Comic Book Review: Iron Man: Director of SHIELD #18

The Knaufs have been the best thing to happen to Iron Man in a very long time. The Revolution absolutely loves the Knaufs’ version of Iron Man. They have made Iron Man one of the best reads that Marvel has on the market. And that is no easy feat considering how Marvel is making a concerted effort to bash Tony’s character in every other Marvel title on the market. I am more than confident that Iron Man #18 is going to be another great read. Let’s do this review.

Creative Team
Writers: Daniel & Charles Knauf
Penciler: Roberto de la Torre
Inker: Jonathon Sibal

Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 10 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: We begin with the mission in the An Hu Po State Psychiatric Facility turning into an ambush. Suddenly, the Helicarrier is infected with the bio-tech mass that sprang forth from Najeeb’s corpse at the end of last issue.

We cut to Iron Man and Alpha Team fighting the cyborgs. Iron Man notices that they have lost contact with the Helicarrier. Iron Man does a scan of all military frequencies. Iron Man then discovers that the Chinese military has been alerted to their presence and current location. That it was given to the Chinese military by someone on the Helicarrier.

We hop back to the Helicarrier where The bio-tech mass is killing and taking control of the Helicarrier’s crew and it has seized all communications and command functions. One of the controlled crewmembers is who tipped off the Chinese. The bio-tech mass then takes over the crewmembers manning the battle stations and turns the Helicarrier’s weapons against itself.

Maria Hill contracts Iron Man and asks him if they should scuttle the Helicarrier. Iron Man says no since it could infect sea life. Iron Man then races back to the Helicarrier. Iron Man tells Dugan to get a chopper and rendezvous with Alpha Team. Iron Man asks Hill in what direction is the Helicarrier headed. Hill responds that they are headed straight for North Korean airspace and will arrive in it in twelve minutes. Maria Hill then triggers a full evacuation alert for the personnel on the Helicarrier.

Dum Dum then contacts Iron Man and informs him that he has secured Alpha Team and they are enroute. Dugan asks where they are supposed to land. Iron Man responds that he has already alerted the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa that they will be landing there.

Iron Man asks Maria if everyone has been evacuated. Maria responds everyone except Maya and Sal have been evacuated. We see Iron Man streaking toward the lab where Maya and Sal were located. Iron Man rescues Maya. However, he is too late for Sal. Iron Man sees Sal’s mutilated body on the floor.

Iron Man thinks how “This nightmare…This nightmare is my father…” (We see a picture of Sal) “…My friend…” (We see a picture of Happy Hogan) “…My brother…” (We see a picture of Captain America). Iron Man then thinks “I..am… Iron Man.”

Iron Man starts blasting away at the bio-tech mass and Sal’s infected body. Iron Man notes that it is regenerating cells faster than he can incinerate them. Iron Man gets Maya out of the lab. Maya yells that Iron Man killed Sal. That months ago she could have developed an Extremis countermeasure, but Iron Man wouldn’t listen to her and now Sal is dead.

Iron Man snaps at Maya to get a grip. Maya responds that the bio-tech mass appears to be some kind of genetically engineered neoplastic tumor. It attacks and assimilates other organisms using their eyes and their hands. That they have to find a way to retard its metastasis.

Suddenly, North Korean fighter planes appear on the scene and inform Iron Man that he is entering the airspace of North Korea and to leave or they will engage him. Iron Man responds that the Helicarrier has been infected by an unknown biological threat. Suddenly, one of the infected SHIELD crewmembers shoots down one of the North Korean fighter planes.

Iron Man quickly accesses the North Korean Air Defense System and executes an ejection command. We see all the pilots in the fighter planes suddenly get ejected from their planes.

Maya then tells Iron Man that the thing attacking the ship is literally a massive neoplasm. A cancer. It spreads by disabling the natural process of apoptosis. That damaged and necrotic cells are no longer eliminated, but continue to multiply. Iron Man responds that the Extremis virus boosts the autoimmune system and accelerates the natural process of programmed cell-death.

