With “Iron Man” #3, Marvel NOW! continues its double-shipping madness, releasing another chapter in the adventures of Tony Stark so quickly after issue #2 and a mere seven days before #4 hits the stands. Not surprisingly, this issue feels like a bit of filler.
Kieron Gillen has set Tony Stark on a quest to seek and destroy four samples of the Extremis techno-virus. Stark is on this crusade to redeem himself for the death of his former colleague and companion, Maya Hansen, who was killed for Extremis. Gillen’s Stark is a fair amalgamation of Robert Downey, Jr.’s interpretation, mixed with Matt Fraction’s and classic David Michelinie. Unfortunately, the amalgamation doesn’t venture into new territory, choosing instead to pluck a few notes from the classic “Armor Wars” story. Gillen inserts a twist for the readers, preying upon Tony Stark’s humanity, but the conclusion is almost too predictable. Despite the predictability, Gillen manages to flick the heartstrings a bit, but doesn’t grab hold. The readers, therefore, will have varying levels of investment and the story will be incongruently remembered. That’s a shame as the pieces are all there to make this an Iron Man story to be remembered, they’re just mixed in the wrong increments.
Greg Land’s art is still considerably photo-referenced, which works in some scenes, but not so much in others. Land takes the most liberties with the human form, ironically, in the drawings of Iron Man. It is almost as though the non-Iron Man bits of the book are mere filler (especially with some of the characters being prone to bouts of shadow features) to be completed while Iron Man himself needs to be savored. Sure, this makes the titular character look good, but it doesn’t do much for the rest of the book, like when Tony isn’t armored up. Land and colorist Guru eFX do combine for some “Iron Man” worthy visuals with fractals and heads-up displays. This isn’t a horrible looking book, but it also isn’t the most memorable visual spectacle of the Armored Avenger.
My colleague in reviews, Greg McElhatton, has raised the observation that this title doesn’t seem as though it needed to be restarted. I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment. Gillen and Land have simply given Tony Stark a different task, not an entirely new mission. Sure, the armor is modular now instead of being slick and complete, but even that isn’t cause enough for a restart. “Iron Man” #3 is a book that offers a complete sample of what this series has been like through a trio of issues and halfway through his latest mission: nothing terrible, but nothing terribly spectacular either.