Oh, boy, look at this. Brian Bendis writing my all-time favorite Marvel super hero. Words fail me. Bendis might be the last writer I would ever pick to write an Iron Man title. Why? Just check out our old Civil War tie-in reviews and you will find out more than enough reasons why. Bendis has never liked Tony’s character. Bendis has never understood Tony’s character. On top of that, Bendis is about the last writer I would ever pick to scribe a Sci Fi themed title. Bendis’ strengths lie with street level characters and teen characters. Bendis struggles when presented with Sci Fi based characters.
It will be interesting to see if Bendis can overcome his usual deficiencies in terms of struggling to avoid his well worn and tired “Bendis speak” as well as struggling to deliver strongly plotted stories that move forward in a focused fashion. If nothing else, I do know we will certainly get a nice looking comic book since David Marquez is handling the art duties for this new title. Let’s hope for the best and hit this review.
Words: Brian Bendis
Art: David Marquez
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin in Montreal with Whitney Frost (Madame Masque) and Iron Man battling each other. Whitney now appears to have some serious magical powers. Whitney breaches Tony’s armor. Friday then ejects Tony out of the building and high into the sky where he floats safely away from the battle. Friday then reforms the armor and continues to fight Whitney. (Wow, that did not take long. Just three pages in and Bendis has Tony ejected from the armor and flying high into the sky and floating there. How does Tony do this? Who knows! Science Fiction is hard, man! You can’t expect Bendis to try and think up an explanation. It’s Bendis Magic! Presto! Shit just happens!)
We then cut to MIT. (Oh, thank heaven we cut away from that action scene!! We might have actually gotten to see the battle! That would just be unacceptable. Instead, I hope we get a nice exciting scene full of panels of talking heads. That would rock on an Iron Man title.) Tony is sitting on the floor of a lab. Amara walks in the lab. (Amara is the brilliant and incredibly hot, of course, scientist that Tony went on a date with in the prior issue. Amara would not kiss Tony and he had to cut his date with her short. This kind of looks like a scene from a 1980’s teen movie. Maybe Breakfast Club? How old is Tony in the ANAD Marvel Universe? 18? He is dressed like a teenager. T-shirt over a long sleeved shirt, jeans and some fresh kicks.)
Tony explains how he nearly got killed by Madame Masque and heading to Amara was the first thing that he thought about. (You nearly get killed and the first place you think to run to is the workplace of the woman who you have only gone on one date with?! That is either A: Incredibly creepy, needy and stalker-like. B: Something an immature teen-ager would do. C: All of the above.) And cue the “Bendis Speak!” Tony and Amara engage in riveting dialogue like repeating each others lines, talking about tea, belly button lint and doing the laundry. (Sorry, my eyes rolled back into my head and my brain started to eat itself in order to protect me from this mindless dialogue.)
Tony tells Amara that he did not run out on her because she did not kiss him. Tony talks about not having a lot of friends. That being rich doesn’t mean you don’t have problems. (Oh my god. Fucking end it all now. Is Tony in the ANAD Marvel Universe an emo 16 year old?) Tony then tells Amara about his fight with Whitney.
We flashback and see Tony on the rooftop of the building controlling his armor remotely. Whitney trash talks Tony. Tony only replies by saying “Rude.” (Uh, is Bendis really referencing an almost 10 year old comedy skit?) Whitney ends up teleporting away from the scene. Tony then tells his armor to call Dr. Strange.
We cut back to the Breakfast Club. Amara is seated on the floor next to mopey Tony. They engage in more “Bendis Speak.” Tony says that Whitney is gathering powerful magical items for some unknown agenda. (Yeah, we pretty much knew that at the beginning of this issue. Great plot progression.) Amara then asks why Tony came here. That he just met her.
Tony replies that once he met her he realized that she was completely out of his league. That Amara is intellectually and morally better than Tony. That she even has better hair. Tony says that he cannot shake the idea that becoming the man that would actually deserve Amara would be a very good goal in his life. (Seriously? Tony must be 16 years old. This is the type of weird idol worshipping of a woman that you barely know that a teen-age boy would engage in. This is 1 part creepy and 1 part stupid.)
Amara responds that what Tony said was an absolutely lovely thing to say. (No! A normal rational woman would say “You are a creeper and I’m not perfect and this whole situation is getting weird.) Amara then kisses Tony. Tony says “Wow.” (*Flips table and walks out of room* Seriously? Tony, who has always been a middle aged character and has slept with roughly 52,349 women, would not say “wow” to a single kiss. Now, a 16 year old boy might.)
