Andy’s Read Pile: Tony Stark, Iron Man Issues #1-5
Hey everyone! Andy Larson, here! Host of the greatest comic book related podcast out there that doesn’t have an episode reviewing the new Avengers: End Game movie out today! Yep, we are bucking the trend here, folks, and paying the price for it.
As our fan audience seeks its spoilery reviews and geeky squeesfest elsewhere from the biggest movie event since this whole MCU experiment started, we will be shedding tons of possible hits today by instead saving our thoughts for a Bonus episode of our podcast show out next week on Friday, May 3rd.
So make sure you do indeed subscribe to any of the numerous outlets that house our weekly ramblings most of which you can find by clicking the button I’ve placed for you on the side of this article. In that way, when End Game has already been talked about to death by next week, you can pound down at least one more helping of Ant-man/Time Travel/Quantum Realm analysis before finally putting the topic to rest.
But in any case, if I’m not going to talk about End Game on today’s blog, then what pray tell could I talk about in order to generate at least a modicum of hits. Well, hows about I review the first 6 issues of the newest Iron Man series, which you can still pick up on the shelves of comic book shops everywhere. Yep, nothing says clickbait around an Avengers movie than talking about ol’ Shell Head, so without further ado, let’s jump into this solid new series done by writer Dan Slott and artist Valerio Schiti.
Life is getting complicated for the newly reborn Tony Stark. Now in his brand new genetically created body, he got a new lease on life, and Stark Industries have been running at full tilt with a variety of projects to make mankind’s life better through technology.
Of course, there are the normal corporate challenges such as Fing Fang Foom attacks, tech stolen by rival industry barons to create mega weapon tanks, disgruntled robots harboring feelings of resentment over the way Stark has treated them over the years, and the reappearance of Arno Stark, the Starks real son and heir to the Stark empire!
This coupled with an unfolding scheme perpetrated by long time Iron Man baddie, The Controller, and a potential romance with fellow founding member of the Avengers in the Wasp, and we’ve got the makings of one heck of a wild ride for the first 5 issues of this explosive new series!
Things I Liked:
Of course for anyone that reads my blogs or listens to the podcast, you can probably guess as to what was my favorite part of this collection of issues. Yep, it was Aaron “My Robot Brain Needs Beer” Stack aka Machine Man. I know that when my fellow podcast co host, Rob Stewart, read this series, he thought I was going to hate it because Machine Man was used as pretty much a bad guy in issue 3 wrecking Iron Man’s cyberspace universe, decrying as an appropriation of robot culture, but I honestly didn’t mind.
See, Machine Man is kind of a wanker at times. Just like most real humans, he gets a bit Emo at times and starts lashing out people that don’t see to understand him. I mean the guy does have traces of Sentienel influence in his programming still so it’s not unreasonable from a story perspective for him to be a little “extreme” in his opinions.
But the real reason I didn’t mind was because he was lashing out because he’s been having difficulties with his girlfriend, Jocasta. Through the couple issues he appears in, he acts like a controlling, overbearing boyfriend who is trying to overcompensate for some sort of perceived inadequacy all to impress his lady who you can tell he desperately wants to keep. In fact he only decides to attack Iron Man’s systems after he’s had a huge fight with Jocasta, downed a couple drinks and some other robot eggs him on how he should take Tony Stark down a peg or two. I mean, c’mon! Who here hasn’t been in the situation or seen it happen? It’s amazing what beer muscles can do to bring out the worst in perfectly good people.
This is a long term story arc with Machine Man in terms of his sense of intense loneliness coupled with his affection for Jocasta, so its no surprise that once he’s in a relationship with her, he’s constantly scanning for threats and ways to make himself seem more important. And when it seems as if Jocasta is attracted and prefers the company of humans vs. robots, given her past relationship with Hank Pym and crush on Tony Stark, of course, Machine Man is going to lash out about that. The inadequacy is the fact that as much as he has looked like one in the past, he’s not human, so he’s overcompensating by becoming militaristically robotic and trying to convince Jocasta of the superiority of being that. It’s a story as old as the hills, and that’s why I don’t mind it at all. It actually does a lot for Machine Man’s character, and allows for more growth in future.
Wow…that was a mouth full. You’d think this was a Machine Man book instead of an Iron Man book by the way I just pumped those tires. But hey, I love Machine Man as a character and he’s criminally underused, so anytime I have to talk about him, I’ll hijack the hell out of the article just to do that.
Besides, I have a ton of additional “Iron Man”ish stuff in my Final Thoughts to chat about, so I think it’s fair to Aaron Stack this section in which to shine.
Things I Didn’t Like:
I will say that despite the ideas coming fast and furious in this first story arc, I could see how that might not be appealing to some readers taste. I personally didn’t mind so much as you’ll see in my final thoughts section, but I definitely could see how some could make the argument that because this series pushes through ideas at such speed, that none of the ideas really get any chance to breath.
The biggest one that jumps out at me is the fact that there is slow burn romance between Stark’s newest robotics specialist Andy Bhang and Iron Man’s biological mother, Amanda. They meet cute, spend some time in cyberspace together, it’s all leading somewhere. However, a bunch of their courtship happens off screen so by the time you get to issue 4 where is seems they are on the splits and Amanda is somewhat jealous of Andy’s new fling, you are just supposed to assume a lot of things.
