Finally, a second Iron Man title! There hasn’t been one of those for, ooh... months.
In fairness, there are plenty of reasons why Iron Man might be able to support a second title now, even though “Director of SHIELD” disappeared less than two years ago -– for a start, you might be aware of a certain blockbuster movie sequel about to hit screens? Certainly, that’s reason enough to get a new #1 on stands.
However, there is also an ostensible hook to this Iron Man title intended to give it a distinctive identity –- something that was lacking the last time Marvel tried to run two series simultaneously. This book, as the title suggests, is all about Iron Man’s "legacy," and although that initially looks like it’ll be a fairly generic “someone uses Stark’s technology for evil” story, the final page twist turns it into something a little more directly linked with both Starks' past.
Although the final page reveal is heavily rooted in Marvel history, the rest of the comic is designed to function almost as a movie tie-in. Prominent appearances for Rhodes and Potts sit alongside pointed references to Howard Stark and the “arc reactor,” elements that fans of the movie will be more than comfortable with. This tactic served "Invincible Iron Man" well back in the day, and although Van Lente doesn’t have quite as distinctive a take on Stark as Fraction, there’s no reason readers will be disappointed by this if (and when) they come looking for a new issue one off the back of Iron Man 2.
The movie references, however, do blur the lines of continuity a little too much. It’s possible that this is technically the first “Heroic Age” title. It doesn’t mention Norman Osborn, Nick Fury is running SHIELD... but then, Stark isn’t wearing the new armor design we’ve seen promo images of either. Although new readers won’t care about this stuff, it’s possible that it’ll just confuse the hardcore readership, and worse than that, it might give the impression that the book isn’t in-continuity, which could virtually sweep its knees out from under it.
While I’ve been a fan of Kurth’s artwork in the past, there’s something a little off about it here. Perhaps it’s the multiple inkers, or perhaps it’s a change in Kurth’s style, but on a purely aesthetic level, there’s an overly-distracting ugliness to a lot of the characters that doesn’t reflect the glossy, aspirational world of Tony Stark as we know it. Things simply don’t look right, more frequently than not.
The reality, then, is that this book achieves just about enough to get away with its flaws. To his credit, Van Lente’s masterful handling of the tone makes the cliffhanger work in ways it shouldn’t, and that’s enough to bring me back for issue #2 –- but there are problems with the book’s concept and execution, and that’s never a good start.