Friday then interrupts and says that Dr. Strange is on the line. Tony is not pleased by Friday’s timing. (Wackiness ensues!) Amara then says that now she believes that Tony did not walk out on their date because she refused to kiss him. After 8 pages of this scene Tony says that it just occurred to him that he should have called. (I feel as if Bendis is actively trying to make Tony come off as stupid as possible.)
Tony promises to call as soon as he has everything figured out. The two then kiss again. Tony then says “Hail Hydra.” Amara is confused. Tony apologizes and say that he was just checking. (Uhhhh, WTF?! Because if Amara was truly a Hydra agent she would have reflexively blurted out “Hail Hydra” in response?) Amara says that was random. Tony says not in his world. (And not random when reading a comic crammed full of mind numbing “Bendis Speak.”)
We then cut to Dr. Strange’s mansion. Strange and Tony discuss the new handsome looking Dr. Doom. (Ugly people need not apply to the ANAD Marvel Universe!) Tony points out that even though Doom is now handsome that he still does not have Tony and Strange’s “kick-ass facial hair.” (Yup. Hilarious. This ANAD Tony is definitely 16 years old.) Evidently, Doom is gaining control of mystic artifacts from different dimensions. That Madame Masque is hunting for these items as well.
Strange then feels a mystical disturbance in the Force as Madame Masque attempts to use a mystic power source to pull energy from another dimension. Strange locates Madame Masque to a place in Marina del Rey, California. Tony replies “Ew.” (Uhhh, I don’t get it. Is this some inside baseball that is only understood by people who live near and around Marina del Rey? Or is this just more random “Bendis Speak?”)
Strange tells Tony to contact him if he needs his help. Tony then puts his hand up for a high five. Strange has his back to Tony and says “No.” We proceed to burn 1 and 1/2 pages just for a single lame gag. Tony keeps his hand up with a stupid look on his face like his name was Theodore Logan. Strange finally gives Tony a high five and Tony yells out “Awesome facial hair bros!” (Party on, dude!! Something is definitely afoot at the Circle K! This would be lame even if Bendis had written this back when Bill and Ted were actually current and topical.) Strange says “I hate you.” (And we all now hate Bendis for having wasted 15 minutes of our life with this pointless issue.)
We cut to Marina del Rey where Iron Man arrives at the location that Dr. Strange had tracked Madam Masque. Whitney is gone. Tony sees a tape recorder. He presses play. Whitney then goes on a long rambling “Bendis Speak” diatribe that rehashes the same tired dialogue we have already heard at this point. Whitney rags on Tony. She says that Tony never brings out the best in people. Tony responds “Rude.” (Holy crap. This is the second time Bendis has had Tony says “Rude” in this issue. Seriously? Bendis is referencing a nearly 10 year old MAD tv skit. That is so lame. How incredibly topical and hip of Bendis.)
Madame Masque then goes into a page long detailed explanation of how horribly she will kill Tony if he continues to follow her and to try and stop her. Whitney then says that Tony is not the only one looking for her. And that hopefully, the other party looking for her will find Tony as he listens to this tape. Suddenly, we see shadowy ninja figures appear on the scene. End of issue.
The Good: Thank god for the gorgeous artwork of David Marquez. Otherwise, I would have nothing positive to say about Invincible Iron Man #3. Marquez is the lone bright spot to this issue. The art is fantastic. It is a real shame that Marquez did not get blessed with a better writer for this title. Imagine a talented writer suited for the Iron Man franchise teamed up with Marquez. We would have the makings of an epic Iron Man run.
Marquez manages to take Bendis’ shallow and meandering meandering story and actually make it tolerable. That is impressive. Marquez draws some excellent facial expressions that bring some nice emotion to the story.
Because this is a Bendis story, Marquez gets short changed any real action scenes where he can flex his muscles. Bendis rarely offers an artist a story where the artist can cut loose and show of their skills. Despite being saddled with rambling dialogue heavy scenes, Marquez still manages to make Invincible Iron Man #3 a visually appealing comic book.
The Bad: Invincible Iron Man #3 was such a poorly written issue. Bendis has always had flaws in his writing from a purely technical standpoint. And, even as he is approaching 50, Bendis still has not figured out how to improve his craft. This issue was about as unintelligent of a read as you will find from either Marvel or DC.
