In Review: Tony Stark: Iron Man #1

A solid introduction to this character and his supporting cast.

The covers: Wow! Here we go with variants. There are twenty-eight different covers! Alexander Lozano is the artist of the Regular cover which features Tony in the lower left pondering something, as he rests his head on the fist of his right hand. To the immediate upper left, as if emerging from this thoughts, is Iron Man with several masks and suits of armor behind him. This is a solid cover that captures the genius pondering new innovations to place in his iconic alter ego. This image is the basis for several Variants which bring on board Valerio Schiti & Eber Evangelista as artists, creating different suits of armor for this version of Tony to dwell upon. These variant covers include the Extremis Armor, Black and Gold Armor, Classic Armor, Bleeding-Edge Armor, Guardians Space Armor, Prometheum Armor, Modern Red and Gold Armor, Hulkbuster Armor, Iron Man 2020 Armor, Model-Prime Armor, Modular Armor, Red And Gold Armor, Original Armor, Silver Centurion Armor, Space Armor, Stealth Armor, Endo-Sym Armor, Thorbuster Armor, Undersea Armor, and War Machine Armor. Woof! That’s a lot of armor! One is bound to find a suit of armor that they like, if not more than one, which would be suitable for purchase. Some are better than others, but this depends on what one grew up with. And these aren’t all the Variants out there! An Incentive Premiere Variant is the same as the Regular cover, only Tony has been left in black and white, while his thoughts to his suits remain in color. This is fine, but I’m not a fan of this kind of variant; I prefer the image to be all in color or all in black and white. There’s a Blank Variant cover that features just the title and credits atop a while cover so that one can get a one-of-a-kind illustration from an artist or the signatures of those responsible for this issue. I do love this idea, but as just an empty space it leaves a lot to be desired. For sheer power on the front, the David Aja Variant is the way to go. This has the perspective tilted forty-five degrees to show Iron Man blasting skyward against an industrial setting. The colors are stark oranges, tans, and yellow. I like that the blast from this feet propelling him are done as a white streak that overshadows the background. This is beautiful. An Alex Ross Variant has the classic Iron Man flying forward at the reader. Ross does a sensational job in the hero’s pose and some amazing work with the shine and gloss on the armor. This Iron Man is immaculate. There is also an Alex Ross Virgin Variant that features the same artwork as the variant cover, just without any text. If you like your Ross art in its purest form, this is the way to go. Kaare Andrews has created a Connecting Variant cover that will hook up with other frontpieces. This cover looks to focus on Iron Man in space, shooting back asteroids. I say “looks” because it’s a bit hard to keep up with every variant in Stark’s armor if one is a casual reader. I found an image of this online and it looks okay, but isn’t as clean as I like my covers, with much of the linework fuzzy to give the character an outline that’s reflecting light. The final cover is the Adi Granov Variant that features Stark with his hands raised outward as liquid armor begins to clothe him. He’s smiling as he stands before suits of his other armor. I like this, but it’s really too dark. It makes it seem like Tony isn’t paying his electricity bills. Overall grades: Regular B-, Suit Variants B, Incentive Premiere Variant C, Blank Sketch Variant C, Aja Variant A, Alex Ross Variant A+, Ross Virgin Variant A+, Connecting Variant C+, Granov Variant C+

The story: Dan Slott is the writer of this opening chapter of Self-Made Man “What’s the Big Idea?” Twenty-five years ago at an international robot soccer competition, Andy Bhang and his team from Bhang Robotics are playing against a new challenger. In a last minute systems check, their robot kicks the ball and falls over. However, it is able to pop back up in 3.5 seconds which thrills them. When the signal is given to begin the competition,  their opponent hits a button that blasts the theme from Space Jam and his robots run out and move like actual people. Bang Robotics hasn’t got a shot. Young Tony Stark has won, frustrating Andy. The story moves to the present where Andy is working out pf his garage creating robots and Tony pulls up in one of his gorgeously expensive sports cars. He’s there to move Andy to Stark Unlimited because he likes what he’s doing with AI, plus he’s bought his company. Bhang is floored and goes with Stark to get a whirlwind tour of the facility and meet others that work for Tony. This is a solid introductory issue by Slott that gives readers the basics to Tony, his empire, those that work for him, and how he handles a situation. In this case it’s a monstrous foe that has the hero suiting up in some new armor to best the baddie. Tony has plenty of one-liners making him completely similar with Robert Downey, Jr.’s portrayal on the big screen, and that’s exactly what this Tony is: it’s the comic book version of the movie character. It may seem backwards, but it works. This might not go over with older fans, but it didn’t grate on old man me. I did enjoy Andy who contributes to solving the threat that’s menacing the city, but the choice of villain and the armor Tony uses to battle him was too over the top. The first two panels on Page 25 go for the silly which will undoubtedly appear to younger readers, but to a veteran reader like me, I just didn’t enjoy them. I did like the supporting cast and the tour of the facilities, plus Page 29 really rang true as to what Iron Man is. This I really liked because it captures a marvelous idea that should be at the heart of Tony Stark. The final page of the book introduces who the true villain is, and it’s a wonderfully old school foe, and who’s assisting this baddie was a neat surprise. I’ll return to see if Slott can keep the momentum going while pleasing old and new fans. Overall grade: B+

