Comic Book Review: Iron Man #13

The Revolution has enjoyed the Knaufs’ run on Iron Man. They have done an excellent job fleshing out Tony Stark and have made Iron Man a great read. And it has been a long time since Iron Man was a really good read. The Knaufs are now deep into the Civil War storyline and I expect that Iron Man #13 will give us some insight into why Tony is doing what he is doing. Since the Knaufs seem to be the only Marvel writers who “get” Tony Stark and have any respect and love for his character, I have faith in them explaining why Tony is supporting the Pro-Registration side. All right, let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
Writers: Daniel & Charles Knauf
Penciler: Patrick Zircher
Inker: Scott Hanna

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: This issue begins with Tony Stark recording a Public Service Announcement concerning the Stamford tragedy and the Registration Act. At the same time, Tony is also remotely controlling his armor and helping his fellow teammates battle a Dreadnought in the middle of New York City. In the Public Service Announcement, Tony talks about the hundreds of innocent people that died in Stamford. That the heroes in Stamford had good intentions. However, good intentions alone don’t equal good outcomes. That without proper training and oversight, good intentions are meaningless. And that means the death of innocent people. Deaths of innocent children.

Tony continues that all heroes miss the days when you could charge into a crisis, take down the bad guys and then disappear into the night. However, Stamford has shown us that those days are over. Tony mentions how the opponents of the Registration Act cite their countless acts of heroism, their untarnished reputations and uncompromising dedication to the principles of justice and moral virtue. That all heroes hate being painted with the same brush as the heroes responsible for the Stamford tragedy. However, Tony counters that the every people heroes have pledged to serve no longer trust the heroes. That heroes must regain a measure of that trust and the Registration Act will accomplish that goal. That there must never be a Stamford tragedy every again.

During the taping of the Public Service Announcement, we cut back and forth between Tony in the sound studio and his Iron Man armor kicking butt on the Dreadnaught in New York. We see Iron Man destroy the Dreadnaught (Tony can do both at the same time with little effort, because he is a stud like that.)

We cut to Tony leaving the recording studio. Secretary of Defense Kooning pulls up in a big limo. Tony gets in the limo to chat with Secretary Kooning. Kooning tells Tony that a lot of important people changed their minds about him ever since Tony decided to support the Registration Act. That the President deeply appreciates Tony’s position. Tony us nonplussed and comments that the President told him his appreciation while they were golfing. Tony says that he could care less what important people think about him. Especially important people who view this Registration Act as one small part of a broader agenda.

Kooning then asks Tony how he would feel about becoming the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Tony immediately says no. Tony then goes to open the limo door when Kooning grabs Tony’s arm. Kooning tells Tony that he covered Tony’s ass when the was being controlled by Yinsen’s kid. That there were over two hundred civilians on the airplane that Yinsen commanded Tony to destroy. Kooning tells Tony that he would be Speedball if it weren’t for Kooning covering for him. Tony tells Kooning to take his hand off his arm or Tony is going to break it. Tony leaves the limo and Kooning tells him that the offer for Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. still stands.

We shift to the offices of Karim Mahwash Najeeb, the chairman of the World Islamic Peace Coalition. Najeeb is on the phone with one of his thugs who is in Bangkok. The thug says that he has procured the second of the ten. The thugs says that he still hasn’t found “the man” they are searching for. That the people who have “the man” in custody are leaving a trial of death behind them. Najeeb instructs his thug to continue his search. Najeeb then tells his thug to call the Spymaster and enlist his services for their cause.

We then cut to Sal Kennedy’s house, where Sal, Maya and Tony are all talking. Tony jokes that he can’t afford the pay cut and that is why he isn’t taking the job as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Tony says that ever since he supported the Registration Act, that he has attracted flies from both the far left and far right. That right wing nutters are asking Tony to support the Patriot Act and limousine liberal wackos are asking Tony to support gun control. Sal then tells Tony that he doesn’t think Tony is nearly as sure about his position that he is going to have to be in order to see this through to the end.

