Tony Stark – Iron Man #1 was a pedestrian beginning to this all new direction for the Iron Man franchise. I wanted to love this title so much. Tony Stark has always been my favorite character and I was excited for his return to the Marvel Universe. I was also excited about Bendis leaving the Iron Man franchise, too. It looked like everything was lining up for a return to glory for the Iron Man franchise. Unfortunately, Dan Slott mailed in a rather bland debut issue. Hopefully, Slott can get into gear with Tony Stark – Iron Man #2 and make this title a comic book that is fun and exciting to read. Let’s hit this review.
Words: Dan Slott
Art: Valerio Schiti
Colors: Edgar Delgado
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Rhodey having a nightmare about nearly bering burnt to a crips while re-entering Earth’s atmosphere while in the War Machine armor. Rhodey talks about how the armor is an oven. We then see Thanos killing Rhodey. Rhodey screams that he cannot stop dying in this damn suit of armor.
Rhodey then wakes up from his nightmare. We then get a double page splash shot of….a bunch of small panels showing Rhodey getting dressed, getting into his car and going to work. (Riveting.) We see Andy Bhang brushing his teeth. We see a poster of a young Amanda Armstrong from her rock band days on Bhang’s wall. We then see Bhang riding the subway to work. (Seriously, so exciting!) We see Jocasta getting up and saying goodby to her unknown robot husband and then walking to work. Jocasta’s husband says that her human co-workers do not deserve her. (Best. Double. Page. Splash. Shot. Ever.)
We then see Bethany Cabe at Stark Unlimited. She never went home. She stayed up all night trying to figure out who is hacking into Stark Unlimited’s computer system. The Controller then takes over Bethany and says that Bethany will never figure out who is stealing Stark tech. The Controller says that eventually Tony will figure out what is going on. Therefore, the Controller puts into place a plan to keep Tony busy and off the Controller’s trail.
We cut to Rhodey and Tony at Stark Unlimited. Evidently, Rhodey was supposed to meet Tony at the gym this morning. But, since Rhodey was late, Tony went ahead and built a massive rock climbing wall spanning multiple floors in height. (Ummmmm, okay.)
The two start rock climbing. Rhodey notes that Tony did not build any safety harnesses. Rhodey said that just because Tony built both of them new bodies does not mean that they both get free passes in them. Rhodey also says that Tony is not just addicted to alcohol. That Tony has an addictive personality period. That Tony is addicted to adrenaline.
We see Tony way ahead of Rhodey and already several floors up in the air. Suddenly, one of the rock pieces breaks under Tony’s hand and he begins to plummet to the ground. Rhodey reaches out and grabs Tony’s hand and saves him. Rhodey says that next time Rhodey might not be here to save Tony. Tony replies that Rhodey is James Rhodes. It is his job to catch Tony when he falls. That is who Rhodey is and it is what Rhodey does. (All right, this was a great moment that really highlighted Rhodey and his relationship with Tony.)
We cut to later in the Foundry. Tony, Bhang, Rhodey, Jocasta, and A.I. Friday are in the room. Tony says that they need to come up with a new A.I. system for Tony’s armor. Jocasta comments that her first act as Robotic Ethicist was to remove A.I. Friday from Tony’s armor. That an A.I. in a suit of armor is like a helpless passenger. (Except it isn’t. Because it is just a computer program. Jesus. This entire social justice for A.I. storyline is beyond stupid.)
Tony says that he thinks he has a solution. They have a new complex A.I. called Motherboard. She is running one of Tony’s pet projects called Project eScape. That Motherboard could patch herself into Tony’s armor.
Jocasta says that Tony’s plan could work as long as Motherboard is not housed in Tony’s armor. (Well, yeah. Tony just said that Motherboard would not be housed in his armor.) Jocasta then says that Tony once had her housed in his armor and that she did not like it at all. Jocasta says that humans have no idea what it is like to be trapped inside there like that. (I’m sorry. I’m just fresh out of sympathy for robots and A.I.)
Bhang then asks what the eScape project is all about. Tony replies that Bhang will find out soon enough. Jocasta then asks if there are done because it is almost lunchtime. Bhang says he is surprised Jocasta is asking about lunch since she is a robot and does not really eat lunch. Bhang then stammers and says that he hopes what he says is not robot racism. (Fuck it. I’m out of here at this point. I can’t handle this much stupid.)