The art: The four pages that introduce Andy Bhong have him long haired and with goateed chin that Tony would be sporting in the future. This is a neat visual way to show that Andy could have been Tony. Tony’s introduction to the book has him dressed like a younger version of Downey, Jr. from the movie Back to School, complete with black jacket sporting pins and messed hair. The transition between 4 and 5 is done with Bhong folding his arms looking frustrated at Tony and then having the same pose in the present, though now with gray hair and wrinkles: time has not been good to him. His garage interior is terrific, filled with little bots of all shapes and sizes moving about. Grown up Tony has a rock star entrance, pulling down his shades for emphasis, just as Downey, Jr. does. The Foundry is too simplistic in its design, too smooth. I wasn’t thrilled by Jocasta either, whose reflections on her metallic skin don’t correspond with any light source. The big villain of the issue also has the same issue: the muscles and wrinkles in skin seem randomly placed at times, leaving it difficult to get a clear understanding of the creature’s design. The suit of armor that fights this antagonist was just silly. I didn’t buy it for an instance. It doesn’t follow the bulky designs of the Hulkbuster or Thorbuster armor — it’s just too frail to fight a foe of this size. Yes, it works for humor, but it goes against anything previously created by Stark. The other suit of armor, introduced on Page 21 is much better and suits the action excellently. I also liked seeing Tony after the battle; I was glad he didn’t escape this fight unscathed — made the actions believable. The penultimate panel on 29 is a terrific cast shot for readers to take note of who will be starring in this series. The villain’s introductory panel on the final page has him looking exceptional evil and the eyes of the character helping him speak volumes. I enjoyed most of the visuals of this issue by Valerio Schiti. Overall grade: B

The colors: I want Iron Man’s armor to be bold as can be, because, like Tony, when this armored hero makes the scene he captures everyone’s attention. Edgar Delgado gives the hero this trait throughout the book and I was extremely happy for that. The book begins very brightly at the robotic competition. I really liked the work done on the characters’ skin and this was something that looked terrific throughout. Take note that during the robot challenge, Tony’s robots are colored one of his iconic hues. This color scheme is also present on the car that Tony drives up to Bhang’s house. I did not like the coloring in the Foundry — it’s too darned dark. Why would Tony have the lights dimmed in the setting where he creates and houses his armor? Wouldn’t it be bright so that the could see every detail of what’s occurring? It just doesn’t make sense. When things go to Red Alert the color employed was blood orange, which is fine, but did have me wondering if Star Trek would sue. I loved the greens on the monstrous villain, though when it fights Iron Man it got extremely dark, so much so it was hard to make out on the full-paged splash. The rest of the book looks fine, with it appropriately bright on 28 and 29. Overall grade: B

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna creates scene settings, announcements over speakers, Jocasta dialogue, and Iron Man dialogue (all three are the same font), dialogue, sounds, a song, signage, and the unique font for the monstrous foe. Having three elements of the text be the same font, differed only by the shape and color of their balloons, is fine, but it would have been better to see Jocasta and Iron Man’s speech visually differentiated. After all, they are mechanical but would not sound the same. I did like the unique font for the big bad, which wonderfully suits him. The big stand out of the issue are all the sounds, which are excellent and are sure to put a smile on a reader’s face as they are read aloud. Overall grade: A-

The final line: A solid introduction to this character and his supporting cast. It does mold the comic book character into the film persona a little too often, but this is obviously being done to attract and keep new readers. Old time readers will find plenty to enjoy, though there are instances which might skew too far to younger readers. If Marvel keeps Tony this way, they are sure to have a long run with this series. Overall grade: B+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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