The no-longer-Invincible Iron Man is the first Marvel A-lister to get his own Marvel NOW! title, so straight away, there’s weight on this book’s shoulders. Written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Greg Land, “Iron Man” #1 puts Tony Stark and Extremis immediately back into the spotlight — but this time the stakes are higher than ever before.
Gillen inherits a version of Tony Stark whose worldview has been rocked by the events of “AvX.” Although the character developments in “AvX” weren’t wholly convincing in their execution, it’s encouraging that Gillen has run with them in a way that gives Stark a new perspective without changing him beyond recognition. These themes don’t quite take a front seat in the first issue, but they do get some prominent page time, and the title of the arc overall (“Believe”) suggests Tony’s personal crisis is more than a superficial concern.
The creative team rotation sees Gillen once again paired with Greg Land, his sometime partner on “Uncanny X-Men.” Land’s technical idiosyncrasies are well-documented by critics, but it’s fair to say that Gillen knows how to write to the artist’s strengths. Under the Gillen’s direction, the catalogue-model grins of Land’s characters find their place in nightclubs and bars. The widescreen panels Land so readily deploys are given appropriate purpose, containing panoramas and cinematic action, rather than close-ups and talking heads. Land still produces stiff-postured figures and difficult-to-recognize characters, but it’s safe to say there are better storytelling fundamentals on display than in much of his usual work.
A new Iron Man is nothing without new armor, and on that level, the comic certainly delivers. There’s no teasing, no trailing, no holding back: as soon as there’s a reason to put it on, Stark does just that. Readers see where it’s come from and what it can do, which is exactly what is good and proper. After all, when you read an Iron Man comic, you want to see Iron Man in action. Furthermore, Tony’s current state of uncertainty only shows when he’s in his civilian clothes. Once he armors up, he’s all business.
As a first issue, it’s a reasonably straightforward affair, but it sets up the series’ premise and characters quickly and expertly. In particular, it’s hard not to think about how well it’ll read to potential newcomers when the collection hits shelves not far from the release date of “Iron Man 3.” That’s not to say it doesn’t deliver anything unexpected, because there are plenty of new ideas — big and small — and at least one thing you’ve almost certainly never seen in an Iron Man comic.
It’s not quite the dramatic overhaul the Marvel NOW! branding may have implied, but with Gillen’s snappy dialogue and thematically layered writing on display alongside some well-tempered artwork from Greg Land, it’s got all the hallmarks of a strong series in the making. “Iron Man” #1 sees Tony Stark heading into uncharted waters and, crucially, makes a convincing argument for readers to tag along.