Ever since the conclusion of Civil War II, Tony Stark has been out of commission, leaving an Iron Man-shaped hole in the Marvel Universe. Luckily, the young Riri Williams quickly stepped up to the “iron” plate as the new hero superhero Ironheart in the pages of Invincible Iron Man, while the reformed villain Doctor Doom has been seeking redemption in Infamous Iron Man.
Tony, Riri and Doom’s story arcs finally converge in the Marvel Legacy renumbered Invincible Iron Man #593 from Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Alex Maleev, Marte Gracia and Clayton Cowles. As fun as the ride that Ironheart and Doctor Doom have taken readers on has been, it was only a matter of time until Tony’s comatose state was directly dealt with. However, instead of tackling the question of Tony’s current whereabouts head-on, Bendis crafts a mystery around the disappearance of the armored Avenger. One minute Tony is unconscious inside a pod at Stark Facility, the next, he’s vanished without a trace.
Bendis’ Infamous Iron Man collaborator Alex Maleev joins artist Stefano Caselli to weave separate tales for Doctor Doom and Ironheart in Invincible Iron Man #593. This works perfectly as a storytelling mechanism, since Riri and Doom are on opposite ends of the Tony Stark mystery. Riri — along with Mary Jane Watson, Tony’s A.I. assistant Friday, and Tony’s mother Amanda Armstrong — are dealing directly with a missing Tony, while Doom checks on a massive prison break at Ryker’s Island. Though it’s not explicitly stated the supervillain breakout is tied to the Tony Stark mystery, it wouldn’t be surprising to discover they have some connection.
In a short, funnier moment, it’s quite hilarious to see Doom conjure an invisible spell to make the warden and a few guards hug-out their hostilities towards the reformed villain-turned-hero. Small, well-timed jokes can land just as well as large displays of comedy, and this one works perfectly, providing a fun backdrop against which an intense stare down between Doctor Doom and Ben Grimm takes place. Though the two ultimately don’t come to blows, the tension in the air radiated off the Maleev-illustrated page, with Ben’s face reflecting off of Doom’s metal helmet.
Meanwhile, Ironheart’s supporting cast of Friday, MJ and Amanda play a crucial role in organizing a search strategy for Tony. It’s cool to see three women (and a female artificial intelligence) take the spotlight in the search for the world’s foremost billionaire philanthropist superhero. It looks likely that whenever Tony returns as Iron Man, each these women will stick around in some form or another. There’s also a good chance Riri will continue to star in her own solo series, possibly titled after her Ironheart alias.
The biggest highlight of the issue comes in the final pages, as a hairless gentleman emerges from a containment unit. Caselli and Gracia convey the agony on his face as he struggles to walk upright, clearly showing he’s been stuck in that unit for some time. Either that, or it’s a clone of Iron Man. Are we to believe this is Tony Stark reborn? He does crawl his way to a displayed Iron Man armor and puts it on before he curls up in the fetal position on the floor, but something about it just feels like a major misdirect, leaving the reader to wonder, if this isn’t Tony, then who could it be?
If “The Search For Tony Stark” is going to be the greatest Iron Man story of all time — according to Bendis — then he, Caselli and Maleev have to do a lot to deliver on his promise. Tony’s disappearance and the introduction of this hairless mystery man offer up an intriguing opening salvo, making this one of the stronger Marvel Legacy issues to date, and an impressively entertaining Iron Man tale to boot.