Wow — finding a thread on where to begin reviewing “Rich Johnston’s Iron Muslim” #1 is difficult and delicate all at the same time. Rich Johnston takes the Iron Man mythos from Marvel Comics and creatively flips it so this time it’s a Muslim man who dons the suit to fight against America. His hatred is fueled by the fact the US killed his parents. What follows is a tirade of poorly executed jokes and social commentaries that mainly takes a narrative, breaks it into some twisted pieces and ends up not actually being that funny.
There’s no getting around the title fight question: is this book racist? It paints a very simplified image of Muslims, yes. Its major failing is being ignorant, not racist. It makes some sweeping statements but it doesn’t aim to offend. Johnston goes to some lengths to show this character as a terrorist of sorts but then also trying to avoid killing people. Johnston wants the sensational high concept but isn’t willing to get down into the muck of it all — and though this is a smart move it also defines the redundancy of the whole affair.
Sadly, this comic can so easily be misconstrued or used poorly by others that you have to wonder why it was made at all. But are the imperceptions of others a reason to damn the creator? That’s a very similar argument to many views of racism, so it’s all kind of meta. In the end, this isn’t a comic you want to have loitering on your coffee table — and not because it’s offensive.
“Rich Johnston’s Iron Muslim” #1 is incredibly juvenile. Jokes are layered throughout the book and most of them predicated on the sort of stuff teenagers think when they’re not thinking. American soldiers joke in the face of one of their squad having his head ripped off purely so a punchline can land after having been established earlier. The gag always reigns over the plot or any characterization (which you can just go ahead and assume does not exist within these pages).
By the end of this book, you are completely lost. We’ve seen a shot volleyed at “Holy Terror,” which is laughable (not to be confused with funny) because through all its faults, “Holy Terror” at least managed to stick to some convictions. This book wants to toothlessly bite into a taboo concept without even nibbling the sides.
Bryan Turner’s art ranges from highly likeable to simplistic. He brings character to the Iron Muslim character in costume and that is exactly what this book needs. His Frank Miller page works well as both homage and parody.
“Rich Johnston’s Iron Muslim” #1 is an empty promise. It’s not an arrogant display of mockery and it isn’t a funny or seething satire. The celebrity cameos are pointless, the storyline tries to lose its way too effectively and the overall result is something you will be hard pressed to find a target audience for.