Tony Stark: Iron Man #3 Review

by Charles Martin on August 15, 2018

Tony Stark: Iron Man #3 Review
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Colourists: Edgar Delgado with Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics

It's finally time to reveal the big "eScape" secret that past issues have hinted at. And it is … an online virtual reality world. Hooray, it's the plot of that one episode that every cartoon in the world did in 1998.

I've been planted firmly (uncomfortably) on the fence since this volume started. Now I have a series I'm not sure about and an issue premise I'm really not sure about. Dan Slott's scripts do tend to set me dancing on a knife-edge.

I'm pleased to report that Tony Stark: Iron Man #3 does fall, at the last minute, onto the "quality comic" side of my knife. 

All I have to do is explain how without spoiling this issue's delicious surprises.

We get to explore the eScape through the eyes of an anonymous beta tester. The initial setup reeks of a hopeless Baby Boomer take on vidya games. The testers are encouraged to blaze away at the characters they meet. Blasting human players earns them cash. Blasting AIs earns them strikes. Three strikes and they're out. 

How does this square with the prickly robo-ethics Jocasta has been pumping into the series? Well, you're just gonna have to read it. The eScape makes a lot more sense at the end of the issue, and it falls right in line with this title's developing themes.

The first twist comes with the arrival of a short-term villain who gobbles up giant chunks of scenery (metaphorically (maybe literally too?)) in his quest to ruin the eScape. He's tied to the larger antagonist; it's the Controller and his agent Ms. Cabe that turn the baddie loose.

Just by the by, if the Controller doesn't turn out to have a Bigger Bad behind him, I'll eat my virtual hat.

The artistic impression of the eScape, like the script, at first threatens to disappoint. The intent is to make the virtual world look even more vibrant than reality, but this title's established look doesn't leave a lot of room on that end of the saturation dial. A suite of subtle tricks, like replacing blacks with blues, is eventually assembled to render the eScape passably unreal.

Look closer and you'll see that Mr. Schiti has worked hard to stuff the eScape with frantic activity and quality sight gags. Example: When the beta tester visits Wild West World, the dialogue fills up with facile jokes about HBO's Westworld. The artist plays it more subtly, dropping a recognizable Yul Brynner into the foreground.

The artist also gets a chance to do some sterling emotional work in the book's final scene. Mr. Schiti sketches a portrait of Tony on the penultimate page that is as eloquent and expressive, I think, as any of his dialogue so far.

(I'm complimenting the amazing linework, not slagging off the writing. I swear.)

This issue also features a genial raspberry blown at one of the "Tony Stark's destiny" ideas Brian Michael Bendis left behind. I love that. 

While its virtual reality premise doesn't sparkle in its own right, this issue resonates thanks to the twisty developments it delivers to the plot and the characters (one in particular). Tony Stark gets upstaged an awful lot for a protagonist with his name in the title. As long as the upstaging is this compelling, though, I'll happily come back for more.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
Check the thumbnail above: This issue has a Moebius variant cover! I so love Moebius drawings of Marvel characters.