I mean, as you’ll see in again in my final thoughts section, I really didn’t mind this, but I’ll be honest in that I didn’t mind because I didn’t really care. It was a nice little story, but it wasn’t reason I was reading the book. I wanted more Machine Man, more Jocasta, more Wasp, and giant robot battles with Iron Man suits that looked more like Voltron than the traditional armor.
And so maybe Mr. Slott was engaging in a little misdirection, giving us all this flashy stuff to distract us from the fact that some of the stories weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders. And for some long time fans of Iron Man, I could see them maybe getting angry about that.
However, Did I get angry about that?
I’m not a long time fan of Iron Man. I could care less. So yeah, there’s not much to this section for me. I genuinely liked the book.
Show of hands though…how many of you out there have been long term fans of Iron man?
….I mean you read the book long before the MCU movies…?
Again, I know what a lot of you are thinking. I’m using this Iron Man article to talk more and more about Machine Man, and in some ways you are right. However, I was struck by how many Machine Man ideas have been transplanted into this book, besides the obvious appearance of the Robo man himself. Especially from one of my favorite books starring Aaron Stack, the criminally underrated cyberpunk masterpiece known as Machine Man 2020 by Tom DeFalco and Barry Winsor Smith, which you can read a review of by clicking the link below.
No…go ahead. I insist. Click on it. Read it. I’ll wait here until you are done.
Yeah, see I told you! Dynamite stuff. However the reason I bring in up is because it’s two main bad guys from MM2020 are pretty prominent in this Iron Man series as well if you haven’t guessed.
You got Sunset Bain aka Madame Menace, who although has been repurposed as an Iron Man villain in the years since her first appearance, she actually started her career in Machine Man issue #17. As head of Baintronics, she’s the one that steals Iron Man’s tech to build the battle tank that Iron Man and War Machine fight in issue #2, and is still pretty much up to her old tricks of being a crafty corporate Ne’er-do-well.
However, more importantly, we get Arno Stark in this story arc, who is also major baddie in MM2020 as the unscrupulous Iron Man of the future. Of course in MM2020, he’s portrayed as some descendant of the original Iron Man given the fact that when the series was written way back in the 80s, 2020 was like the super far future. Filled with flying cars, right? Right? I mean…where’s my flying car?!?
However, now that 2020 is literally next year, instead Arno is recast as Tony Stark’s brother, not descendant, although you can still make the argument that he’s being portrayed as the exact same Iron Man that he was in MM2020: an unscrupulous, callous power hungry version of the tin can man we all love thanks to his portrayal in the MCU movies by RDJ. Plus the fact that he’s seen all buddy buddy with Sunset Bain in issue 5, starting the same super villain team up we saw in MM2020!
Yep, if you are a fan of this Iron Man series, it really behooves you to see and pick up a copy of the MM2020 mini series. I mean it’s only 4 issues, and gosh I found it in a 10 cent bin at my local comic book store just 6 months ago. Get out there kiddies! Pick this up today!
As fans of the show might have heard, there is no love lost from myself over Dan Slott’s handling of both Spider-man and now the Fantastic Four. I think both of those books contained some really good ideas, which failed in execution. The characterization was off, things didn’t add up, and both books left a bad taste in my mouth as a result.
However, I really feel the complete opposite for Mr. Slott’s work on Iron Man. It’s almost as if his writing style is perfectly suited to the bold, high octane, often times zany ideas that are pumped out of Stark Enterprises. Many of the people I know, including myself, disliked his Spider-man because he was made to be a Tony Stark clone with the Parker Industries, but once that characterization falls on the shoulders of the person it was actually made for, you can see how those ideas should have always been in this book to begin with.
Slott’s Iron Man moves at lightning speed with ideas that come with such breakneck frequency that it’s hard to keep on top of them. We jump from Fing Fang Foom battles with Nano Iron Men in his blood stream, to Iron Man/War Machine recapturing stolen tech, to the aformentioned cyberspace battle with Machine Man, to killer robots being used as assassins based on a online dating service, to the return of Arno Stark, all the while there’s a slow burn grand scheme in the works by old Iron Man villain The Controller…it’s just so much! But with Iron Man, it all works! It’s supposed to be high speed, high tech, high concept and it feels like Mr. Slott is right at home with all of that.
I will say though that at the same time, he doesn’t lose sight of making some meaningful characterizations from Rhodey struggling with his PTSD over dying during Civil War II, to Jocasta wanting to just be a regular human, Tony and Janet Van Dyne’s blossoming romance, to even the slow burn courtship of robotics designer/everyman Andy Bhang and Tony’s biological mother, Amanda. It really is a perfect marriage and balance of big ideas and strong characterization, that may have been attempted in other books, but here really hits home.
I will say coupled with the wonderful Valerio Schiti art, this is by far the best book I’ve read out of the Slott camp since his work with Mike Allred on the Silver Surfer. A definitely must read for Iron Man fans young and old, and a title I will continue to look forward to in future!