This issue comes across incredibly juvenile. Invincible Iron Man #3 had that 1980’s teen movie vibe from start to finish. And you know what? That can actually work with certain titles. Honestly, I blame Marvel’s editorial staff more than I do Bendis for the train wreck that is Invincible Iron Man.
It is incumbent upon the editorial staff to properly match a writer with a franchise. Bendis’ juvenile story would make for a perfect match for a teen title. That is exactly why Bendis’ run on Ultimate Spider-Man was fantastic. Bendis’ bubble gum dialogue and juvenile themes work so well on a title starring teen characters. But, on a title starring a historically mature and middle aged character like Tony Stark? It is a hideous nightmare.
The character work on Invincible Iron Man is nothing short of atrocious. Of course, this is to be expected with a Bendis’ penned title as quality character work is often missing. As usual, Bendis gives all the characters in this issue the same generic personality. None of the characters have anything that would resemble unique and well developed personalities. The characters are simple cardboard cutouts that serve to carry out Bendis’ “witty” dialogue. The characters are more punchlines than people.
Bendis gives the reader possibly one of the most unappealing versions of Tony Stark that I have ever read. Bendis’ Tony Stark stands in direct contrast to the entire history of Tony’s character and personality. Bendis gives us what Bendis knows: Tony as an emo teenager. It is so jarring and inconsistent with Tony’s character that is rips the reader out of the story.
Bendis has Tony acting like a desperate teenager with the way that Tony talks to Amara. Tony comes across like a creepy stalker the way he shows up at Amara’s place of work after just one date! Bendis has Tony engage in idol worshipping of Amara the way a teenage boy does with his first girlfriend. None of this is consistent with a man in his 30’s who has run SHIELD, run a top Fortune 500 corporation, been hailed as his generation’s greatest inventor and a playboy who has slept with zillions of women.
A writer simply cannot throw away a character’s entire history in order to deliver their style of story. A writer is a bit like the head coach of a football team. A head coach will adapt their style of football around the talent on their roster. Not the other way around. A talented writer will adapt his style of writing around the characters that he is giving rather than awkwardly bending the characters to his style of writing.
It gets even worse in the scene with Dr. Strange where Bendis reduces Tony Stark to nothing more than Ted from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Bendis, in his usual eagerness to show off his “hilarious” and “wacky” brand of “cool” humor, has Tony acting like an utter moron to the point where the reader does not even feel like they are reading a Tony Stark story. Instead, the reader feels like they are reading about a gag caricature based on Tony.
The fact is that a writer must write a character’s personality and dialogue consistent with that character’s established past. In a vacuum, it is possible to find the facial hair bros joke funny. However, just because something is funny in a vacuum does not mean it is appropriate or smart to deliver in a scene with two characters where it is utterly inconsistent with either of the characters in the scene. Again, this is Bendis awkwardly contorting two characters to accommodate his style of humor. It is simply bad writing.
Amara’s character is as shallow as possible. She is nothing more than a teenage boy’s idealized vision of what a woman is supposed to be. Beautiful, attractive and totally cool with creepy stalker type boyfriends. The fact that Amara, an MIT scientist, is okay with a guy, who has been on exactly ONE date with her, breaking into her place of employment, then placing her on a pedestal and then professing this love for her makes utterly no sense. A character like Amara should have threatened to call security and then told Tony to grow up.
Madame Masque is a fantastic character. Go back and read some old Iron Man comics from Michelinie and Layton’s run. Whitney is a character that has a wonderfully complex and interesting history with Tony. Unfortunately, Bendis cannot be bothered with anything that comes before his run on any given franchise. The result is that Bendis delivers a version of Madame Masque that is nothing more than am over the top and generic insane villain. Bendis does nothing to get the reader invested in Whitney’s character or her journey. And if a writer cannot sell the villain of a story arc then the story arc is usually doomed to failure.
Bendis’ Dr. Strange is nothing interest at all. Dr. Strange is a mere plot device to move forward the mystical storyline involving Madame Masque. Dr. Strange also gets the privilege of being in the story just to serve as the straight man for Bendis’ facial hair bros joke.
