"Iron Man: Noir" or "Iron Man: Pulp" or "Iron Man: Elseworlds," by any other title, this book would be entertaining. Spinning off the clichéd plotline of a bored billionaire playboy with nothing to do with his money except look for trouble, this story takes Tony Stark out of the boardrooms and Avengers Mansion and makes him a full-fledged adventurer in the vein of Indiana Jones, but exploitative of his adventures, publishing his stories in "Marvels: A Magazine of Men's Adventure." This story is crafted like a serialized film, with dramatic reveals, pauses, and double-crosses aplenty. Snyder pens a Stark that is driven by adventure, and the scenarios presented here are fun, worthy adventures filled with peril and excitement.
The issue opens with an adventure to find the fabled jade mask of the Mayan underworld. On this quest, Stark sustains personal losses. Those losses shape the future of this story, and add definition to the cast as it comes together.
One of the most enjoyable facets of Marvel's variances into other genres is the result of taking known quantities of characters and infusing them with unknown aspect, delivering essentially brand-new characters to waiting readers. The covers of "Marvels" magazines from the past are shown just enough to tease use to want more –- with noirish influenced interpretations of Fin Fang Foom, Modok, and the Ghost. As Robert Downey, Jr. made Tony Stark walk, talk and breathe on the silver screen, Scott Snyder and Manuel Garcia embed Stark in the pulpy world of adventure. Stark brings Rhodey, Pepper Potts, and Jarvis along with him, but his foes include Zemo and Baron Strucker -– two foes perfectly suited for this age.
Garcia's art is perfect for this era, gritty and dark, drenched in chiaroscuro and sewn into reality. His characters are solid and fresh, instantly recognizable and consistent throughout this issue. Their emotions are readable and believable, and their body language is fluid and real.
This is a fun book overall. It may seem inconsequential under the sheer volume of Iron Man product hitting the shelves of late, but it is a solid story that is a pleasant divergence from the burdens of continuity. I haven't been completely plugged into the "Noir" line from Marvel, but this story has a hook and promises more fun in the adventures to come, especially given what Stark unearths in his assistants' records. An old rivalry seems poised to get a wonderfully new interpretation.