Iron Man states that one side-effect of the healing factor that saved his life is a complete immunity to cancer. At least in theory. Tony then stops out of his armor and lets the bio-tech mass attempt to assimilate him. Tony descends into pure terror and an eternity of agony. Then everything goes dark.

We then see Tony break free from the bio-tech mass. There is a big explosion as the bio-tech mass is killed off by Tony’s immune system.

We shift forward several hours to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. Secretary Kooning tells Dugan that the General Assembly is all over him after what Stark pulled in China. That the General Assembly wants Stark fired. Kooning says that Stark is history and that Dugan will be the new Director of SHIELD.

Dugan responds that he has served under some of the best for most of his career. That Nick Fury was the consummate commander and he saw the world for what it was. That Tony Stark sees the world for what it can be. Dugan says that if Stark goes then Dugan goes, too.

We cut to Tony talking with Maria Hill. Tony says that he is missing something. That a series of attacks, seemingly unconnected, but all of them funded by one source and all of them utilizing weaponized biotech and upping the ante every step of the way. All despite the fact that SHIELD has Maya Hansen on the payroll who is the world’s most prolific and innovative biotechnologist.

Tony says all he had to do was push the Extremis button and Sal would be alive. But, Tony couldn’t do that. It was a line he wasn’t coping to cross. Never again. Not after the Civil War and not after Steve Roger’s death. And they know that Tony wouldn’t do it.

Tony says that this entire ambush was just a diversion for something else. Tony says he just wish he knew what it was.

We then cut to Maya Hansen being welcomed to Prometheus Gentech, Inc. in Fremont, Nebraska. Prometheus campaigned hard with Kooning to get Maya on board with them. Prometheus wants to use Maya’s Extremis research to help; the cause of national security. Maya is then introduced to the founder and C.E.O. of Prometheus, Tem Borjigin. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Fantastic. Iron Man #18 was simply incredible. The Knaufs continue to amaze me with their excellent writing on this title. Considering how pedestrian of a read Iron Man has been for such a long time, I never thought the day would come when I would say that Iron Man is arguably the best written Marvel title on the market.

Iron Man #18 was an excellently paced issue. This issue moves along at a fast and frantic pace that keeps the reader at the edge of their seat. The pacing creates a nice feeling of tension in the reader while the fight scene goes from bad to worse as the Knaufs throw everything but the kitchen sink at Iron Man.

The Knaufs provide us with one action packed issue. This was a wild ride. Iron Man first has to deal with an ambush, then the bio-tech mass taking over the Helicarrier, then the bio-tech mass killing Sal, then the North Korean Air Force engaging the Helicarrier and then sacrificing himself to kill off the bio-tech mass. It was crazy seeing just what sticky situation the Knaufs were going to throw at Tony next.

I loved the scene where Tony sees his mentor, Sal, lying on the floor dead. Tony has absolutely been living a nightmare. Tony willingly assumes the lead of the Registration Act push because he doesn’t trust the government with the identities of other super heroes. Tony allows himself to be vilified by the super hero community by supporting the Act because he feels he has to work within the system in order to control how the government treats super heroes. Then Tony’s best friend, Happy Hogan, gets killed. Then Captain America, who Tony views as his brother dies. And now Tony’s mentor Sal gets killed.

Very few characters have had a tougher year than what Tony has had. And through all of this Tony still emerges as a true hero with the heart of a lion. The panel where Tony says “I Am Iron Man” and then starts blasting away at the bio-tech mass was perfect. That Tony is stronger than your normal man. That Tony will never give up no matter what losses he may personally suffer.

The Knaufs continue to amaze me with their excellent sense of Tony’s character. The Knaufs’ Tony Stark is the best version of Tony that I have ever read. Tony Stark a total stud. He is tacos in the bank. Tony is cool under fire. No matter what the Knaufs threw at Tony in this issue, at no point did he waver or crack. No matter what was thrown his way Tony had a solution.