Suddenly, Bethany and Tony’s mother, Amanda Armstrong, enter the room. Bhang asks why rockstar Amanda Armstrong is here. Jocasta replies that Amanda is upper management and is Tony’s biological mother. Bhang freaks out that his rock and roll idol is actually Tony’s mother.
Bethany tells Tony that she discovered that Baintronics has acquired some stolen Stark Tech and has used it to create the Manticore. The Manticore is an all-terrain assault vehicle. That Sunset Bain is auctioning it off today to the highest bidder.
Tony is mad that his stolen tech is being used to create a weapon of mass destruction. Tony says that he is stopping this now. Tony says that he and Rhodey are going to go take care of this. Tony tells Rhodey to suit up. Rhodey looks bummed and worried.
We zip over to Baintronics. We see all the bidders present to look at the Manticore. One of the bidders in the U.S. military. Sunset shows off the Manticore’s ability to take out massive targets as well as employ focused weapons to surgically take out a target as small as a child.
We see that ex-army sergeant Joseph Green now works for Baintronics. Green is also known as the Gauntlet due to the massive aline tech claw grafted to his right arm. (Worst. Name. Ever.)
Sunset then begins the bidding on the Manticore. Suddenly, Iron Man and War Machine arrive on the scene. Iron Man says Sunset is getting shut down courtesy or Iron Man and…but Rhodey says nothing. Tony whispers that he teed Rhodey up to introduce himself. Rhodey apologizes and says that something must be wrong with his comms. Motherboard then tells Rhodey that his comms are fine.
Sunset then orders the Manticore and the Gauntlet to attack Iron Man and War Machine. Manticore takes on War Machine while Gauntlet takes on Iron Man. Iron Man tries to reason with Gauntlet by saying that Gauntlet is a military man and a family gam. That he worked with Tony and Rhodey back at Camp Hammond during the Avengers Initiative. Iron Man says that Gauntlet does not want to do this. Gauntlet replies that he is earning na honest living. That it was Tony who broke into Gauntlet’s place of work and tried to steal his employer’s property.
We hop back to the Star Unlimited commissary. We see Bhang hanging out and talking to another male co-worker. We see a table with two female employees and a male employee at the table. Another female employee is standing next to the table. The standing female employee says asks if the other ladies saw Tony shirtless and rock climbing earlier. One of the other female employees says that Tony even made himself new abs. She says that she does not mind Tony showing off his all-new body. The standing female employee says she wonders what else is all new. (So, yeah, this is pretty much text book sexual harassment. I’d represent the one guy at the table.)
One of the seated female employees says “Ha! Girl, you’re the worst. Have we met?” (This dialogue is just painfully bad at points.) The standing female introduces herself as Joelle and that she just got hired in robotics. This catches Bethany’s attention who mutters that Bhang is the only new hire in robotics. Joelle asks if the next thing Tony unveils is an Iron Man crop top.
Bethany grabs Joelle by the neck and slams her against a table. Bethany yells for Joelle to tell her who she is and who she is working for. Bethany then punches Joelle in the face. (Woah!! What the Hell?! So, now we have a case of clear work place assault. Stark Unlimited is an attorney’s wet dream at this point.)
Bethany grabs her hand in pain. We then see that Joelle is just Jocasta in disguise. Jocasta stammers that she just wanted to have lunch with you all. Jocasta apologizes and runs away. (So…Ms. I-preach-ethics-all-the-time is the one to engage in sexual harassment in the workplace. Gotcha.)
We hop back to Baintronics where Gauntlet is disrupting the power flow in Iron Man’s armor. Motherboard confirms that Gauntlet is correct and that Iron Man’s power levels are dropping. (So, Motherboard’s purpose is simply to be there to state the obvious? Fantastic.)
Iron Man calls out for War Machine. Unfortunately, War Machine is totally freaking out. Manticore blasts War Machine. War Machine yells, “Not again! Oh God! Eject! Do you hear me?! Eject!” Motherboard says that War Machine’s amor is fully functional but still follows Rhodey’s order to eject him from the suit.
Manticore starts chasing Rhodey. Tony then has Motherboard interface with all of the Stark tech in the Manticore. Tony hacks into the Manticore and has it eject the pilot from the Manticore. Tony then begins to succumb to the Gauntlet’s attack.
