INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev & Paul Mounts
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: March 16, 2016
As Tony faces dire straits against a crew of mechanical enemies, we get to take a stroll down memory lane to see him in college meeting a potential flame, Cassandra, for the first time. No less smarmy but a bit less cocky than his current incarnation, Mr. Stark roams London as a student who dares not use his family money to make an achievement. After taking a chance on young romance, Tony is caught in an unexpected firefight, revealing that his current situation has significant ties to a chance meeting connected to his past.
Dare I say it, this is the most likable I’ve ever seen Tony Stark. He has less of the arrogance that is a defining part of his character, which makes sense considering the backdrop of much of the story. While very little was revealed besides the familiar face at the end of the issue, this inaugural chapter of International Iron Man managed to begin to weave the tapestry of a larger story while maintaining my interest. Rather than unanswered questions, there’s an ongoing mystery about Tony and Cassandra that will assuredly be uncovered as the series progresses. This first issue of the series is much more about feelings and interpersonal interaction, which I think is a welcome addition to the world of the Man of Iron.
Brian Michael Bendis’ specific style manages to bring out some excellent parts of Tony and the story overall. The banter-like dialogue fits well with the story as it develops, as there’s a sort of meet cute between Tony and Cassandra that sets the stage for the plot of the past as well as the present. International Iron Man #1 is definitely an expository issue, but one that does not compromise intrigue by building a clearly more extensive story. The flow from cover to cover was expertly handled, leading to a reveal at the end that may not have been surprising, but was in no way a letdown.
It’s been a while since I’ve personally seen Alex Maleev in action, and this particular spin on a rather distinct style was a great addition to the story in this issue. In particular, the pages which represent the present story have less shadow and darkness than I’m used to with Maleev, and the details are much more sharp. The flashback pages, on the other hand, are darker and much more murky, reminiscent of the sensation of drawing upon memories and recognizing the undoubtedly fuzzy parts of these recollections. Paul Mounts on color has some truly awesome yet subtle moments throughout the issue, using a muted brightness to create stellar highlights in moments throughout the story. Tony lives in a London lit by the embers of a fire, not the blaze of the flame, an element that does a great service to International Iron Man #1 by enhancing the atmosphere of the overall story.
I was actually in awe how much I liked International Iron Man #1. Tony is still warming on me as a character in this first issue, but there are promises of a story that will have intriguing framing and make best use of the unique talents of the creative team. This is very much an exposition, setting the stage for the story, so if you’re looking for action this first chapter may not be what you’re looking for. Yet, if you want to see some interesting character development and insight into a young Tony, I say give it a try. If I were to read any Iron Man series this would be it, and it actually got me more excited to see how an International Tony is going to show up.
The Verdict: 8.5/10