We shift to a couple of day later as a depressed Tony just sits around and mopes all day at Sal’s house. Sal calls Pepper Hogan and tells her that he has never seen Tony so depressed. We then zip to Happy Hogan showing up and dragging a pathetic Tony out of his bed. Happy tells Tony that he and Pepper are celebrating their anniversary tonight. Happy tells Tony to talk to him. Tony says that he knows he is doing the right thing in order to protect the heroes’ role in society. That there must be some accountability. However, everywhere Tony turns, there is some political opportunist who supports Tony’s cause for all the wrong reasons or some muscle bound infant in tights who thinks the whole thing will go away if we wish hard enough.

Tony says that registration was inevitable and that Tony is trying to keep it from getting out of hand. Tony says imagine if some public sector bureaucrat slob was running the Registration process? It would be a mess. Tony says “Why can’t they see I’m trying to protect them?” Happy tells Tony that he just referred to super heroes as “they” and not “we/” That Tony is thinking just because he didn’t get bit by a radioactive spider or bombarded with some space rays then who is he to be making the rules? Happy says that Tony doesn’t think he has the right to do this. Happy says that is crap. Tony is the only cape that is both a regular human and also a super hero. Whop else can see both sides the way Tony does. Who else can make sure things are fair. Happy’s speech sets Tony straight and pulls him out of his depression.

We cut to Happy next to Tony’s limo after he dropped Tony off at his private jet. Happy calls Pepper and tells her that he will meet her at the theater in a couple of hours. Suddenly, the Spymaster appears and beats up Happy. Spymaster dials Tony on Happy’s cell phone and Happy mumbles the words “Spymaster” into the phone.

Spymaster then sets up a sniper rifle with a vibranium bullet and prepares to wait for Iron Man to show up so he can kill him. Suddenly, Happy yells “Round 2!” and starts punching away at Spymaster. During the brawl, the two men fall off the scaffolding they were on and crash to the ground. Happy appears to be dying and says “I’m sorry Pepper.” We then cut to Pepper at the theater waiting for Happy. End of issue.

The Good: It is official. I love the Knaufs. They are doing what hasn’t been done on Iron Man in a long time: making it an incredible read. Iron Man #13 was an excellent read. The Knaufs are able to give a nicely balanced mix of action and drama in this issue. This issue had a perfect steady and measured pace that accented the moral dilemma raging inside of Tony. As always, the Knaufs craft some excellent dialogue and are quickly establishing impressive chemistry between Tony and all of the various supporting characters.

But, what is so impressive and pleasing is that the Knaufs flat out know how to write Tony Stark’s character without just aping what has been done in the past. The Knaufs clearly understand the essence and foundation of Tony’s character and are masterfully fleshing out Tony’s personality with respect to the Registration Act. You can tell that the Knaufs like Tony’s character and respect Iron Man’s long and proud history and tradition.

I really feel bad for the Knaufs. I can just imagine how it went when Joey Q offered them the job to write Iron Man. “Hey guys, I want you both to write Iron Man. Now, here’s the deal, we are going to totally assassinate Tony’s character in every single book in the Marvel Universe. All the other writers are going to portray Tony as a goose stepping asshole. This will probably kill any and all interest in Tony’s character and, therefore, seriously reduce the chance that you guys will get good sales numbers during your run on Iron Man. OK? All right, well good luck!”

Well, to the Knaufs’ credit, they have assumed an almost impossible job and really done an incredible job ignoring all the character assassination that is going on in the other titles and delivering a Tony Stark that would make Bob Layton and David Michelinie proud. I absolutely love the Knaufs’ Tony Stark. TO me, this is vintage Tony Stark. He is a complex individual that is hard to classify and describe.

