Inferior Iron Man.

So...this is actually the plot of Superior Iron Man.  Without panel number two.

So…this is actually the plot of Superior Iron Man. Without panel number two.

So, Marvel Comics is currently running a major “event” crossover called “Axis.” The basic premise is that because of a fiasco involving the Red Skull, and a botched magic spell by Dr. Strange and the Scarlet Witch, any of the heroes and villains that were present on the island of Genosha at the time have suffered an “inversion.” That means that the bad guys are starting to act like good guys, and vice versa.

Several comics are actually starting during this even, like the new title “Superior Iron Man.” The premise is that Tony’s more negative aspects to his personality are totally in control. He is drinking again, which is a painfully obvious character reversal…more egotistical, more self centered. On some level, given the portrayal, it is hard to see how Tony himself cannot see the lack of character consistency. I mean, this is the same tony who sacrificed his sobriety as a valued artifact for an audience with Odin, in “Fear Itself”, being cavalier about starting to drink again in this first issue. Without a second thought, or real explanation.

The plot presents similar problems in character structure. The last series saw Stark going to huge lengths to put the Extremis process under wraps, and keep anyone from using it, since it is so profoundly dangerous. Sensible…except for this series, he has turned it into an app, and downloaded it for free to the entire population of San Francisco, where Stark now lives. Apparently, it’s a reduced function Extremis…it can make you beautiful, and an Olympic athlete, but not a superhero…at least, we don’t see that in issue number one. We do see the ultimate plan…its a free trial app for three days, and after that, it’s ninety nine dollars a day to use. And now…you see where panel one is from.

Apparently, according to this series, the exact second someone has the looks of their dreams, they immediately decide to drink heavily and only wear bikinis and/or board shorts. That, and there’s an immediate “caste system” established during the free trial period which seems…sudden, and far fetched. The whole conduct of everyone who has the Extremis app is a bit contrived. Somehow, only Pepper Potts exists as the voice of reason in the book. Seriously…no one else at all calls out Tony on giving the entire population of the city an app that allows them to manipulate human genetics. That seems…odd.

He makes a new iron man suit, this one based in part on the Venom symbiote….so he can think it on and off, and it’s made of a liquid metal or somesuch. All of that is kind of “ho-hum”…since we have had Iron Man suits that do that before, and it pretty much behaves like any other Iron Man Suit.

Here’s the problem – Tony is portrayed as too dark and twisted in this issue. With Superior Iron Man, there’s no context in the story for why Tony has become such a jerk. Even AXIS has yet to do an adequate job of explaining what the inversion actually entails or why the psychological change seems to be permanent in Tony’s case. At the very least, this series would probably have been better positioned as a post-AXIS launch rather than hitting smack dab in the middle of that event.

Was it interesting to see such a 180 degree turn on the Iron Man character? Yes, it kind of was, in the same way that the Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror” is interesting. I don’t think it has the staying power for very long, or the ability to hold interest for too long…the AXIS even is just too contrived, and there are just plot holes too big to ignore. Given how popular Marvel’s “Superior Spider-Man” series was, you can’t really blame them for electing to reuse the “superior” adjective as they relaunch Iron Man. At least it fits the premise of this book.

The art is extremely well executed, with good panel composition, solid draftsmanship, and a fully realized setting in the panels. I’m not so fond of the redesigned Iron Man suit, but partially that’s a good thing, since it is visually distinct from the suits of the last few years, and gives a real distance artistically from what the reader has become used to. That helps set a tone of change, and idea of “new character.” It makes up for what it lacks in plot sensibility and character continuity with a slick, well executed art design for the project. Kudos to Yildiray Cinar on that.

A look at the distinct visual style of the interior of Superior Iron Man.

A look at the distinct visual style of the interior of Superior Iron Man.

Still…on a Monday, it is far nicer to be commenting on plot problems with a Marvel book, than to be troubling about the problems with my school site.

Tomorrow: Cows and Autotune!

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