Tony Stark: Iron Man #14 Review

by Charles Martin on July 24, 2019

Tony Stark: Iron Man #14 Review
Writers: Dan Slott and Jim Zub
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Colourist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Tony Stark: Iron Man would be pleased as punch if I described it as "action-packed, but also philosophical." It's not having any difficulty earning the first descriptor thanks to its rapid-fire plotting and Valerio Schiti's hard-working art. 

When it comes to philosophy, though, there just aren't enough pages in the book. So much attention is devoted to action setpieces and sassy dialogue and the plodding explanation of standard sci-fi techno-tropes (many of them decades old) that there's barely space to wedge philosophical questions in - and no space at all to examine or answer them.

If this title were a rock band, its hit song would be Tony Stark wailing, "What does it meeeean to be human?" over and over again. With Jocasta doing harmonizing back-up vocals. And the stage show would involve a hell of a lot of pyrotechnics.

This issue starts out with Carol Danvers stepping into the Jiminy Cricket role as Tony explains yet another pitfall-riddled tech breakthrough. Tony's discovered how to edit his memory engrams to remove unpleasant or adverse bits of personal history - like his recent cyber-bender.

That means we get angry Carol and befuddled Tony, who's just gone through a two-week brain reset, next to a hard drive containing everything he tore out of his head. 

And before the script can do anything more than scratch the surface of the implications, a corporate spy yoinks the hard drive. Of course. Cue the giant property-damage-fest!

There is space for a few cutaways that provided much-needed long-term plot development. Arno is teeing up to be the next antagonist, reviewing the recent history of his parents' memory engrams and thinking fratricidal thoughts. And Jocasta is out being independent, considering her next steps.

The Jocasta plot thread, unfortunately, routes us through a few more excruciating pages of the Uncanny Valley - the robot bar where drinks are apparently half price as long as you work a techno-dad-joke into every other line of your dialogue.

I oughtn't to give the impression that I was an anti-fan of this issue's big action setpiece - the spy steals Rhodey's Manticore along with that hard drive, and Tony and Carol team up to take it down. The visual performance is just too dang good to dismiss the fighting; it looks beautiful. Valerio Schiti brings his usual technical precision to the character renderings and tech, and this issue features especially smooth panel-to-panel flow. It's a fast and fairly complicated story, but it's orchestrated for maximum clarity.

Edgar Delgado's putting the cherries on top with his colours. The overall palette is quite vibrant, but he keeps extra oomph in reserve to emphasize the coolest bits of tech. We get great neon lights, zappy guns, energy shields, and the sparkliest of sparkle-fists for Captain Marvel.

So #14 delivers a tasty visual feast. The story is impeccably timed and tuned, no matter how much I might grouse about a lack of depth. The sassy dialogue is genuinely entertaining. By itself, this comic is above average.

But it doesn't operate in a vacuum. It's part of a series, and that series has hit these beats too many times before: A questionable Tony Stark invention blows up big and loud before any of its subtler problems can emerge, requiring an immediate shooty-punchy solution. And meanwhile, a villain plots Tony's downfall and Jocasta does more moody brooding on the meaning of humanity. It's another refrain of a still-flawed chorus.

Tony Stark: Iron Man #14 sings another song of Tony's hubris, concentrating again on the noisy superheroics required to slam another technological Pandora's box before the bad guys can pilfer it. The superheroics get a fine visual treatment and they're scripted well. The overall tune is getting repetitive, though, and I don't think mine is the only finger inching toward the "skip" button.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
Sometimes I get the impression that the writers are terrified about using tech concepts in ways that might leave a 60-year-old reader slightly confused. I'm all for clarity in writing, but prioritizing that particular worry feels like a mistake.