Iron Man enters the Marvel Now orbit with a relaunch, shiny artist, and British writer at the helm. Kieron Gillen and Greg Land are the new creative team on Tony Stark’s series, following on from Matt Fraction’s run – but without touching heavily upon it. This is a fresh start, with Greg Land’s unique style particularly well suited to the vacuous world of nightclubs and celebrity which Tony hangs out in.
It’s a decent first issue, too, with Gillen tangling with the unique voice of Tony Stark and mostly keeping it under control. His version of Tony is a little more laid back than recently, with a lazier outlook which only starts to crank up once the stakes suddenly raise on him, and the world comes under a sudden familiar dangerous threat. The first section of the book focuses on Tony the playboy, as he picks up a girl in a bar and enjoys himself a little. Sort of.
Now, Greg Land’s art naturally struggles with distinguishing the female characters, and at first it does look like Emma Frost and/or Susan Storm are said girl sat opposite Tony in the first few pages. Once you get further in, however, it’s revealed that Land is now stretching a little bit in terms of reference — Pepper Potts looks more or less as she did while Salvador Larocca drew her, rather than like Jean Grey. Gillen is one of the rare writers who knows how best to deploy Land, which also helps. We go from a trashy nightclub scene to a trashy lecture/advertisement to the faceless Iron Man costume in quick succession, all of which Land is able to draw well. He even picks up on a visual joke Gillen makes, and lands it.
So kudos to Greg Land, assisted greatly by the colouring from Guru-eFX.
Gillen’s plot is as tight as you’d imagine, getting exposition out the way without being too noticeable, and addressing Fraction’s run whilst racing away in a new direction. Gillen’s writing in the initial scenes is a little difficult, with every character presented as being in a bored rut, going through the motions. Once the plot kicks in halfway through, however, the book picks up dramatically and suddenly becomes a gripping story. This is Gillen as thriller-writer, throwing Iron Man into a little light espionage, as part of a spy story. It’s a shift from what we’re used to from him, and he manages the tone strongly.
It’s different enough to be interesting, and Gillen’s use of internal narration noticeably grows stronger once Stark is free from the playboy side of his life. The dialogue also gains a new sense of life. Perhaps as the series grows on, Tony-as-Playboy will become more interesting as a plot aside, but the character seems too developed now to realistically spend so much time in nightclubs, looking slightly bored. For the moment, it feels rather artificial, whereas the scenes he spends in a giant robot suit feel organic and natural.
Oh, wait, I think Kieron Gillen may have just caught me out. Okay — kudos to you as well, Gillen.
Iron Man #1 is a good opening issue. It doesn’t give too much away, but it leads Iron Man in a new direction, which is fun and engaging. There’s a decent mix of action and scheming, and some fun scenes. Also, once you finish the first issue, there’s a definite feeling that this is leading somewhere interesting. There are certainly a few niggles with the dialogue, but the plotting is sound and the book ends on just the right note to keep readers interested. A successful new launch for Iron Man, then.