"Execute Program: Part 1 of 6"
Writers: Daniel & Charles Knauf
Artist: Patrick Zircher
Publisher: Marvel Comics
All the lateness jokes have surely been exhausted by this point in regards to the latest volume of Iron Man, so I'm going to attempt to avoid a relapse in that direction during this review. Jokes about a title's tardiness are soooo 2005.
Starting with this week's #7, Iron Man is monthly again, and Charles & Daniel (Carnivale) Knauf and Patrick (Cable & Deadpool) Zircher inherit the reins from the departing Warren Ellis and Adi Granov (the latter still, thankfully, providing the cover art) with nary a hitch.
I lost interest in Iron Man as the title lost interest in timeliness, so it's gratifying to see that Marvel's trademark recap page once again comes to the rescue and saves the day. As a result of the "Extremis" arc, Tony Stark has literally been grafted to his armor, giving him virtually limitless control over every electronic device in the world and an even greater multitasking ability than he possessed before.
But the Extremis Virus may have caused another adverse side-effect. Namely, turning Stark into an even bigger egotist than he was before. And therein lies one of the issue's greatest strengths and the central theme of the story. Stark borders on the unlikable, but at the same time his arrogance and haughtiness make for fantastic drama as he encounters Captain America, the rest of the New Avengers, and Nick Fury (the New Avengers and Nick Fury... together? I'll come back to that.)
The Knaufs really begin to explore the dichotomy of Tony Stark's character here, which makes for a fascinating look into the mind of a man who is so consumed by his dream of a perfect world that his mental stability is called into question by those around him. Here, Stark is portrayed as a man whose only flaw is his insane perfectionism; a man with the world at his fingertips and almost unlimited power. And as evidenced by a few typical, ho-hum assassinations framing the bulk of the pages, it appears that his technology is being used for less-than-noble purposes elsewhere.
Art-wise, Patrick Zircher turns in some of the finest work I have ever seen from him. Following the likes of Granov is no easy task, but what Zircher lacks in stunning realism, he makes up in clean, expressive pencil work that ranks above most "traditional" superhero artists. The Iron Man armor is sleek and as classic as can be.
"Execute Program's" place within continuity is a complete enigma,
unfortunately. Escalating tension between Cap and Iron Man could easily be a bit of clever foreshadowing as Civil War approaches (a fact Marvel is not shy about judging by the bold proclamation on every cover), but the inclusion of Nick Fury in the proceedings is puzzling. While I suppose this apparent continuity error could be swept under the rug by any number of life model decoys, it makes for an irritating distraction if you're up on your current Marvel timeline. The story could potentially take place before Fury disappeared after Secret War, but the appearance of the New Avengers rules out this possibility. Sounds like a No-Prize opportunity if I've ever heard one!
Iron Man #7 is a strong, if flawed, debut for the Knaufs on the series. The assassin subplot isn't anything special, but Daniel and Charles have clearly shown that they understand precisely what's going on in Tony Stark's head. I can't speak to whether it's a step up or down from the previous creative team's stint, but anyone can appreciate the fact that a quality Iron Man book is hitting the stands on a regular basis once again.
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