Tony Stark: Iron Man #15 Review

by Charles Martin on August 21, 2019

Tony Stark: Iron Man #15 Review
Writers: Dan Slott & Jim Zub
Artists: Juanan Ramírez with Francesco Manna
Colourist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Tony Stark: Iron Man #15 opens up with Tony testifying to Congress about the eScape debacle.

Given the scope and craziness of his career, congressional testimony might as well be one of Tony's personalized 12 Steps.

An antagonistic senator forces Tony into discussing matters of artificial intelligence. It's a neat piece of scripting, as this same move gets the issue's philosophical and character balls rolling.

Tony's scrupulous honesty manages to offend, mortify, or amuse everybody who hears his testimony. Not only does he expose the dangerous swathes of legal grey area around AI rights (which is not nearly so hypothetical a subject in the Marvel universe as it is in ours), he lets the cat out of the bag about his own "it's complicated" status when it comes to personhood.

This issue takes him from the hypothetical admission that he might count as an AI now to a more crushing description of himself as "a rebooted copy of a copy of a copy" after he scores a pyrrhic victory in the big fight du jour.

It's grim stuff and I'm eating it up. In contrast to some of this series's past techno-philosophy, which I found tepid, this has an intimate connection to the protagonist and some real intellectual teeth.

This issue also brings Vision and Wonder Man aboard as guest stars. Excellent folks to staff your roundtable discussion on AI rights, duplication, and resurrection, but the writers are too smart to make this comic wall-to-wall philosophy. 

Vizh and Wondy get dragooned into service by the next antagonist, ensuring that their meeting with Tony is more about punchy-blasty than reasoned discourse.

This story is told too well to tempt me into spoiling the surprise antagonist's identity, but I will say that the pending conflict is easily compelling enough to sell the next couple of issues all by itself.

And now the bad news. Where this issue's script surprised me pleasantly by exceeding my expectations, the art goes the other way. Right from the first panel, it establishes a messy, scratchy style that clashes with this title's usual polish.

The bones of the visuals are very similar to those employed by regular artist Valerio Schiti, and that's a good thing. This issue uses strong character posing and splashy panel-breaking layouts like Mr. Schiti's, especially in its fight scene. But the sketchy finishes stand in stark contrast to the title's norm. While they're executed with skill, they also maintain a constant feeling of dissonance that repeatedly distracts me from the story.

The colour palette gives me similar feelings of intentional upset. Even the brightest, most action-packed scenes are muted, and the quieter indoor scenes, like the initial congressional testimony, have me flirting with descriptors like "muddy." I can see it's a choice, and the soft colours make a good thematic match to Tony's "I'm a copy of a copy" concerns. 

But all the effort invested in making the visuals look disconcerting pays off too well. This comic is hard to look at - and it lacks that critical spark that would get me across the hump into "but I cannot look away" territory. 

In Tony Stark: Iron Man #15, the title's AI concerns grow some philosophical teeth before segueing smoothly to a shocking and promising new antagonist. The script is razor-sharp, but the art succeeds a little too well at nasty-ing up this title's usually-clean looks. It's hardly a mortal sin, though. On balance, this latest issue provides exactly the shot of compelling conflict that this title needed.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
While I love the idea of robots hero-worshipping Vision, their adoring catcalls could use some workshopping.