Writers: Daniel and Charles Knauf
Artists: Patrick Zircher (p), Scott Hanna (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
I havenít picked up an issue of Iron Man since the end of Mike Grell and Michael Ryanís run more than three years ago and, except for the odd issue here or there, their run is the only one Iíve ever followed. Yet Iíve always had a soft spot for Tony Stark, and I'm not sure why. Heís an interesting superhero, being but a ďnormalĒ human in armour but at the same time a multi-billionaire, astute businessman and a perpetual schemer. Some people may think you canít have an Avengers team without Captain America; for me you canít have an Avengers without Tony.
Along with Cap, Iron Man has been pushed to the fore once more with Civil War as the head of the pro-registration faction. As anyone whoís following the crossover in any way must know, heís completely and utterly committed to the Superhuman Registration Act, more so than any other supe and is doing everything in his power to implement it and bring those that oppose it in line. This, however, has led to his being cast in a less than favourable light. In fact, Tonyís characterisation throughout the event has been one of the things that has caused the most uproar amongst fans. To put it bluntly, Tony Stark has been portrayed as a bit of (or a lot of) a dick. Heís helped devise the Negative Zone containment facility, brought about the cloning of Thor, led his troops against former friends and manipulated Peter Parker for his own benefit. Yeah, not so great really. But despite all this, I canít bring myself to despise the guy. It also depends on the book that youíre reading: in Amazing Spider-Man heís a right wanker, whilst in Civil War and here in his own title, heís a far more conflicted man whoís just trying to do what he thinks is right in order to protect lives.
This issue certainly is a welcome change to the ritual Iron Man bashings weíve been having in the last couple of months. The discussions he has with Sal Kennedy and Happy Hogan lend some humanity to the character who reveals that he does indeed have misgivings and doubts but really does view registration as the best option for the continued future of the costumed hero. Even though lots of readers are complaining that the pro-reg side are a bunch of borderline fascist arseholes and that Capís side is being set up as ďthe good guys,Ē the very fact that Iron Man and other pro-reg heroes question themselves instead of just blindly insisting theyíre in the right actually makes them more human. Theyíre still seriously off the mark, but Iím finding myself caring about them and nearly routing for them, which I really wasnít expecting.
And thereís more to this issue than just Civil War. As I mentioned above, I havenít been following the Knaufsí Iron Man so the re-cap page came in handy and what do I learn, Tonyís been under mind control and been sent on a killing spree as part of a personal vendetta with civilian casualties along the way, including an airliner with 200 people onboard! Now this is harsh. Not having read it, I canít judge the story in any way but the timing is incredibly unfortunate. As is mentioned in this issue, Iron Man could have been the poster child for registration if this hadnít all been covered up, and it really makes Tony look like a bit of a hypocrite. The ongoing plot takes a back seat but teases at what is to come: the last guy Tony was sent to kill last issue, an ex-Taliban leader, survived thanks to Tony overcoming his mind control and is now looking for somethings and someone through various proxies, which leads to his hiring of Spymaster. Whatever the old geezerís after, it results in Spymaster assaulting Happy Hogan who gets to shine in a great little moment only for things to end in tragedy. I really didnít see this ending coming. I was expecting this issue to be a puff piece on Iron Man, to try to regain some public sympathy for the armoured avenger (which primarily it is), but it also includes an ending that Iron Man fans really donít want to miss. The Knaufsí have done a good job here in getting me interested in what comes next beyond Civil War.
On the art front, Patrick Zircher handles things perfectly well. Iíve enjoyed his work before on New Warriors and Thunderbolts, but his recent stuff on Cable/Deadpool was great, and I therefore wasnít best pleased when he was moved off that book to work on this one. Here itís still great, maybe not quite as much so as on Cable/Deadpool, but he still excels on the action sequences.
Quick remark on the packaging: all of Marvelís titles solicited for November have contained more pages of ads than actual story but this issue, thanks to late shipping, contains only the normal, just about bearable, amount of publicity making it an easier and more enjoyable read than most other stuff I picked up this week.
Overall then, we have here a perfectly good Iron Man story, which feeds into Civil War and that more than any of the other crossover books humanises Tony Stark. This issue helps remind us that superhuman registration makes sense. And the ending alone is enough to guarantee that Iíll be back next month.
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