I have a love-hate relationship with the comic works of Brian Michael Bendis. Wait, that’s too strong a sentiment; I have a like-meh relationship with his comics.
On one hand, Bendis is a well-respected, intelligent author who has reformed a lot of how comics are being written these days, done a few landmark runs with Marvel characters and has pretty much set the tone for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the other hand, reading his books gets redundant, feels like you are going nowhere and doing nothing, and is choc-a-bloc with blithe dialogue that feels less like impassioned superhero speech than something overheard by a Starbucks barista. They can be a slog to get through at times, because they rarely feel like there’s going to be a payoff at the end of the storyline. Jonathan Hickman can be a similar slog, but at least by the end of the Fantastic Four run, for example, you’ve seen characters grow, change and come out the other side as new people. Bendis just feels like he puts the pieces back too carefully or breaks them irrevocably.
That’s not to say he’s not a good writer; there’s a reason Alias is becoming a Nexflix series and why the immensely popular Marvel movies have his signature dialogue. He gets big profile books because he is a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe right now, and if anyone needs a boost, it’s Iron Man. Kieron Gillen left tons of plot lines and big changes in his wake on the title and the Superior Iron Man series felt like we sidestepped all of that for a random new story that was quickly dropped for Secret Wars and its lead-in stories. Tony Stark is a mess, and Brian Michael Bendis is the man to shore him up and put the book back on the map.
But do you really want to chew through all those word bubbles? Let me get you settled on the ALL NEW ALL DIFFERENT Iron Man and you can be the judge.
WARNING: SPOILERS. Seriously, it’s in the title of this article you’re reading right now. Grab your copy of Invincible Iron Man #1 — no, not that one, the other one. The one from this year. Invincible Iron Man. Yeah. — and read along!
I’d say there are two concurrent story lines running through this first issue, but there’s only one with major substance. The one we start out with is Madame Masque, now with new filigree on her golden visage, going about getting things that can be placed in briefcases or satchels and have immense power. Or so I think; really, we’re not given much to go on other than one is an item from AIM (taken from a guy who was hoping to get out of the crazy beekeeper game only to be shot in the face), one is from Stark Tower in Osaka, Japan and the other is from some place big. We’ll get to that in a sec.
Meanwhile, in happening town, Tony Stark is feeling a little Iron Man 3-y these days as we see him in his workshop that looks a little like the one from the Iron Man movies working on a bunch of different suits of armor before settling on one that reminds me a lot of an Apple product. A little too sleek and plastic looking, but that it probably just me. Either way, it’s state of the art because it’s hard being Tony Stark these days, or so he monologues to the reader, explaining his woes about keeping up with the technology times and oh yeah, his parents aren’t his parents and he has no idea who his birth parents are. Glad we stuck with that plot thread from Gillen’s run. But oh no! Tony’s going to be late for a date!
A lot of Robert Downey Jr.’s charisma is difficult to translate on to the printed page; he just exudes a kind of slimy but affable charm comes from confidence, recovery and personal aspiration that is so complicated on a human being, let alone a drawing of a human being. That’s why this date scene coming up ahead gets awkward as I’m not charmed as much as I should be to make this dialogue work. Tony’s date is Amara Perera, a stunningly gorgeous genius who knows enough about Tony Stark to know that he’s a billionaire playboy and guard accordingly. He rents out a restaurant to sweep her off her feet and, as that doesn’t work, takes her to Stark Tower to wow her with the Avengers HQ. This also doesn’t work so he asks her about inventions she has that she’s keeping to herself. “Because you know, not guess, you know it will be reverse engineered and used in the worst way.”
This is a weird way to get into a woman’s pants. Even weirder is that she has one and it’s a “cure” for the mutant gene. This is weird because it’s treated like some ungodly revelation rather than a plot line from Joss Whedon’s run on the X-Men. Maybe Kavita Rao was retconned out of the All New All Different Marvel Universe? Anyways, she worked it out like a brain teaser, realized that curing mutants would have major political and ethical repercussions and never even wrote it down. Wait, aren’t mutants being hurt by all the Terrigen Mist in Earth’s atmosphere? Wouldn’t this bit of science discovery work as a way to maybe synthesize an antidote to at lease the Mist’s effects and why is this in Iron Man and not an X-Men title and I am so getting ahead of myself. None of this is going to be addressed because Tony Stark wants a kiss.
Seriously. Major revelation with a huge impact on the world as we know it and Tony thinks, after a panel of pause for good measure, that science talk might have put her in the mood. Perera rightly calls him on this and Tony Stark acts like no woman has ever told him wait. Or that he’s a horndog, it’s difficult to tell with some of the horizontal panels. Either way, this awkwardness and sexism is alleviated because Madame Masque just robbed Castle Doom in broad daylight.
See? Told you that last one was big. Stark suits up and heads to Latveria, which is under assault from revolutionaries, neighboring countries and internal strife since Doom lost control of his country. Man, the end of Secret Wars is gonna be weird. Arriving in the ruins of Castle Doom, he’s approached by armed locals. The armed locals are taken out by Doctor Doom. We know it’s Doctor Doom because a bioscan checks him out, his voice sounds familiar and he has big fancy font to announce his name.
All in all, it’s a solid story. There are plenty of places to go with the title, a lot of good planted story seeds for upcoming adventures and a last page cliffhanger than demands you pick up issue #2. The artwork is incredible; David Marquez is an amazing artist, making everyone and everything look super classy and exciting. Some pages have a vertical layout and others horizontal and some switch in the middle of the page, but that might be direction from Bendis as he likes to play around with layouts like that on previous books. Honestly, it’s beautiful book and great start to all new Iron Man adventures.
All you need to know? Tony Stark knows a lady who can “cure” the mutant gene, Madame Masque is stealing stuff and Doctor Doom will be in Invincible Iron Man #2.