Iron Man goes intergalactic in this recent Marvel milestone. Ed checks it out.
Who made it?: Kieron Gillen (Writer), Greg Land, Dale Eaglesham, Carlos Pagulayan (Artists), Marvel Comics.
Who’s in it?: Iron Man/Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Original run: Iron Man (Vol.5) #1-17 – Believe/The Secret Origin of Tony Stark Parts 1 &2.
“Iron Man in space.” It sounds like a plot for a dodgy TV movie, doesn’t it? (Which is exactly what I predict will occur when the comic book movie bubble bursts, and the only people you can get to play the titular characters are washed-up sports stars trying their hand at acting.) Yet, after the first few issues, this becomes the premise of today’s featured series, and in all honesty, it does seem to be just an elaborate set-up for Iron Man to join Guardians of the Galaxy. Yet along with the Guardians situation, the first few issues are also about Tony Stark attempting to reinvent himself after the Avengers vs. X-Men crisis. That and avoiding his birthday, something that runs through all seventeen issues.
Believe is compared to the more recent style of Invincible Iron Man comics, being a lot simpler and closer to the original blueprint of the character than they have been for a long time. Each volume is related and continues an over-arching storyline, but they are otherwise self-contained and absolutely full of action. It’s actually refreshing to see Shellhead go back to basics and not have to worry about S.H.I.E.L.D., H.A.M.M.E.R., nightmare Asgardian gods or evil X-Men, but instead just take out rogue groups or individuals who are using stolen technology whilst simultaneously making smart-alec remarks.
Following on from Believe, The Secret Origin of Tony Stark is a different beast completely and is split over two volumes. Part 1 begins with the “Godkiller” storyline, which not only acts as an epilogue for AvX but also as a lead-in to the titular plot. In it, we discover that feathery aliens don’t like beards, moustaches or people who kill one of their deities. A rogue robot and a familiar bounty hunter are heavily involved in the mix, as are Maria and Howard Stark, parents of Tony. The story is also split into “past” and “present” sections. While there are several cameos, these are kept to the bare minimum, instead letting the main characters breathe.
With Iron Man at the time being a sister title to Guardians of the Galaxy, I was concerned that it would be another case of having to “read both to understand what’s going on,” a la Uncanny and All New X-Men, but my concern was for naught, with the two barely connecting and only the occasional appearance by the Guardians to even mark his membership. Some may be disappointed by this, but the story works so much better as a solo effort. The Guardians would have merely detracted from the story.
My introduction to writer Kieron Gillen was as the man who had to follow J.M. Straczynski on Thor and, for the most part, he did a good job, planting his own signature upon the wider Thor-verse whilst retaining most of the elements added in Straczynski’s run. Once again, Gillen plants his signature on another series, introducing a character to the “616 Universe” that will be instantly recognisable to all Marvel fans. There are plenty of hints throughout the issues regarding the big reveal in issue seventeen, yet it still came as a shock upon initially reading it. It changes the history of Tony Stark, except it does so in a way that doesn’t actually change history at all. I promise that sentence will make sense when you read it. Let’s just say that, with the ending in issue seventeen, they’ve stepped it up a “gear” and have “shouldered” the responsibility remarkably (I refuse to apologise for the awful puns).
Iron Man is a comic that came in the year of his fiftieth anniversary, and the story owes a lot of gratitude to this anniversary for coming about in such a retro form. For its own part, Iron Man also owes gratitude to Gillen, Land, Eaglesham and Pagulayan for creating a comic that pays homage to both the past and future of the billionaire industrialist in such a spectacular way.
- The character was created by writer-editor Stan Lee, developed by scripter Larry Lieber, and designed by artists Don Heck and Jack Kirby. He made his first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963)
- Adi Granov’s variant cover originally featured the armour painted red and gold, but it was re-coloured digitally in order to match the palette of the armour in the comic.