Sunday, September 10, 2006

Iron Man #11

Iron Man #11, October 2006, Marvel Comics
writers: Daniel & Charles Knauf
penciller: Patrick Zircher
inker: Scott Hanna
colorist: Studio F’s Antonio Fabela
letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
assistant editors: Molly Lazer & Aubrey Sitterson
associate editor: Nicole Boose
editor: Tom Brevoort
EIC: Joe Quesada

Iron Man has been the black sheep of the Marvel family lately. In the headline-grabbing Civil War story arc, which I have been following very loosely on the newsstands, Iron Man’s disagreement with Captain America over the Superhero Registration Act has fractured Marvel’s supreme super-team, the Avengers, seemingly beyond repair. (I’m not avidly following the latest development of the Marvel Universe, but am I to assume that the result of this epic will be a refurbished Avengers West Coast? Cutting edge writers like Bendis seem to enjoy dusting off old, corny ideas and making them relevant and exciting again.)

In this own title, Iron Man has recently committed heinous crimes of a different nature, albeit through the control of a mysterious villain by way of a biomagnetic implant in Tony Stark’s brain, and the entire Marvel Universe, from the Avengers to the Fantastic Four to S.H.I.E.L.D., is after him. At the beginning of this issue, the fifth in a six-part arc, Marvel’s decades-late answer to Superman, the Sentry, is pummeling Iron Man on the streets of San Francisco. Even Iron Man’s boot-jets can’t repel the Golden Guardian! Stark outsmarts the Sentry by flooding his senses with broadcast reports of crimes and tragedies occurring simultaneously around the globe, ironically stilling the hero to determine where he should act first. Later, Stark remotely controls his armor to distract the heroes protecting the Director of the Muslim Peace Authority while he goes pedestrian to find the villain pulling his strings. Good thing he thought to reverse the signal of that chip embedded in his brain. Of course, since this is the penultimate chapter of this plot, the tale ends “to be continued,” but as an issue in itself, the story is enjoyable and implies that all will end well for old chrome dome. With a title like “The Invincible Iron Man,” I figured he might emerge unscathed.

Iron Man has always perplexed me, specifically as a visual concept. I dig the computerized body armor shtick, and Iron Man may be the flagship character for how we understand that concept today, but in my opinion, his appearance has always been too inconsistent with the times, from a technological context. Layman technology like cell phones and laptop computers are getting progressively smaller, so we can only assume that such applicable technology in the private sector is following similar trends, if not setting them outright. In the Marvel Universe, Tony Stark is a premiere inventor and machinist, and with his head less in the clouds than Reed Richards, he’s perhaps their closest equivalent to Bill Gates, so I would guess that his entrepreneurial interests would have these practical, commercial applications. (I would venture that Dr. Stephen Hawking is Mr. Fantastic’s real world equivalent, in case you were curious.) All that said, why the heck is the Iron Man armor so darn bulky? Why not go minimalist, like, say, iPods? Why hasn’t Iron Man become more reminiscent of what we saw in Batman Beyond: a sleek, skintight battle suit? Technology has taught us that less is more. Why is Iron Man still so visibly more?

I liked this issue. It read like a short film, featuring a hero on the lam desperately trying to clear his name. It didn’t read like a story starring an industrial billionaire piloting the most powerful armory in the world. Boot-jets? Hacking past firewalls? Child’s play, nowadays. Of course, I can’t offer any constructive criticism, as the kind of tale I would expect from an Iron Man comic book is beyond my general understanding in the first place. I’ve been spoiled by fictional technology, I suppose. Stark’s resolve in the face of adversity, however, is a true demonstration of iron grit. Perhaps, then, the name still fits.

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