Comic Book Review: Iron Man #14: Civil War

The Knaufs’ run on Iron Man has been nothing short of spectacular. It is no secret that The Revolution has been a longtime fan of Iron Man. It makes me thrilled to see talented writers on Iron Man who honestly get Tony Stark’s character. The Knaufs have made Iron Man a great read. And that certainly hasn’t been the case in a long time. I am positive that even though Iron Man #14 is a Civil War tie-in issue that it is going to be a great read. Let’s hit the review.

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

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 10 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: We begin with Tony Stark at a meeting with his fellow pro-registration heroes. Someone narrates the scene like they are observing Tony. The voice says that all they need is five minutes with Tony. However Tony is never alone. That Tony is flippant and self deprecating when he needs to be. Distilling and calculating and calling all the shots. That Tony is relentlessly on the move pursuing his agenda. Always the visionary.

During this monologue we see Reed Richards telling Tony that they have discovered that Captain America has been using a certain type of technology to communicate with his anti-registration supporters. They haven’t cracked the code yet, but could flood the transmission with tons of chatter to make it difficult for them to use it. Bishop says they shouldn’t tip their hand that they know how the anti-registration side is communicating. Tony agrees and says maintain radio silence until they can crack the code.

We see Tony at the metahuman training base in Quantico, Virginia watching a training session. The voice says that Tony is relentlessly pursuing his agenda. That is ever the visionary. Then we see Tony checking out the operations at the super human rehab center where all the captured super villains are being held. The voice says that Tony is obsessed with victory by any means necessary.

Then we see Tony at a hospital in New York. The voice questions what Tony is up to at this hospital. Tony is with Pepper Potts visiting Happy Hogan. Happy is in a coma and hooked up to life support. The doctors say that there is no hope for Happy to recover.

Tony and Pepper go get something to eat in the hospital cafeteria. Pepper is antsy to get back to Happy’s room. Tony tells her that the Extremis virus allows him to access, command and control virtually all forms of digital technology. That Tony is tapped into Happy’s neuro unit and he is monitoring his life-support equipment.

Pepper tells Tony a story about when Happy took her to the Cauliflower Club. It was a big group of ex-boxers that would meet a local Italian restaurant. At the event Happy points out an boxer named Cobra McCoyle. That he was a good boxer, but was always just one step away from being a real contender. That the massive amounts of punches that he took over his career made him a vegetable. We see McCoyle sitting motionless in a chair. His old manager has to feed McCoyle since McCoyle can’t feed himself. Happy tells Pepper that McCoyle is one reason why he decided to retire early.

Pepper tells Tony that Happy always said that he never wanted to end up like Cobra McCoyle. Pepper holds Tony’s hand and just looks at him. Tony says “No.” Pepper says that she isn’t asking Tony to actually do anything. That all Tony has to do is think it. Tony said it would be murder. Pepper counters that it would just be a glitch in the system. An equipment malfunction that happens ever once in a while. And for Happy it would be a blessing. That nobody would ever find out or know. Tony responds that he would know. Pepper gets mad at Tony and quickly leaves. The voice then says “Never alone. Always alone. Iron Man.”

We see Tony go to an electronic store. The voice wonders what Tony is up to now. We see Tony build a small device to hack into Captain America’s communication system and he tells Steve that they need to talk. That Tony agrees to a conventional military parlay. Just the two of them and no one else. No fighting or anything.

The two men meet at Yankee Stadium. Tony says he has just one question and he wanted to see Steve’s eyes when he answers it. Tony asks Steve if he had anything to do with the attack on Happy Hogan. Captain America says no and that if anyone under his command did then he would immediately turn them over to Tony. Tony then asks what about the Punisher? Before Captain America can answer, the lights at Yankee Stadium suddenly turn on and the anti-registration heroes attack Tony. Luke Cage tells Silhouette to crab Captain America and leave. Silhouette comes from under the ground and grabs Cap and they both phase back through the ground.

