Invincible Iron Man #600 plays a lot of different roles. It's a big anniversary issue for one of Marvel Comics' most popular superheroes, honoring the character that brought Marvel Studios to the big screen. It's the end of a multi-year run, establishing the status quo for the next creative team while wrapping up loose ends. And, perhaps most importantly, it's Brian Michael Bendis' final issue at Marvel Comics, a publisher he has creatively guided for well over a decade. Each of these roles focuses on celebration though, and that's the ultimate tone of this oversized issue; it is a celebration of characters, history, and creators. Read with that in mind, it's difficult not to smile throughout the entire adventure.
Bendis' plotting has legacy in mind. Every big twist and reveal can be linked to work he has touched across his tenure. While most of it is focused on recent storylines, specifically those with Doctor Doom and Riri Williams, there are plenty of touches addressing events and miniseries throughout his tenure. Favorite villains, specifically The Hood, are further elevated, and favorite heroes are given a chance to return. It's not difficult to perceive both how these elements are meant to resolve lingering threads and how they hope to influence the future. The final few pages provide a runway for creative teams to come on Invincible Iron Man, if they choose to use it. In any case the ideas left hanging throughout the issue serve as an invitation for use. They seem to declare that Marvel Comics is a wonderful place filled with opportunities, and Bendis is happy to leave readers and creators alike with a final few ideas before moving on.
With so much happening throughout the issue, from the hostile takeover of Stark Industries to equally awkward family reunions, it would be easy to get lost in it all. However, the A.I. version of Tony Stark is deployed in the role of narrator and creator surrogate. It is a tour guide that makes the epic scope of the issue feel manageable, even to a reader who may not have kept up with the past few years of events. This artificial Tony also serves to comment on the nature of humanity, specifically the Marvel Comics version of humanity. It pokes at tropes and addresses the moral gray areas and messiness that first made the publisher stand out in the Silver Age. At times it becomes difficult to not read it as a love letter and farewell from the writer himself.
This narrative tact also serves to link the many, many artistic styles that form the overall issue. A total of nine different artistic teams contributed, and it is far more effective than in similar arrangements. Each team possesses a distinctive style and is deployed in a specific section of the comic, all of which make an excellent fit for their approach to storytelling. The bright lights and somber mood of Stark's parents reuniting is perfectly matched to Daniel Acuña, while Leinil Francis Yu draws a swarm of supervillains ready for a tussle. Each creator on the issue is well suited for their connection to Bendis as well as their piece of the overall story. There's a delight in remembering Yu's work with Bendis on Secret Empire in addition to seeing him craft a couple of excellent spreads.
It's difficult to forget what this issue means on any level as you read it. Every new scene is designed to wrap up loose ends, commemorate past highlights, and celebrate the creators involved. The winks and nods are not egregious in nature, but they are present. That's a feature of this issue though, not a bug. It is a celebration, and every reader is invited. If you are reading Invincible Iron Man #600, then you have almost surely read Marvel Comics over the past couple of decades. Bendis and his many collaborators present here have been part of those issues, and have come together to appreciate what that work has meant. It is messy at times and offers more to come rather than any definitive conclusion, but that is the way of superhero comics. For those that appreciate the genre, this is a reminder of why we love it, no matter where we might come from.
Published by Marvel Comics
On May 23, 2018
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Stefano Caselli; Alex Maleev; David Marquez; Daniel Acuña; Leinil Francis Yu & Gerry Alanguilan;, Jim Cheung; Mike Deodato Jr.; Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy & Scott Hanna; and Andrea Sorrentino
Colors by Marte Gracia, Alex Maleev, Daniel Acuña, GURU-eFX, Romulo Fajardo, Marceló Maiolo, and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering by Clayton Cowles