A lot has changed for Tony Stark across the decades since his 1963 debut – his suits, his supporting casts, his popularity in the Marvel landscape, and the impact of his futurist point of view. What hasn't shifted, however, is his emotional core, which can be a truly special blend of scrappy, sardonic, and heartfelt. For the past two years, the current Iron Man run has been understanding that wholeheartedly, and has made Tony's story—and the story of the Marvel universe—better as a result. That run, as well as nearly six decades of comic history culminate in Iron Man #25, a milestone issue that excels on virtually every account.
Iron Man #25 presents a trio of stories, beginning with "A Hero and a Friend," the proper finale to the current Iron Man run. There's also "Daddy's Boys," a previously-unseen heart-to-heart between Tony and another Avenger. And outside of a teaser page for the upcoming The Invincible Iron Man relaunch, the issue is rounded out by "Battle Behind the Bamboo Curtain!," which is presented as a "lost story" from Tony's original era of the 1960s.
In the wrong hands, an Iron Man story can just become a bacchanal of flashy technology and gadgets, causing Tony's personal narrative to fall to the wayside. Luckily, all three stories of Iron Man #25 understand the need for this balance, while still finding ways for Iron Man to be an essential part of the superhero world. These contexts range from theatrical, particularly in "Battle Behind the Bamboo Curtain!," to extremely personal in "A Hero and a Friend." But all of them manage to serve the story first and foremost, and say so much about what it uniquely means for Tony to be the one embodying the Iron Man suit of armor.
One way that all three stories make that point, albeit in wildly different ways, is by exploring the notion of Iron Man's legacy. "A Hero and a Friend" takes this on most poignantly, juxtaposing a public celebration of Tony with his intimate quest to save a single civilian. That dichotomy, that a hero can be "big enough" to earn adorning crowds and command the multiplex, but small enough to change the life of a common man, is absolutely nothing new, but it has always been something uniquely scrappy and compelling with Tony. "Battle Behind the Bamboo Curtain!" understands this in spades as well, highlighting Tony's ever-present ability to suck weird Marvel characters into his orbit. Even "Daddy's Boys" plays with Tony's mark on the world – or, more particularly, the way he leaves it by carrying on the legacy of his father.
Aesthetically, every component of Iron Man #25 is a knockout. Angel Unzueta's art and Frank D'Armata's colors are every bit as stellar as in previous issues, bringing just the right amount of verisimilitude to what could otherwise be a very run-of-the-mill sequence of events. This is especially the case when Tony is saving that aforementioned civilian, as there is an attention to detail that is incredibly tactile and moving. Dotun Akande's art of "Daddy's Boys" feels like a spiritual successor to Unzueta's art, and also to some other highlights in Marvel's recent arsenal, with an absolutely breathtaking rendering of some larger-than-life elements. And Benjamin Dewey's art on "Battle Behind the Bamboo Curtain!" adds an expressiveness to the traditionally-flat retro art from Tony's origins, with epic and whimsical results. Joe Caramagna's lettering across the issue is also consistently excellent, grounding everything just significantly enough.
As far as Marvel milestone issues go, Iron Man #25 is one of the most effective and quietly epic tributes to a single character in the publisher's history. Each of this issue's trio of stories sings a song that could only be in tune with someone like Tony Stark – something distinctly authentic and human in an otherwise-otherworldly world. Iron Man #25 could not be a better milestone for who Tony Stark has become over the years, as well as the person he's sure to become.
Published by Marvel Comics
On November 16, 2022
Art by Angel Unzueta, Dotun Akande, and Benjamin Dewey
Colors by Frank D'Armata
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Alex Ross