International Iron Man

Like that guy you went to university with, the one with the debonair attitude who always seemed unruffled by the news of a sudden quiz, the Tony Stark of International Iron Man is way, way cooler than you will ever be.

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What are the cornerstones of a great opening for a story? Is it foreshadowing? How much expository dialogue is acceptable, and what is the optimum level of exposition? Brian Michael Bendis in this new title leans more towards the school of thought that values flashback (scenes from 20 years ago), as opposed to what’s happening in the now. Not the most Buddhist of approaches, I’ll agree, but that’s not to say that there isn’t much unfolding and that everything that’s needed to be said has been said. Bendis’ preface reveals that Tony has recently found out that the people who raised him weren’t his birth parents, before we’re taken to Bulgaria, and then again whisked away to London.

Am I the only one around here who thinks they could’ve come up with a more engaging or even relevant title for this comic? What’s so international about this iteration of Iron Man anyway? What we’re given so far is that he’s paying his own way at Cambridge University. The visual stylings of Alex Maleev and Paul Mounts on the standard cover suggests that they were given the design cues of ‘Tony Iron Man Stark, international man of mystery.’ There he stands, suited like a boss with his left hand repulsor at the ready. He’s flanked by two gorgeous women (well, one is definitely easier on the eyes) just like we’ve seen James Bond and other spy types do in the past. Ok ok, so it’s just a case of it not being the most fitting name for the book. Am I making too much of a deal about this? Maybe, what’s in a name etc etc…

Now that we’ve moved away from that negative point, maybe we can talk about some of the other things happening here. Show of hands, how many of you thought there were some inconsistencies in terms of Cassandra’s bodyguards. For a bunch of highly-paid and well trained sentinels, they didnt find it difficult to literally lose sight of their primary objective at a student bar brawl during which Cassandra offers a retaliatory punch to an anonymous someone who punched Tony for whatever reason. Later,  the pair of bodyguards retrieve her despite her protests, and taser Tony, who stupidly stayed there instead of making like a tree, and leaving. The inconsistency remained consistent, when the bald musclehead later apologises and asks Tony, to not have his dad kill him. The page’s final panel seems unfinished, thanks to the economics professor’s unattributed final speech balloon.

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And then there are some questions about how much blame should be attributed to the writer or letterer when words are omitted on a page. Maybe I’m wrong, and have missed the latest tweets or snapchats or whatever the fuck the new currency of communication is these days, but there definitely is something amiss in that opening panel of page 11. Hell, what in the fuck happened to editorial ability and due process? Are people content with not scrutinising their work before leaving their stamp on it. Okay, it’s not like this is a newspaper that incorrectly names a hospital as a hotel, but still, someone didn’t cross their t’s here. But let’s not overlook the elements that Bendis has stuck to as though it was a blueprint. The hydra agents out for Gillespie seem to have the word ‘subtlety’ omitted from their code of conduct manuals, almost as if sniper rifles weren’t around 20 years ago. The cherry on the cake is the inevitable grand tradition of the villain’s monologue just as their target is at their most vulnerable.

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The follow-ups to this debut issue are going to address the questions of what led Cassandra to don an eye-patch in the future, maybe even tell us how these two filthy rich beautiful people evade any legal retribution for committing homicide in self-defence and theft of a bodyguard’s livelihood on the doorstep of a swanky London eatery. The issues of family and the inevitable comparisons the characters draw up for themselves against their parents seems to be what Bendis was attempting to highlight here, but this opening flashback issue doesn’t seem to have the room for these ideas to take root and truly blossom. Let’s hope we see something better soon for what should’ve been named the Idiosyncratic Iron Man.

 

Writer – Brian Michael Bendis

Artists – Alex Maleev, Paul Mounts

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