Before we get to the review proper, a confession. Despite Mr Gray’s tireless and cheerful efforts to recall me to the cause, I’m a lapsed comic book reader. Sure, I enjoy gorging on the odd graphic novel (Secret Six collections are always a treat, and Batman RIP was a joy) but it’s been years since I diligently followed a series. Which is my way of saying that (forgive the turn of phrase relating to Iron Man) I’m a little rusty.
So, to work. It’s the Iron Age, we’re told, and the tale begins with a Bond-style villain plotting a terrible revenge on ol’ Shellhead, in an underwater lair surrounded by Iron Man-style robots, which he despatches on their mission.
Meanwhile, in New York, Tony Stark is holding a fundraiser which, after a testy exchange with Luke Cage and Iron Fist, the robots crash.
Luke and Fist do their best to help, but are (a little too quickly for my taste) dispatched, while Tony is quickly swatted down, his armour useless. Back at his lair, the cardboard-cut-out bad guy, Dr Birch, gives a by-the-numbers “you ruined my life” speech to Tony and, with the help of Dark Phoenix and one of Doctor Doom’s rebuilt time machines, blows up the universe. Maybe a bit of an overreaction, but as a plot device goes, it’s hard to beat.
Tony wakes in a rain-drenched alleyway after being blown through time, and, after a moment mourning the loss of, well, everything, picks himself up and wanders off to enlist the help of a certain alcoholic billionaire with a penchant for hi-tech suits of armour.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with the scripting by Rob Williams, while the artwork by Rebekah Issacs is clean and effective – with strong, bold inks and a good sense of pace – especially in the New York battle. The problem is that it’s all a little comic book by numbers. Evil villain from hero’s past? Check. Hero must battle to save the world? Check. Hero must also face demons of his past? Yup.
My other problem is the lack of emotional content. Tony Stark, with his battles with alcohol and troubled relationships with other heroes, is a fascinating, flawed and rounded character, yet when he sees the universe destroyed, with “everyone I’ve ever known, all gone”, he mopes in a rainswept alley for half a mo, shrugs it off, then gets moving.
The whole issue feels rushed – a scene setter for bigger dramas ahead. I hope so, because on the strength of this first issue, The Iron Age has a bad case of metal fatigue.