The Knaufs also pump up Tony’s character as a man of integrity and a great leader by having Dum Dum Dugan standing up for Tony and telling Kooning that if Tony goes then so does Dugan. Dugan gives Tony some serious credibility. Dugan has served under great leaders and the Knaufs use Dugan’s unwavering support to impress upon the reader how Tony truly desires to make the world a better place.

And the Knaufs do the little things to show Tony’s good character and heroic nature. Like how Tony wouldn’t scuttle the Helicarrier because it would have hurt the sea life around them. But, most important, is that the Knaufs truly understand what makes a man a hero. It is the willingness to sacrifice himself in order to save innocent lives.

Near the end, Tony sheds the armor and willingly sacrifices himself in order to stop the bio-tech mass. Tony had no idea if the Extremis virus in his body would be enough to kill the bio-tech mass and allow him to survive the experience. However, at no point did Tony even hesitate to sacrifice himself for the possibility of saving his crewmembers.

I am really digging the storyline the Knaufs are weaving on this title. All of these mysterious terrorist attacks are culminating to the much anticipated return of the Mandarin. I cannot wait for the moment when Tony realizes that his greatest nemesis is still alive. This should be a blast. And it is worth nothing that the Knaufs have pretty much ignores The Initiative storyline over here on Iron Man. And that is a very wise move. After all, the Knaufs have to write a character that has been written like a total bitch on every other Marvel title.

It is smart for the Knaufs to avoid The Initiative storylines that gives us the unlikable, fascist and Dick Cheney-esque Tony Stark. I’m glad that the Knaufs are turning a blind eye to The Initiative storylines and are simply focusing on the true essence of Tony Stark and giving us an incredibly well written story about a hero and his impending showdown with his greatest nemesis.

The Knaufs deliver a great ending. Maya ends up turning traitor and going to work for Prometheus. With this traitorous move, Tony suffers yet another personal loss. And is Tem Borjigin the Mandarin? They look awfully similar. And Tem is wearing gloves which would make sense since the Mandarin lost his hands and probably would have some synthetic ones constructed for himself. I’m excited to learn more about Prometheus and what sinister plans they are plotting.

The Bad: I’m still not a fan of Roberto de la Torre’s artwork on Iron Man. There is no doubt that Roberto is talented, however Iron Man is simply the wrong title for his style of art. Roberto would do great on a title like Moon Knight or Daredevil. But, his style is a horrid match for a tech heavy title like Iron Man.

Overall: The Knaufs have managed to accomplish something that has not been seen in a very long time. The Knaufs have actually made Iron Man a wonderful read. I cannot remember when Iron Man ever had such depth and complexities as what the Knaufs have brought to this title.

4 Comments

  1. On art, I agree that Roberto (who was great on Ms. Marvel) is a bit different from the needs of the average Iron Man story, but I think he’s a good choice for this kind of Iron Man story; that is, the espionage-filled, Director of SHIELD-type. Since the story involves those kinds of elements, I assume that was the theory behind putting him on the title, to bring the sort of grit/realism you see in Captain America.

    The definitive Iron Man artist currently working is probably Steve McNiven (Iron Man looked fantastic in every panel of Civil War).

  2. One other comment I have is that Tony’s big moment after recounting all he’s lost is slightly marred for me by the inevitable Black Sabbbath musical cue that kicked up in my mind as soon as I read the “I Am Iron Man” line.

  3. Hey, I loved the issue and your review. I’m failr new to comics but I’ve read all of Iron Man Vol 4 and done some research into the past. Anyway I think the guy at the end was Temugin, the name was far to similar to be a coincidence and I think if he’s not Temugin he’s probably working for the Mandarin.

  4. temujin borjigin was ghengis khan’s birth name. i assume this “tem borjigin” is the mandarin, using an alias that a randomly-educated character [iron man] will eventually recognize. it’s another dell rusk, but not an anagram.

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