Invincible Iron Man #1
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: David Marquez and Justin Ponsor
Well, well, well, here’s an unexpected surprise. For the first time in my comic reading history I have picked up a first issue by Brian Michael Bendis and finished it with an apathetic shrug. I suppose that’s not the ringing indorsement Marvel was looking for with “Invincible Iron Man” but I would say these two dozen pages of mediocrity represent an incredible opportunity. For the first time Bendis started out the gate terrible instead of waiting six issues down the line. At least this saves me quite a bit of time.
“Invincible Iron Man #1” is the story of how Tony Stark makes armor suits and is really, really smart. That’s it. Oh yeah, and he likes ladies. I flipped through the entirety of the book and all I could think was: “Yeah, but they did this story better three different times already—and there was a movie about this whole business too.” It was origin story without the origin, hitting all the beats of explaining who Iron Man is. And my question to Marvel is what is so hard to grasp about a guy in armor called Iron Man? There was a protracted sequence where Tony fiddled with some of his new armor, all about how he had to be ahead of the curve and this armor would be the best. Thanks Bendis but: Extremis, Stark Resilient, Armor Wars. For a continuity reboot, they chose the absolute most boring things to focus on.
That’s what this is after all. After the events of “Secret Wars” (which hasn’t even finished yet) everyone gets to be brand new. So tell me Marvel, why did we get stuck with the “Not my real parents” bull shit. I love Keiron Gillan but that was one of the worst decisions to make for the character—and Marvel decided to keep it! Which is weirder still because later Tony Stark has a date with a super smart biologist and her big claim is that she found a cure for the Mutant Gene. This already existed! In several iterations. Joss Whedon bequeathed it to his Astonishing X-Men. I was under the impression this was a companywide reboot but instead it seems they’re taking the opportunity to pick out all the yucky bits of continuity they didn’t want to deal with while forcing other things back into the cannon. Marvel is the equivalent of the guy who raids the snack mix and puts back all the cashews. Nobody likes those cashews Marvel! But you eat the mix or you Fuck off to the veggie tray!
It’s really sad what Bendis dedicated page time to because David Marquez and Justin Ponsor’s art is really outstanding. There’s some fantastic artwork for Madame Masque that really shows off unique and dynamic action. And even seeing the suit for the first time it definitely looked iconic and different from any other iteration. But instead of showing off what this suit of armor could do it was sidelined for 75% of the book as its battery charged—for God’s sake Tony, you invented the damn Arc Reactor! That thing could power Detroit on a moment’s notice. But no, instead there was a contrived reason why Tony couldn’t use the suit. So when Tony finally used the suit at the end of the book, he was in the armor for maybe three panels before “To be Continued” rolled across the bottom. In theory this suit could have a time machine built inside it and I wouldn’t know because all it managed to do in the issue was fly and search Google—really on the cutting edge Tony. I wouldn’t mind this if the book hadn’t spent an entire spread dedicated to Tony being the best of the best, smartest man alive.
There are much better ways to establish a new status quo. If the idea behind “Invincible Iron Man” was to show his life before and then show a change it was clunky and as entertaining as sock puppets. Instead the idea should be to move on, show a new life instantly. In “Invincible”, Mark discovers he has a half-brother Oliver—about the same time he discovers his father has been living another life on a planet with sentient Praying Mantises. He takes Oliver back to Earth, intent to have him be a part of his life. The first fight he gets into is with the Maulers. Things immediately get off to a bad start when the Maulers launch some missiles, Mark is forced after the missiles leaving Oliver to deal with the Maulers. Mark handles the weapons and returns to find Oliver brutally murdered the Maulers. This is a huge moment for Mark, he has to confront the fact that his own brother isn’t human. Not just that but he has very little patience for compassion. It’s the sort of thing that makes Mark question his life before, his total commitment humanity. In the end it strengthens his bond to his home planet but the emotional turmoil he has to endure from his own family sticks with him. That’s what “Invincible Iron Man” is missing. It’s a new start for an entire continuity and yet it wants to wallow in everything that’s been done before, and done much better.