To be expected, Bendis’ dialogue is disappointing. Every single character possesses an indentical external voice. Close your eyes and have someone read you this issue. You will have absolutely zero idea who is speaking at any point because all the characters do is deliver non-stop “Bendis Speak.” Talented writers are able to have their own style but still craft unique external voices to fit the characters in their story. Bendis is incapable of this. Like a true one-trick pony, Bendis has to give all his characters the exact same voice because he is absolutely in love with his own “Bendis Speak” and its apparent “brilliance.”
The pacing in this issue is terrible. Bendis meanders around with absolutely no sense of urgency or purpose at all. The vast majority of this issue is nothing more than filler. The plotting is poor. There are three plot lines running at the moment and none of them are rich, complex or particularly artfully crafted. We have Tony chasing Madame Masque. An unknown party chasing Madame Masque. And Tony wanting to date Amara. That’s it. Each of these three plot lines are about as basic and simple as possible.
Invincible Iron Man #3 is hardly a complex and deep story constructed around meticulously crafted and detailed plot lines. There is zero evidence that Bendis put much time or effort in crafting this story. While writers like Hickman are master chefs constructing seven course meals for the reader, Bendis is more like a drunk divorced dad who microwaves a breakfast burrito for his kid’s dinner.
This issue is 20 pages long. Five pages are devoted to the fight between Madame Masque and Iron Man. We get seven pages of talking heads in Dr. Strange’s house and at Marina del Rey. Seven pages just to tell the reader that Madame Masque is collecting magical items and someone else is after her in addition to Tony. That’s it. Then we get seven pages of Tony telling Amara that she is perfect and he is emo. That’s it.
The five page “fight” scene was about as unexciting as they come and did little to further any character growth or any plot development. The seven pages covering Dr. Strange’s house and Marina del Rey could have easily conveyed that necessary information in 2-3 pages max. The seven pages utterly wasted on Tony and Amara could have been much more effectively conveyed to the reader in 2 pages.
The big “hook” ending designed to get the reader to come back for the next issue was…generic shadowy ninjas. Wow. How creative. How fascinating. Talk about a total dud of a “hook” ending. Bendis swings and whiffs at the ball with this ending. There is little reason for a new reader to want to purchase the next issue of Invincible Iron Man.
The fact is that Bendis employs so much decompression in order to fluff up what is an incredibly shallow story. Invincible Iron Man #3 reads like pure filler. What happened? Tony kissed Amara and someone else is also after Whitney. About three pages of plot progression for $4! There is far more competition for readers’ entertainment dollar then every before. Bendis needs to give the average reader much more reason to plunk down $4 an issue than just some rambling “Bendis Speak.”
In the end, the biggest flaw of Invincible Iron Man #3 is how incredibly stale and dated Bendis’ writing has become. Reading Bendis’ writing is akin to watching that hot band from the 1980’s/1990’s that refuses to get off the stage. The members are all in their 50’s and are no longer cool or relevant. The band has been reduced to performing their same tired act from 20-30 years ago.
Bendis is now just shy of 50 years old. Yet, he is still rolling out the exact same dialogue and gags that he was tossing out in the late 1990’s. At least 20 years ago Bendis was in his late 20’s and was current and topical. Bendis’ gimmick was seen as something fresh and new.
Now? Bendis is old and he is still riding his one-trick pony except now it is a blind and emaciated old nag that can barely stand on its hooves. Bendis is also no longer relevant or “cool.” His writing feels stale and uninspired. It feels as if Bendis is simply putting his name on the cover, asking for a check and moving on to the next job. There seems to be little creativity or excitement left in his writing. No. Now we get “Bendis Speak” with references to nearly 10 year old comedy skits and movies from the 1980’s. It is time for Bendis to either evolve or move on.
Overall: Invincible Iron Man #3 is full of technically flawed writing. Even if you are a long-time fan of Bendis, reading this issue is going to feel like a mere shadow of what Bendis used to be. It is like a long-time Payton Manning fan not enjoying watching Manning on his downward slide with the Broncos this season.
Bendis was never a technically sound writer at all. But, he would mask his deficiencies with his snappy and trendy dialogue that definitely appealed to a certain group of comic book readers. Now? Bendis is still not a technically sound writer and his trademark gimmick is now well worn and rusted out.
I would only recommend Invincible Iron Man #3 to older comic book readers who are die-hard Bendis fans. The average comic book reader will find this issue to be shallow, uninteresting and most certainly not worth the $4 cover price.