classic looks of the heroes, and exhibits skill in various areas of illustration. Most important, she accomplishes a comprehensive visual narrative. You don’t actually need to read the comic book to understand it. Rather, reading will enrich the experience.
Isaacs symbollically represents the stakes in an almost subliminal moment in which the Phoenix effect devours the earth. She hits the right beats when the mood shifts to contrasting comedy, and she instills drama to the surprising climax and neatly handles the classy epilogue. Livesay respects her penciling and layouts by staying practically invisible, only accenting things like the textures of costumes and the precision linework of robotics. Colorist Mossa bursts red and gold to the panels that’s a signature of the book. The shades represent failure as well as victory. In short, Iron Age is a shining example of a Marvel miniseries and proves that a multitude of writers and artists can produce something great.
Ray Tate’s first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, “Spider Without a Web,” published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he’s young at heart. Of course, we all know better.