Tony suits up in his Iron Man armor. Iron Man asks Luke Cage how Jessica is doing. Luke says just fine. Iron Man proceeds to open up a can of whup ass on Luke. Iron Man then takes down blonde female in an orange and green costume. I don’t recognize who she is. That leaves just Spider-Man. Iron Man tells Peter that the Iron Spider outfit gave Tony data on Spider-Man’s spider sense. That Tony used it to create his own spider sense. It also enabled him to neutralize Spider-Man’s spider sense or to transmit false positives. Iron Man disappears. Spider-Man’s spider sense then tells him that Iron Man is behind him and In fact, Iron Man is in from of him and Iron Man blasts Spider-Man.

Tony takes off his helmet and tells Peter that he trusted him. That Peter let everyone down on both sides. Tony says that he should have them all arrested, but he agreed to a parlay with Captain America. Tony tells Peter to tell Captain America that no matter what he thinks of him that Tony Stark is still a man of his word.

We shift to Tony in his penthouse. The voice says “Always alone. Never alone.” Tony stands staring at a bottle of Johnny Walker Black. Tony pours himself a glass of whiskey. The voice then says “Four ounces of grain alcohol. That it is all it would take to turn the tide of this war in our favor.” Tony stares out the window and puts the glass to his mouth and just before he can take a drink, something invisible smacks the glass of whiskey out of his hand.

Suddenly, the Invisible Woman appears and tells Tony that drinking is not the answer. Sue tells Tony that she has been shadowing him all day waiting for the right opportunity to talk to him. Sue wants Tony to stop what he is doing and what he is making Reed do. Sue says that Reed idolizes Tony so much that it is disgusting how eager Reed is to please Tony.

Tony scoffs saying, yeah, he is a Zen puppet master. Tony continues that did it ever occur to Sue that Reed agreed with Tony? Or is that too much for Sue’s ego to handle?

Sue yells that Tony destroyed their marriage and slaps Tony across the face. Tony responds Sue is the one who destroyed her marriage. Tony asks her if she realizes that Reed has been hanging on by his finger nails. That everyone has been. That everyone has been hurt by this war.

Sue retorts everyone but Tony has been hurt. That Tony pays people to get hurt for him. Sue says that she was at the hospital and she saw Pepper pleading with Tony to end Happy’s shell of an existence.

Tony clenches his fist and punches out on the windows. His fist starts bleeding all over the place. Tony tells Sue to get out. Sue apologizes and says she didn’t mean it. Tony says he understands and asks Susan to please leave. Now.

We cut to Tony pouring his bottle of whiskey down the kitchen sink. He then sits down in a chair and begins to pray the “Our Father” prayer. We see Reed putting his children to bed. We see Peter sitting on the edge of his bed staring at his Spider-Man mask. We see Happy Hogan lying in his hospital bed. We then see the life support machine turn off. Happy peacefully passes away. End of issue.

The Good: In-freaking-credible. I was stunned after reading Iron Man #14. My mouth was open and my heart felt like it had stopped beating. I set the comic book down and just stared into space for a little bit. I then picked up the comic book and read it a second time. Yup. Nothing changed. Iron Man #14 is officially my favorite issue of Iron Man that I have ever read.

I have been reading Iron Man since I was 6. I have built a complete run on Iron Man dating all the way back to Iron Man #5, volume 1. There have been many great issues. However, Iron Man has been nowhere as good as it was back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I was sure that there was no way with the current direction of Iron Man over the past several years that any future issue would be able to beat out some of the older issues as my favorite issue. I was wrong. And kudos to the supremely talented Knaufs for doing what I thought was impossible.

I have been impressed with the Knaufs and their handling of Tony’s character so far in their run, but Iron Man #14 delivers one of the best character studies of Tony Stark that I have ever read. Tony Stark has always been a pretty one-dimensional character for most of his history. However, the Knaufs have been crafting an incredibly deep personality for Tony Stark.

In Iron Man #14, the Knaufs peel back the many layers of Tony Stark and show the reader every side of one of Marvel’s most complex character. And using Invisible Woman as the literary tool to give the reader a nice view of what Tony Stark does in one day and to provide for an interesting running dialogue at the same time was a great idea.

