Iron Man #9 Review

by Charles Martin on June 09, 2021

Iron Man #9 Review
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: CAFU
Colourist: Frank D'Armata
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

After a month's delay, Iron Man the comic is back in action. Iron Man the man, though, is still on hold; this issue is devoted wholly to Korvac.

He's making a pit-stop on his flight to Galactus's ship, seeking out an ally in the form of O.G. Human Torch Jim Hammond. Besides replacing the janky Stark-tech body Tony stuck him with, Korvac also shares his utopian plans and plays to the two characters' cybernetic similarities.

For us readers, though, we get a thorough retrospective on Korvac's origins instead of a rehash of the bland oatmeal future he intends to subject the universe to. 

Korvac was a traitor to the human race when it was enslaved by the Badoon around 3000 AD (that's old-school Guardians of the Galaxy backstory). His scaly overlords cyborged him for a minor infraction. He stumbled into cosmic power and the main 616 universe through a series of absurd comics shenanigans, making his most famous play for universal domination against the Avengers. When they opposed him, he slaughtered them all and then used his powers to punch a suicide-reset button when he felt remorseful about it. 

This is all capably covered in Iron Man #9, and Jim Hammond gives an excellent reaction once he's heard the whole spiel. 

Will Korvac ever realize how troubling it is that low-grade supervillains are the only people who seem excited by his oatmeal utopia? We can only hope -- but today is not the day.

For me, the high point of the issue is seeing another artistic tour-de-force from CAFU. Korvac's origins span a huge range of Marvel history, and the artist makes the most of the opportunity to draw retro Avengers and the Badoon. (Korvac's original, very silly "half a guy sticking out of a high-tech Kleenex box" design is only included once, though.) CAFU uses outstanding blocking to provide the smooth, cinematic flow that's especially important in a comic that jumps around past and present as much as this one.

Frank D'Armata's colours are a big part of the artistic success. He goes hyper-intense in different directions to make Korvac's Power Cosmic and Hammond's flames impressive yet distinctive. And his overall palette work thoughtfully enhances the issue's take on Korvac, drenching his Badoon days in vibrant green and then carrying that colour throughout his subsequent adventures at varying levels of intensity.

On the script side of things, Christopher Cantwell charts a delicate course through Korvac's megalomania. The rapidly-evolving Hammond relationship serves as an excellent lens for examining Korvac. The author keeps the pace brisk and the language sharp, which produces a surprising level of clarity for a meditation on a very ambiguous character.

Maybe "ambiguous" isn't the right word; "dull" might also apply. And I don't blame Mr. Cantwell for the dullness; it's been baked right into the character since the "Korvac Saga" story that this issue revisits. The core problem with Korvac is that any superhero (or any reasonably thoughtful person, really) can demolish his "utopia regardless of the cost" plans in ten words or less. And credit to the author, he lets Jim Hammond do exactly that before the issue's over.

Korvac may have been resurrected and given a shiny new body and developed a big Tony Stark grudge, but he's still running the same old playbook. What we get in this issue is a best-case scenario. This is as compelling as Korvac can be made without turning him into something altogether different. 

Iron Man #9 puts the spotlight firmly on the villain, turning a would-be recruiting session with the Human Torch into a deep dive into Korvac's past. It reveals a complicated history using clear language and outstanding art, but it remains so faithful to the character that it just winds up extending the problem Korvac's always had: For a supergenius bent on universal conquest, he's awfully dull and dumb.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
Trying to make the Jim Hammond Torch relevant again is a proud Marvel tradition going at least as far back as Roy Thomas.