If Marvel Comics' "AXIS" event accomplishes nothing else, it's at least so far succeeded in making Tony Stark a jerk again, as many a Marvel event tends to do. It also succeeds in making Stark the title character of a regular series once more, kicking off with "Superior Iron Man" #1 by Tom Taylor and Yildiray Cinar, where a darker and more opportunistic Shellhead unveils a cruel social and marketing experiment on the entire population of San Francisco.
Of course, he's not always Shellhead anymore, as the ever-vain Tony Stark is as self-loving as ever, using the new Extremis 3.0 to configure a clever new iteration of his armor to allow his adoring public to see his smiling face and wavy locks as desired. Cinar's design is a perfect extension of both Iron Man's traditional armor and the events of "AXIS," enhanced by colorist Guru-eFX with a deceptively simple silver sheen, playing up Stark's self-presumed role of shining knight to a public he condescendingly perceives as socially undesirable.
Taylor handles the inversion of Stark's personality well, putting more of a self-obsessed spin on the character than a true villainous one, and is able to generate a moderately fresh take on the Tony-Stark-is-a-jerk motif. Handled not so well is the behavior of the population who buy into Stark's seeming magical elixir for eternal youth, who under Taylor are collectively turned into a mob of one-dimensional self-obsessed hatemongers. San Francisco is by all appearances transformed into a central California version of Hollywood, full of beautiful people, but none of whom seem to have a life outside of hanging around in public places and looking great while doing it. Cinar capably handles the look of a city suddenly populated with supermodels, but Taylor just carries the joke too far, without giving it any depth.
Where Cinar falls short is when the other shoe drops later in the story, and the beautiful people aren't so beautiful anymore, in a cleverly cruel twist by Taylor that isn't made immediately apparent artistically, making readers wait a couple of pages before this story twist is evident. This is really the only artistic shortcoming of the issue, as Cinar otherwise delivers a strongly laid out and, yes, attractive set of pages. Taylor shakes things up with a couple of strategically placed guest stars, who are both impressively rendered by Cinar.
Like "All-New" and "Ultimate," "Superior" seems to be the latest darling of Marvel descriptive title adjectives, which apparently is now used to denote a familiar looking character with a darker personality. "Superior Iron Man" #1 plays the game decently enough, with a unique and good-looking spin on an overdone idea.