In this issue we see the various sides of Tony Stark’s personality. His humor, his anger and his sorrow. We see everything that Tony Stark is. A leader, a visionary, a genius, an inventor, a calculating decision maker, a warrior, a friend and an alcoholic. We see Tony’s ego that has few rivals and his supreme confidence in his abilities and his strength and charisma that he exudes to those around him. We also see his weakness and his self doubt and pain that consumes him when he is alone.

I liked how the Knaufs really drove home the aspect that Tony Stark is a man who is technically never alone. He is always busy doing something or meeting with someone. However, he is a man who is truly alone. He has no one close to him that he can confide in. He has no one to turn to in a moment of weakness. And he wraps himself up in a suit of armor that becomes a physical barrier that symbolizes the emotional barrier that he has put up to all of those around him.

The scene with Pepper at the hospital was very emotional. Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan are longtime supporting cast members of Iron Man. It is tough to think about Iron Man and not think about those two characters. It was hard seeing Pepper in such pain while Happy is a complete vegetable hooked up to a life-support machine. Pepper’s request was understandable. Not many people want to be hooked to life-support with no hope of recovery.

Tony’s position was also understandable. Who wants to be the one who has to technically kill one of their best friends? Life-support and the right to die is a sticky subject. Personally, I support a person’s right to die. However, it would be incredibly hard for me to pull the plug on a loved one.

I scene with Tony calling Captain America in order to set up a military parlay was very interesting. In almost every Civil War tie-in issue, writers like Bendis and JMS make Tony look like a total dickhead and Captain America like a saint. However, in this scene Tony refers to Cap as “Steve” while Captain America refers to Iron Man as “Stark.” Tony comes off as the more rational person in this scene while Captain America seems more like an angry zealot.

The meeting between Tony and Captain America was fantastic. Captain America certainly comes across as the more hostile one of the two men. The sudden appearance of Captain America’s anti-registration members was an interesting twist. It begs the question of whether or not Captain America agreed to the parlay only to get a chance to launch a direct strike against Tony while he was alone. If Captain America succeeded in taking down Tony then the pro-registration side would certainly crumble.

Was Captain America nothing more than mere bait in order to trap Tony? It is very possible. You certainly didn’t see Captain America yelling for them to stop or struggling to break free from Silhouette. Instead he just said “No.” and kind of looked ashamed.

It is possible that Captain America didn’t believe that Tony was going to honor the parlay so Captain America brought some of his people with him. Either way, in the end after Tony took down all of the anti-registration members, he could have easily arrested each of them and dealt a crippling blow to the anti-registration side.

However, Tony is a man of his word. He invited Captain America under the terms of the parlay. Tony came alone. Tony trusted Captain America. Tony honored his word. Can Captain America say the same to any of those statements? It certainly doesn’t look like it.

And I have to admit that after all the character assassinations that Tony has undergone in all of the other Civil War tie-in issues, it was awesome to see him just beat the hell out of the anti-registration members. Yeah, that’s right, my boy Iron Man took on three anti-registration members including Spider-Man and Luke Cage and bitch slapped them all. You can’t screw with Tony Stark. If you mess with the bull, you’ll get the horns, baby.

But, as great as the rest of the issue was, the ending was just fantastic. The Knaufs deliver an incredibly powerful and emotionally charged ending. I wasn’t surprised that Tony would stare longingly at a bottle of Johnny Walker Black. However, I was surprised that if it hadn’t been for Invisible Woman spying on Tony then you would have actually drunk the alcohol! Tony would have fallen back off the wagon for the first time in a very long time. I thought this was a great move by the Knaufs to show just how much of a toll the Civil War has taken on Tony.

So many people think that Tony doesn’t care about anyone. That he has no feelings. Everyone is completely wrong. I get the impression that Tony Stark is getting torn up more over the events of Civil War than any other character including Captain America. Why, over in Captain America’s comic book, he is having adventures trying to find the Red Skull and sleeping with Sharon Carter. Captain America only has to think about himself and his personal crusade.

