Iron Man is a character that I always try to give new comic book runs a shot to grab me. But I’ll be honest in that it hasn’t been since Matt Fraction’s Iron Man run. That has largely been the case for the Avengers since Jonathan Hickman’s run. So the overall franchise has not hit in the way I would hope as Marvel Comics hasn’t found a good balance for the direction of the characters between wanting to merge the comic book versions with the Marvel Cinematic Universe counterparts. With that said I have been enjoying Gerry Duggan’s work with the X-Men so I hope that he along with Juan Frigeri is able to create magic with the latest volume of The Invincible Iron Man. Let’s find out how things start with The Invincible Iron Man #1.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Juan Frigeri
Colorist: Bryan Valenza
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
After taking in everything that has happened in his life Tony Stark notices to late when the generator in his apartment explodes. Tony barely survives but the explosion kills one of his neighbors and causes massive damage to the neighborhood.
While recovering at a hospital Tony is not willing to hear out T’Challa and Riri Williams that he may have made a mistake with his generator.
Tony then takes off to deal with the aftermath of and who caused the explosion.
Several days later Tony meets with Jennifer Walters who, as his lawyer, tries her best to advise him but Tony just wants to pay off everyone who is suing him for the explosion.
After settling into a new lab in New Jersey away from people Tony repairs his Iron Man Mark 70 armor.
While testing it out Iron Man is attacked by a mysterious armor user. After an extended fight, Iron Man defeats his attacker. Someone talking through the armor tries to goad Iron Man into killing the armor user. Iron Man instead opens the helmet and discovers the person in the armor is someone who was kidnapped days ago and saves the guy before the armor explodes.
After leaving the guy at a hospital to get medical attention Tony goes to his AA meeting. Tony ends up leaving the meeting early and heads to a local pub.
Late at night, an extremely drunk Tony falls into the garbage while weakly asking some kids, who were filming his current state, for help. End of issue.
How do you kick off an Iron Man run? The answer to that question that Gerry Duggan came up with was to do his own version of Demon In A Bottle right away. There is no other way to go when writing Iron Man. That is at least the idea you get when reading The Invincible Iron Man #1.
Once it is made clear that Duggan has every intention to make Demon In A Bottle the starting point for his run on The Invincible Iron Man it impacts everything that happens in this first issue. Reading the opening with Tony Stark retelling his whole life up to The Invincible Iron Man is no longer a signal of how Duggan will look to explore the character by moving Tony and his world forward. Rather it is about going backward by not even giving the perception of a new Iron Man story but keeping Tony Stark in the Demon In A Bottle cycle.
Not helping what Duggan is trying to do with Tony at all is the fact that this starting point is already being done in Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four. In both those comics, we have characters in Peter Parker and Reed Richards having caused a disaster that ruined their personal and superhero lives. Even without falling down the same path as Demon In A Bottle, we have this start that other iconic franchises in Spider-Man and Fantastic Four already had this year.
Duggan does not do himself favors by having the opening retelling of Tony’s life first 8 pages of this first issue. The only thing that saves this opening is Juan Frigeri, who does a good job of showing how far Tony has come from when he first started as Iron Man to when The Invincible Iron Man #1 begins. Frigeri gets across how Tony is feeling his own aging through everything he has been through in the last decade or so of his life. So for a showcase of Frigeri’s artwork this opening works but as a narrative device utilized by Duggan it does not.
Unfortunately, Duggan’s own writing becomes the worst enemy of The Invincible Iron Man #1. Because as Duggan tries to integrate Riri Williams and The Avengers as part of the supporting cast he quickly goes away from that. They completely disappear just so the focus can be how Tony just falls back into his same cycle. What doesn’t help this is the fact that since Duggan took the time to dedicate the opening to show the cycle Tony has been through you are left wondering why his friends wouldn’t be there for him as they’ve all seen this Tony Stark many times before.
A narrative choice that Duggan makes that worsens the problem is doing various time small time jumps. It would’ve been much more effective if there was a chance given to show how Tony goes days from a “She will be avenged” attitude after the funeral of his dead neighbor to the frustration of his life falling apart. We know from the opening that Frigeri could tell that story with the art alone. Unfortunately, Frigeri doesn’t get that chance. Instead, we get rushed to a quick scene between Tony Stark and Jennifer Walter because there wasn’t enough time in this 31 page first issue.
You see that rush nature in the writing with how the guy forced to wear the armor that attacks Iron Man was not given the time to develop. Even as Iron Man identifies the guy as someone that was kidnapped the mystery isn’t something that is a focus of your attention as the reader. Instead, it goes right back to Tony going through yet another Demon In A Bottle cycle. By the end, you are just left with the feeling this is a story you have read before rather than being excited about how Duggan plans to explore Tony Stark and the world around him.
In Gerry Duggan’s search to tell his own version of Demon In A Bottle, he creates an immediate exit point as soon as The Invincible Iron Man #1 ends. The entire story felt like repeating a bad cycle you thought you escaped from but somehow find yourself stuck in yet again. The only saving grace was the solid artwork by Juan Frigeri. But even good artwork can’t save a story that leaves you with a feeling of not wanting to read more. And that is exactly what happens with the writing in The Invincible Iron Man #1.
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10