Rhodey hops into the Manticore and takes control of the machine. Tony blames himself for being too wrapped up into himself to have seen what Rhodey was going through. Rhodey then takes out Gauntlet by using one of the Manticore’s non-lethal weapons.
Sunset is pissed and tells Rhodey to get out of her Manticore. Tony says that Sunset could not have made the Manticore without his stolen Stark tech. Tony says that they should make a deal. Tony offers to make Sunset a generous offer for the Manticore. Sunset says that they can finalize the deal over dinner. Sunset tells Tony to “Wear something nice.” (First, Jocasta. Now Sunset. Are all the women in this comic going to be creepy and sleazy?)
We hop over to Jocasta arriving back at her home. Her “husband” or “partner” or whatever says that he thought she was going out with her human co-workers tonight. Jocasta says that she had a bad day and does not want to talk about it. Her male companion says that Jocasta is using her “Bride of Ultron” voice. He asks her what happened. Jocasta says that she made a fool of herself. The truth is that she does not want to stand out. That she wants to understand humans and fit in. She wants to belong.
Jocasta’s man friend calls humans, “fleshbags.” Jocasta says that she has decided to take part in Project eScape. Her artificial male counterpart responds, “No! You told me that it’s for–what it means for our kind.”
The camera pans back and it is reveals that Jocasta’s male live in sex partner is Machine Man! (Wow! I used to love me some Machine Man!) Machine Man says, “You’ll do that over my dead artificial body.”
We cut to Iron Man and Rhodey flying through the air. Rhodey is piloting the Manticore. Rhodey says that Tony did not have to buy the Manticore for him. Tony responds, “Yeah, I did.” Rhodey answers, “Yeah. You did.” (I love Tony and Rhodey. Best buddy team ever.)
Rhodey says that he cannot be in a suit of armor anymore. They are like coffins to him. But, the room in the Manticore’s cockpit makes him feel more like a pilot again. Rhodey says that he should have told all of this to Tony sooner. Tony then says that he has something to tell Rhodey. Tony says that he checked Rhodey’s new body and that it is fine. But, Tony says that something is wrong with his new body. End of issue.
The Good: I want to love Tony Stark – Iron Man so much. Tony Stark has been my favorite Marvel character since I was 6 years old. But, as much as I want to love this title, Dan Slott continues to disappoint with his marginal work on this new title. Having said that, Tony Stark – Iron Man #2 definitely does have some positive aspects to it. And I firmly believe that if Slott would make just a few changes to his writing that Tony Stark – Iron Man could transform into a fun title. The potential is there.
The plotting and pacing are easily the two biggest strengths of Tony Stark – Iron Man #2. This is certainly not a slow or dull issue. Slott moves the story along at a crisp pace. Slott has a clear direction in mind with his story and the issue never loses its focus or purpose.
Slott also has quickly installed multiple plot lines in short order. We have the plot line involving Rhodey’s PTSD that is triggered while wearing armor. Then there is the Controller plot line. We also have the Jocasta/Machine Man plot line. There is also the Project eSCAPE plot line. And, lastly, we have the plot line invovling Tony’s new body. That is a ton of plot lines. There might be plenty to criticize Slott’s writing about but plotting is definitely not one of them.
It is stunning how in just two issue Slott is able to install so many plot lines. Most writers these days struggle to simply install a single plot line in the course of the first two issues of a new title. Slott deserves a ton of credit for making Tony Stark – Iron Man #2 a densely packed issue full of plenty of plot lines and content. The reader definitely gets their money’s worth with this issue.
I also love how methodical Slott is with his plot progression. Slott does not do anything for no reason. Every single panel is done for a purpose and leads to something else later in the story. The plot lines all progress in a logical fashion.
There are four examples of this that immediately come to mind in this issue. The first would be seeing Bhang singing one of Amanda Armstrong’s songs and having her poster on his wall. This is paid off later when Amanda makes her appearance in the Foundry.
The second is Rhodey’s nightmare playing right into the scene of him ejecting from his armor despite nothing being wrong with it. The third is how the rock climbing scene between Tony and Rhodey perfectly sets the scene later when Rhodey takes control of the Manicore and saves Tony.
The fourth example is Jocasta’s attempt to pass as human and have lunch with her co-workers that leads into the scene where she decides to partake in Project eSCAPE. This is all strong technical plotting that leads to a quality reading experience.
