"Iron Man" #4 from Kieron Gillen and Greg Land is a short but satisfying tale. The conceit to keep these issues standalone, while building to more, is a fantastic idea and economically done. This issue deals with a mission in France where Tony Stark has to don a bombastic Iron Man suit and deal with a coven of Extremis-battered ladies. The tale might be a touch thin but at 20 pages you certainly do get enough moments and a resolution to warrant a smile.
As far as a meta-comic goes, this issue of Iron Man has enough fodder for internet pundits to consider for months to come. There are multiple instances where it feels like Kieron Gillen has written distinctly for his artist, Greg Land, and done so in a way that all can appreciate. Land is widely criticised for his photo referenced work, his adult film tracing, and his bland characterisation against minimal background. This issue seems to touch upon all these flaws within the story itself.
A sequence at the start has pepper Potts insult Stark because all females must look the same to him with the way he treats them. This is ironic because in a Land-drawn comic, all females do look exactly the same. It’s hard to suppress a giggle as Potts asks this question with a face that looks alarmingly similar to Land’s Jean Grey, and Emma Frost, and Sue Storm. Later in the issue, Gillen writes in a group of 13 barely clothed women who are the narrative complication for the issue. Land makes them all look exactly the same and then arranges them into a tableau of revealing poses and dead eyed stares at the audience. Gillen gives Land opportunities to draw pretty women and an open situation to carve them all from exactly the same cloth – though no reason is given as to why these 13 women are identical.
Aside from the art, which merely continues a trend of Marvel preferring artists who can technically render the world of Stark and his machines without necessarily being able to convey any emotion, the writing in this issue is sharp. The opening sequences feel redundant until you see the very end with what they set up. Gillen does his best to tell a tale of a man affected by his actions and the responsibility currently on his shoulders. While the resolution to his problem with this group comes far too easily, this issue does have some heart attempting to break through beneath the exterior of Land’s inexpressive art.
"Iron Man" #4 has some positive aspects but sadly they’ll be too easily ignored in favor of the terrible art decisions in regards to females and the short nature of the tale. It’s nice to have an issue that mostly stands alone and this effort can help overlook the speedy resolution. If you want a done-in-one, you need to be prepared for the established mission to have a simpler close. How the resolution affects Stark is one of the issue's best parts. Gillen works with a character, not just a hero. This is a man with problem and they’ll surely build up.