Darkhold: Iron Man #1 Review

by Charles Martin on October 13, 2021

Darkhold: Iron Man #1 Review
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Guillermo Sanna
Colourist: Ian Herring
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics

This tale of Iron Man's origin gone wrong puts me in mind of the Immortal Hulk, and that can only be a good thing, right?

For a start, it shares IH's deep interest in how its protagonist's Silver Age debut was handled. It uses panels from Tales of Suspense #39 as chapter breaks, hammering home how it's extracting key themes from the Lee-Leiber-Heck original.

(And if you subscribe to Marvel Unlimited, reading that ToS issue alongside Darkhold: Iron Man is a great idea.)

Where the Lieber brothers tossed out exaggerated phrases for melodramatic effect -- promising that Tony Stark is "destined to become the most tragic figure on Earth" -- Ryan North drills into those phrases and unearths some real horror.

This one-shot focuses on a singular aspect of the Iron Man armour: It starts as Tony's life-support system. Here, he decides to push that to the limit, turning his suit into a mobile AI-driven medical suite.

This being a Darkhold book, the results aren't pretty. 

Visually speaking, this is a rather pretty book, though! Again calling back to the Silver Age, Guillermo Sanna uses a flat, line-driven art style that's strongly reminiscent of Don Heck's jet-setting first look at Tony Stark. There's ample detail in the characters and settings, but it's defined by contrasting edges rather than by built-up volumes. That's what I mean by "flat," and it's definitely not a bad thing here.

Colourist Ian Herring helps complete the visual presentation by using a lot of pale, unhealthy colours to complement the heavy shadows at play throughout. There's no shortage of colour intensity when necessary, though; the book's most intimate and horrific moments blaze with powerful hues.

Put it all together, and the art team has created something that looks a lot like Mike Mignola in full eldritch mode.

Mr. North keeps Pepper Potts as the narrator throughout. She's given a welcome upgrade to "top scientist and executive," allowing her to work closely with Tony (until it all goes Cthulhu-shaped). And their intimate connection blossoms into romance -- but of course that, too, is doomed.

The author also provides torrents of 21st-century technobabble to explain Tony's work. It may strike some readers as excessive -- but it may also be a parodic nod to the ridiculous pseudo-science Stan Lee saddled Iron Man with during the Silver Age. Magnets and transistors and transistorized magnets galore!

While I'm being critical, I'll also point out that although Tony is implied to grow ever-more horrific in appearance, there is a ceiling on how horrifying the art gets. A final visual shocker could really push this story to greatness.

One reason I bring it up is that the whole creative team proves themselves to be fantastically good at jump scares. (It's hard to do well in this medium, I think.) Mr. North is adept at switching from the tender Tony-Pepper relationship to the horrifying transformation. The artists block their pages and panels to capitalize on those switches, maximizing the impact of the scarier sights.

Darkhold: Iron Man #1 is an excellent one-shot that productively combines romance and horror. The creators wring every available drop of feeling and terror out of the straightforward premise, and it all builds up to that best sort of disappointment at the end: Readers are likely to be desperately interested in finding out what happens next.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
I hope it doesn't spoil too much to say this book gives off a powerful Cancerverse vibe.