Tony Stark – Iron Man #2 is also a well balanced issue. Slott manages to mix together a story that offers an enjoyable blend of dialogue heavy scenes that perform character work and advance plot lines as well as action heavy scenes designed to entertain the reader.
The main action scene between Iron Man and War Machine locking horns with Manticore and Gauntlet in this issue is well done. Slott gives this action some some quality psychology. Slott is able to use this fight to perform some character work on Rhodey. The reader gets to see Rhodey crumble and then become reborn into a new hero who is dealing the best he can with his limitations. It is always appreciate when a writer can pull of character work during the course of an action scene. It makes the reading experience so much more enjoyable.
Slott also continues to deliver fun and wild new tech with each issue. In Tony Stark – Iron Man #2 we get the Manticore. This is some cool mecha with lots of neat tricks. Slott’s imagination when it comes to wild Sci Fi concepts and fun tech is definitely one of the stronger points of his writing.
Valerio Schiti’s artwork neither pleases nor offends. The art is decidely average. Schiti’s artwork is also a bit inconsistent. The quality of the art varies from panel to panel. I do enjoy the action lines that Schiti gives many of his panels. This is a nice manga influence style that helps to liven up the look of the comic. I also think that Schiti does an excellent job with the characters’ facial expressions.
The Bad: Tony Stark – Iron Man #2 has its fair share of flaws that overwhelm the positive aspects and make this a tough comic to recommend. Slott is struggling with the character work and dialogue on this title. The dialogue is average at best and cheesy and corny at worst. None of the characters have a unique external voice with the lone exception of Tony Stark. But, the problem with Tony’s external voice is that it sounds like an uninspired caricature of Robert Downey, Jr.
The characters work is a problem across the board and impacts all of the characters. Bhang’s character continues to be a pointless one-dimensional character. Bhang is only present to stand around and excitedly explain everything he sees in the scene. Bhang comes across like a child-like idiot. It is too over the top.
Slott’s take on Jocasta’s character continues to be a massive disappointment. Jocasta is portrayed as super strong and smart nearly to the point of overkill. But, then Slott bizarrely has Jocasta posing as a human Stark Unlimited employee and engaging in inappropriate work talk like she was a teen-ager. It gets even worse when Slott reveals that the new employee is Jocasta in disguise. At this point, Jocasta reacts like a 13 year old girl. It is impossible for the reader to reconcile the jarring dichotomy between Jocasta the super strong, smart and superior ethicist with her acting like an immature 13 year old girl. Jocasta is super strong and smart….but she also acts like a 13 year old girl.
If Slott is going to write Jocasta is a nearly perfect character that stands upon a pedestal then he needs to keep it consistent. Having Jocasta react like a 13 year old only makes sense if Slott had been portraying Jocasta as a flawed character right from the start rather than the idealized character that she has been to up to this point in the story.
The problems with character work continues with Slott’s handling of Bethany Cabe. Poor Bethany is such a great character. However, Slott is still just giving the reader a version of Bethany that is just a one-dimensional masculine bulldog of a character. Bethany’s character deserves so much more than what Slott has done up to this point.
Slott’s handling of Rhodey’s character is also disappointing. Rhodey is a fantastic character and easily the best supporting cast member of the Iron Man franchise. Sorry, Pepper Potts. Rhodey is a strong male character that has always had the heart of a lion, a fear of nothing, and die-hard loyalty to his friends. If there is a character in the Iron Man franchise that a parent would want their son to use as a role model then it would be Rhodey.
Unfortunately, Slott reduces Rhodey to a weak character that lacks the disciplined and tough military mentality that has served him so well in past no matter what obstacles he faced. Having Rhodey being a broken toy that can no longer be War Machine is just not a version of Rhodey that interests me in the least bit. The Manticore is a neat bit of tech, but seeing Rhodey as a pilot of the Manticore is not at all the same as seeing Rhodey being War Machine. It is a shame that the readers finally get Rhodey returned to life only to then be given a weakened character who is no longer War Machine.
I have no problem with Rhodey battling demons or facing adversity. But, what is more consistent with Rhodey’s character, and what makes him such an impressive character, is seeing him stay strong in the face of adversity. It would have been far more compelling and within Rhodey’s personality to have seen him overcome his fear, conquer it and then continue being War Machine. Instead, Slott has Rhodey run from his fear and give up being War Machine like a coward.
