If you ever wanted to explain the difference between being charismatic and being likable to someone, then Tony Stark would provide an excellent example. The new creative team for Iron Man makes no qualms about their subject being likable. Everything about him in Tony Stark: Iron Man #1 could easily rub some (or many readers) the wrong way. He’s brash, arrogant, self-absorbed, and never able to behave in a truly genuine manner, even when saying all of the right things. That doesn’t make him an uncharismatic individual or a bad person though. There’s plenty to like about this issue, but its hero ultimately presents a bigger conflict than a certain oversized villains (spoilers below) who appears for a seaside battle. It could present the hook for a great new take on Iron Man, or develop into a substantial problem.
Before delving into the newest spin on Tony Stark, it’s worth taking a look at his new look. Valerio Schiti provides some continuity for fans of both the prior Invincible Iron Man run and the end of Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man. While it would be unfair to categorize Schiti’s work as a house style, it’s the sort of approach to superhero storytelling that would do the industry good if used as a standard. The panel layouts are crystalline in their progression without every relying on grids or becoming redundant. Inset panels help multiple spreads to breathe and construct inviting new settings. The labs of Stark Industries combined with some shots of the New York City skyline make the adventures of Iron Man feel larger than life. He also has a knack for comedic timing. While some jokes don’t work, each is laid out beautifully with one particularly uproarious moment landing perfectly on a page turn. Schiti helps start out Tony Stark: Iron Man on the right foot and will only make the series look its absolute best in issues to come.
The future path for Iron Man isn’t exactly clear based on this issue though as its approach to the hero isn’t clearly critical or surprisingly laudatory. It rests somewhere in the middle between acknowledging Stark’s personality flaws as a driver of conflict and waving them away with a neat happy ending. This balance is displayed in a conflict that predates Iron Man between a young Tony Stark and roboticist Andy Bhang. As an adolescent Stark embarrassed the well intentioned and intelligent Bhang, setting up a possible hero-villain dynamic. Instead, Bhang is revealed to be a diligent and talented man merely put off by Stark’s antics. Yet when Stark arrives at his doorstep he still fails to show even a hint of humility or regret.
It is the sort of arrangement that makes one wonder why Bhang wouldn’t resort to supervillainy, especially considering his new treatment by Stark, no matter how nicely he frames it. At best their relationship speaks to unintentional bullying, and that is only addressed through a superficial speech and forms of benevolence. Iron Man keeps repeating that he is a changed man, but that isn’t apparent in the story itself. This sort of conflict will develop into either a critical flaw or core theme of the series ahead, but in this one issue it only asks the question as to what sort of story this will be, without any satisfactory conclusion.
There is a lot of potential in Tony Stark: Iron Man #1. Schiti is an undeniably great pick for the first issue, executing new concepts like a nesting doll arrangement of armors wonderfully. Slott is charming in the exact ways that fans have come to expect. His story aims big, taps into the history of Marvel, and offers plenty of jokes. The direction is unclear though, and it’s difficult to understand how this presentation of Tony Stark aligns with concerns of ethics in technology, mass corporate control, and egoism. That is concerning because these are all topics addressed in the debut and appear to be a key element of the road ahead. It’s simply unclear what sort of road that will be and if these concerns will lead to greatness or folly.
Published by Marvel Comics
On June 20, 2018
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Valerio Schiti
Colors by Edgar Delgado
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Alexander Lozano