Iron Man #1 Review

by Charles Martin on September 16, 2020

Iron Man #1 Review
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: CAFU
Colourist: Frank D'Armata
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Armour Designer: Alex Ross (!)
Publisher: Marvel Comics


You're starting a new Marvel series in 2020. The editors sit you down and tell you you have to swipe a design gimmick from one of the company's top books. What'll it be? Do you take the "Immortal Hulk scholarly intro quotes™" gimmick or the "Jonathan Hickman datafiles™" gimmick?

Christopher Cantwell and crew have gone with the former option, bookending this debut issue with quotes from Buckminster Fuller. And I should dial back the sass: That's actually an excellent choice for an Iron Man comic. Buckminster Fuller was one of the first people to really own the label "futurist"; practically a real-world Tony Stark (without the crime-fighting super-suit (as far as we know)).

What lies between the smart-guy quotes? It's mid-life crisis time for Tony. He ditches his companies, his stocks, his mansion, and most of his toys. He reinvests a third of his fortune. He moves to New York. He buys a modest 70s car. (A Dodge Aspen. I'm not much of a gearhead, but I think that counts as over-under-compensating.) He gets beat in street races.

And throughout all this wandering, there are ample cutaways to media reactions -- interviews, Twitter threads, Reddit posts -- showing that Tony is abysmally failing at getting out of the spotlight. His every move is critiqued and insulted. It doesn't pass unnoticed; Tony is chafing at the criticism.

Just when his wanderings threaten to get too aimless, he runs into Patsy Walker. It's the salvation of both the hero and the issue. Patsy delivers the perfect adversarial critique of Tony's midlife crisis, adding meaning and doing an excellent job of steering him toward more productive activities.

Plus, of course, Hellcat brings the humour. From needling Tony when his dialogue goes cliché to reacting with mock shock when he reveals his armour ("Oh my God. It's really true. You're Iron Man."), she keeps things from getting too serious.

She gets him armoured up (in a newly-designed yet definitely not cutting-edge suit) and patrolling the city, and of course, they run into a scrap. We get a fine one-shot fight and the ominous rumblings of a Bigger Bad on the horizon.

So this is pretty standard-issue Iron Man plotting. Interrogating his privilege and relationship with technology are, like, in the top five list of Iron Man story ideas. I couldn't resist spoiling the inclusion of Patsy Walker/Hellcat because she truly does save the man and the comic. Without her, Mr. Cantwell's script runs the risk of being too slow and too safe. He writes her well, and she has the perfect knot-tying shape-up effect on the story.

On the visual side, things are helped out considerably by another top-shelf performance from CAFU. His anatomical and emotional skills remain absolutely world-class. The street-racing interlude in the middle demonstrates his willingness to study and stretch; surely he had to devote some hours to teaching himself to draw ☠️☠️☠️☠️box 70s muscle cars. And he learned well -- although that was a dark age of automotive design, CAFU's renditions are realistic and highly detailed.

Frank D'Armata helps out with a chilly palette that suits the mostly-nighttime settings. The softer colours that fill most of the pages enhance the detailed art, and they allow the bolder splashes of colour (like Tony's armour and Hellcat's hair) to pop. Plus, Mr. D'Armata does wonders with glow-y effects, including a notable head-on view of Iron Man's repulsor beams at work where his gauntlets are silhouetted in the middle of the zap. 

I think credit should go to both members of the art team for the brilliant shadow work throughout the book. Tony may have shifted his operations to NYC, but it may as well be Film Noir San Francisco with all the sharp, dramatic shadows lurking around him.

The latest volume of Iron Man kicks off with a lean, retro, back-to-basics approach from both Tony and the writer. They're skating close to aimlessness, but the problem is noted within the story and narratively corrected with a thrilling final act. Combine the promising initial plot points with some superb visuals, and you've got a comic that's already approaching must-read territory.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
Dang, but that is a sweet suit of retro armour. Open eye-slits and the old-school magnetic arms and legs. I dig it.