Iron Man's 2nd ongoing series launched this week, but does it reach the character's recent high standards?
Credits & Solicit Info:
Iron Man: Legacy #1
'War Of The Iron Men Part One'
Written By Fred Van Lente
Artwork By Steve Kurth, Allen Martinez, Victor Olazaba and John Rauch
The Armored Avenger's second on-going series kicks off with a bang as the WAR OF THE IRON MEN begins here! Tony Stark's worst fears are realized when stolen Iron Man technology is used for ethnic cleansing in a civil war-ravaged land. When he defies U.S. government orders to confront the armored assassins himself, Stark sets off an international conflagration that threatens his friends, his company, and his very life -- and sets him on a collision course with China and Russia, and their champions, Radioactive Man, Titanium Man and the Crimson Dynamo! Guest-stars galore! And a shocking last page reveal of the classic Shell-head villain behind it all you won't want to miss!
Iron Man is a pretty big deal these days, the popularity of his Movie and his increased profile since Civil War in the Marvel Universe have elevated him to the level of your Spider-Mans and Wolverines, actual human people who aren't nerds know who he is, which is why Marvel have launched a second ongoing series for the cool exec with a heart of steel, it seems our appetite for all things Shellhead is insatiable, and just one series is not enough!
Crucially, this series is serving as a good entry point for new readers (coming in off the back of Iron Man 2 I presume), as while Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca's Invincible Iron Man series shares much of the movie's tone, it may be a little too Marvel Universe heavy for some people, with Dark Reigns and Disassembleds and Sieges up in your face, Legacy, by dint of being set a few years in the Marvel Universe past, manages to have it's cake and eat it too, it's firmly in the MU (There are guest appearances from Nick Fury, War Machine and Jessica Jones in this issue) but is able to stand alone and not be bogged down by what's going on not only in the other Iron Man book, but in the wider universe.
For the continuity minded among you, I would probably place this issue around the Kurt Busiek/Sean Chen run on Iron Man, maybe a bit later. But I am basing this solely on how Iron Man's word balloons are lettered. I don't think it matters, but it is odd to see an Iron Man who's identity is a secret again.
The story of this issue is nothing we haven't seen before, a bunch of bad guys have stolen some Iron Man tech and are going around doing bad things, but Fred Van Lente manages to put a fresh spin on it, by having it take place in a war-torn Balkan country (Transia, a fake country, which I believe is most famous for Mount Wundagore, with all those talking animals, as well as being the birthplace of Spider-Woman, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch), and having Iron Man's arms be tied by diplomacy, if Tony goes in to try and sort this out, he could re-ignite the Cold War. Which would be bad. The use of politics reminded me of one of my favourite Iron Man runs, the Knauf series, which had Tony as Director Of S.H.I.E.L.D., I think Iron Man suits the political thriller genre, and it's something that Fraction's run has eschewed.
Of course, Tony ignores diplomacy and heads into Transia, all guns ablazing, which is what you'd expect, but from the last page, it seems that things are not as simple as they seem, as a certain villain who, while not strictly an Iron Man villain, but one with whom Tony has history with, is revealed to be behind the evil Iron Men.
On top of that intrigue, Fred Van Lente also finds time for some quieter character stuff, we see Tony as a child, we see him struggle with his identity as an arms dealer, and we see him humanised. Van Lente has become one of my favourite writers at Marvel recently, thanks to his work with Greg Pak on Hercules, and as one of the Spider-Man Web-Heads, and it's good to see him get a big oppurtunity to go it alone on such a high profile character. He works well with Steve Kurth too, who is no stranger to Iron Man, having done some issues of Iron Man: Director Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and just recently Ultimate Comics Iron Wars, Kurth is a great fit for the character. His line-work is strong, and while it's a more traditional take than Larroca's, it brings to my mind the work of Gene Colan, perhaps the best ever Iron Man artist. I hope Kurth sticks around beyond this arc, and draws Tony's adventures whichever time-period.
Some people may be questioning whether we really need two Iron Man comics, but on the strenth of this issue, I feel that Van Lente has done enough to distinguish this from Fraction's book, by virtue of being set in the past, it's able to appeal to new readers, but also work in the wider MU, and manages to put a new spin on a hoary Iron Man cliche. And with that last page reveal, I'm sure fans will want to see how arc ends up. If you're a fan of Iron Man, you need to get this, if you're not a fan of the comics, but like the movies, you should get this. It may not be the greatest Iron Man story ever told, but it's a great introduction to the character.
Oh yeah, this issue also comes with a reprint of Iron Man's first ever appearance from Tales Of Suspense #39, it's a story I've read before, but it does it's job for new readers, and the new colouring makes Don Heck's art look as it good as it ever has.