On the other hand, Tony has the weight of the world on his shoulders and has been driven to the point where he was about to start drinking again. The Civil War has had a devastating impact on Tony and seeing him about to drink down that Johnny Walker really drove the point home.

The scene between Tony and Sue was very well written. Tony has been everyone’s favorite whipping boy in every other Civil War tie-in issues. Tony gets blamed for everything going on in Civil War as well as things like global warming, rainy days and the inclusion of Jar Jar Binks into Episode I of Star Wars.

Finally, the Knaufs get to flip the script on everyone. Sue, in her blind egotistical rage blames Tony for her marriage breaking apart. The fact is it is Sue who has to shoulder the blame. She abandoned her husband and children. Reed has been barely functional since Sue left. Reed did nothing to Sue to warrant her leaving him and the children. Reed is simply doing what he thinks is right. If Sue can’t accept that her husband actually supports the pro-registration side then that is her own issue, not Tony’s. And Sue leaving her husband and children and crushing Reed’s spirit is also her own fault.

And then the moment where Sue accuses Tony of hiring other people to get hurt for him was just a cruel and vicious move on her part. Tony would do anything for Happy and sacrifice his life for Happy. And Tony’s violently emotional reaction was perfect. The Knaufs have done a good job giving Tony an edge and some attitude and his violent responds just further cemented this new aspect of his personality.

However, what Sue said did make Tony realize that he owed it to Happy to allow Happy his right to die. The pain that it would cause Tony to “kill” his close friend is something Tony can bear because he knows Happy would want things this way. That Happy would never want to live on life-support alone. The final page with Tony saying the “Our Father” prayer was fantastic. Tony mans up in this page. He gets rid of the whiskey and then sits down and does what he has to do and let’s Happy die peacefully.

I’ll miss Happy. He is a great character. I hate to see him die, but the Knaufs did it in a classy and wonderful manner. Happy got to go out fighting like he always would have wanted. And having Tony have to disconnect Happy from the life-support is going to serve as a great tool to further Tony’s character development. Normally, I would be blasting the decision to kill Happy. I would be absolutely slamming the writer for killing off Happy. But, the Knaufs did such an incredible job that I just can’t complain.

Patrick Zircher delivers some quality artwork. I’m still not overly impressed with how Zircher draws Iron Man. However, Zircher still creates a nice looking comic book. Zircher is certainly able to convey plenty of emotion in his characters which only helps to boost an already well written story.

The Bad: No complaints with this issue.

Overall: Iron Man #14 was an awesome read. Iron Man #14 was basically the Knaufs giving the middle finger to all the writers like Bendis and JMS who have just continually killed Tony’s character in all the various Civil War tie-in issues. With the Knaufs in control of Iron Man this title has definitely become one of Marvel’s stronger titles. If you haven’t given this title a try then you really should. Iron Man is definitely worth your money.

4 thoughts on “Comic Book Review: Iron Man #14: Civil War

  1. Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War was also a great read that gave an insightful look into Tony Stark’s character. And it actually offered what the rest of Civil War was supposed to, a balanced look at the debate that acknowledged the complexities of both sides of the argument. I’m looking forward to your review of this one.

  2. I agree with the previous comment. As a fellow Iron Man fan I was delighted with both Iron Man 14 and the Iron Man/Captain America special. Both fantastic reads that give real insight into what Tony is going through. Hope you pick a copy up and give a review.

  3. What pisses me off is that everyone of these whiney anti-registration fans would be screaming for the government to register super-powered persons existed and caused the damage they do in the Marvel universe.
    It’s the worst sort of hypocrisy.
    Tony Stark is a genuine hero. As is Reed Richards. And as a fan of the FF for 30+ years, I’ll tell you – Reed is no simpering Tony Stark groupie. He is a brilliant man with his own ideas and beliefs.
    The Marvel writers have absolutely no idea how to write many of the characters involved in the Civil War. I just hope they don’t totally destroy Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic.

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