The character problems also extend to the titular character, too. Slott’s Tony Stark is just a bit too smarmy and acts like he has ADD. It is too over the top. It is like Slott decided to make a caricature of Robert Downey, Jr. instead of a fully developed original character.
Since Slott has struggled mightily with the character work on Tony Stark – Iron Man, I am not really excited about Slott getting his hands on Machine Man. I have always loved Machine Man. He is a cool Jack Kirby character who is another product of Kirby’s high concept Sci Fi stories.
Machine Man is an excellent character that offers the writer many interesting possibilities. However, in Slott’s hands, I feel like we are going to get another bland social justice for robots type character that we have already seen with Jocasta. I have no hope that Slott has anything compelling or high concept in mind for Kirby’s Machine Man.
I am already turned off by the abusive and controlling personality that Slott has given Machine Man at the end of this issue. I feel worried that Machine Man will just be a simple prop for Slott’s pedestrian social commentary and nothing more than that. That is a shame. Because Machine Man is an excellent character with plenty of potential.
Speaking of weird social justice plot lines. Slott continues on his A.I. social justice crusade in Tony Stark – Iron Man #2. It is still weird and odd and makes no sense. This commentary gets even more bizarre as Slott has Jocasta talking about how A.I. are trapped when they are put into a suit of armor.
This makes no sense. A.I. are just computer programs. They are not corporeal beings. The concept of them feeling trapped makes no sense. I have no clue why Slott is doing this other than he is trying to virtue signal or seem hip and trendy. The problem is that it comes across as stupid and weird and only serves to pull the reader out of the story.
Slott’s writing gets even more inexplicably bizarre when Jocasta poses as a human. By employing Slott’s social justice view of Jocasta and her opinions on A.I. and their relationship with humans the reader cannot view Jocasta’s posing as a human as anything but cultural appropriation. It just makes the entire story odd.
Slott doubles down on the weirdness by having Jocasta, a self professed social justice warrior for A.I. and a person all about equality and ethics, then commit textbook sexual harassment in the work place. Slott even makes it worse by having one of the Stark Unlimited female employees join in on the sexual harassment. I have no idea how Slott could be so tone deaf. Talking about a co-worker’s body and his penis in front of another male co-worker is sexual harassment all day every day.
Again, the fact Slott is so obsessed with nonsensical A.I. social justice at certain points in the story makes this sexual harassment moment seem that much more bizarre. This scene only serves to make Jocasta looks like a complete hypocrite. This scene also makes Jocasta look like a total jerk. And that is not at all what Slott was going for with this scene. Slott clearly wants the reader to be sympathetic to Jocasta.
This is the problem with injecting random social justice commentary into a story. It tends to make the entire story odd and does not make for an intelligent or engaging super hero story. Slott would do better by simply focusing on trying to write a fun mainstream super hero story that is heavy on Sci Fi, tech and gadgets with the aim at providing quality escapist entertainment.
In general, Slott’s writing veers from odd and creepily weird to simply juvenile and unintelligent. All the themes that Slott plays with are done in a rudimentary and naive manner. Slott needs to decide if he is writing an all-ages story with mainstream appeal that is focused on super hero entertainment or if he is writing story that focuses on political and social agendas and is targeting an older audience. Because, this weird in the middle approach is accomplishing neither of the two goals.
Lastly, the new plot line that Slott introduces at the end of Tony Stark – Iron Man #2 that there is something wrong with Tony’s new body is a complete miss with me. First, Tony Stark was just brought back to life and given a brand new title. It is way too soon to go introduce a plot line centered on Tony’s body having a fatal defect. It is false peril for Slot to try and make the reader think that Tony might be in danger of dying just when he was brought back to life.
Second, the health issue plot line is one of my least favorite plot lines a writer can deliver. The only other plot line I like less than this is when a writer has a super hero lose their powers or have problems with their powers. These are just such hackneyed and creatively bankrupt plot lines to deliver.
Overall: Tony Stark – Iron Man #2 is an issue that has the kernel of a fun story but that is ruined by shallow writing and poor character work. This issue is not worth the $4.00 cover price. There are so many better mainstream super hero titles on the market. This is a shame since I do think that if Slott could make a few changes that Tony Stark – Iron Man could be a fun read.