You see Tony’s backbone of steel and unwavering confidence as he deals with Kooning. Tony doesn’t back down from anyone and certainly isn’t intimidated or impressed by so called powerful people. You see Tony’s commitment to justice and doing the right thing in decision to support the Registration Act regardless of the agendas of the far left and far right. You see Tony’s weakness that he hides from the world as he is torn inside about having to deal with the entire Registration mess. And you see Tony’s genius and power as he is able to simultaneously record a Public Service Announcement and kick ass as Iron Man all at the same time. Talk about the ultimate multi-tasker!

The Knaufs did an absolutely brilliant job explaining why Tony supports the Registration Act. After the Stamford tragedy, it is clear that Registration was inevitable. It was either than or all super heroes activity would be declared illegal and S.H.I.E.L.D. would have come after everyone. The Knaufs showed that to think any other way is being incredibly naïve. Plus, we get to see how Tony is supporting the Act in order to mitigate the damage. That the government was going to do something no matter what, so it is better that Tony is in charge rather than some idiot who is going to screw things up and make things worse. I also like that the Knaufs showed that Tony is not beholden to any one political group and clearly has no use for politicians and their agendas.

The best part of the reason why Tony is supporting the Act is that Tony is one of the few super heroes who is not a metahuman. He is truly from both sides and is able to see things from both angles. Tony isn’t part of the super hero aristocracy who view themselves as superior to mere humans. Tony isn’t part of the general masses who view all heroes as irresponsible dangers. Tony is a mixture of both. What a brilliant move by the Knaufs.

This was by far and away the most impressive effort in illustrating Tony’s motivations. The Knaufs effort to portray Tony’s position and his motivation absolutely put Bendis and JMS’ portrayals of Tony to shame. The Knaufs expose Bendis and JMS for not even attempting to show Tony Stark as anything other than a Nazi.

The Knaufs detailed and well thought out explanations for why Tony does what he does makes Bendis and JMS look like amateurs who are more interested in preaching their political views rather than attempting to be a professional and craft a compelling and complex story. And that is what is so amazing. Bendis and JMS are talented big named comic book writers. And here come the Hollywood writers in the Knaufs to show the comic book writers how to craft a detailed and morally complex world full of depth and texture.

And unlike Bendis and JMS, the Knaufs demonstrate that you can write a Civil War tie-in issue that deals with the Civil War storyline, but still develops some title’s own non-Civil War plotlines. In Iron Man #13, the Knaufs bring back Najeeb and show us that he is not the benevolent spokesman for peace that he claims to be. I am curious as to what are the ten things that Najeeb’s thug is collecting. I’m also intrigued about the identity of the man that Najeeb’s thug is trying to find. And then the fact that Najeeb is enlisting the services of long time Iron Man nemesis, the Spymaster just spices up the plot even more. Najeeb is clearly going to be a force to be reckoned with. This scene whetted my appetite for more about Najeeb and to find out exactly what are his nefarious plans.

And last, but certainly not least, what a hell of an ending!! Please don’t tell me that Happy Hogan is dead! Even if he is, at least Happy went out brawling like the heavy weight champ that he is. The last page was very touching. Happy and Pepper are like peanut butter and jelly. Yeah, they have had their problems in the past, but I have always had a soft spot in my heart for this couple. I really hope that Happy lives, but if not, this was a powerful and dramatic death and I’m sure the Knaufs will handle the impact of it properly.

Zircher provides some solid artwork. I like how Zircher draws Tony more than how he draws Iron Man. I just don’t think that Zircher’s style fits a hi-tech title like Iron Man.

The Bad: No complaints with this issue.

Overall: Iron Man #13 was a great read. The Knaufs continue to impress me with each and every issue. I hope that they stay on Iron Man for a good long time. Iron Man #13 went a long way in getting me to appreciate the Civil War storyline a little bit more than I previously did. I just wish Marvel had tried to weave a complex story from the start with Civil War. At any rate, Iron Man is an excellent title. I know Marvel doesn’t want you to like this character, but give Iron Man a chance. I don’t think too many people will be disappointed.