Looking suspiciously like an arc from the recently-cancelled "Iron Man Legacy" (but let's not hold that against it), "Iron Man: Iron Age Alpha" sees Tony Stark thrown back in time by a minor villain who has misunderstood his own significance and destroyed the world (via the Dark Phoenix) as a result. Trapped in the past, can Tony stop this madman before it's too late (again)? Well, probably. But that doesn't mean we can't have fun finding out how he does it.
On the one hand, the use of the Dark Phoenix seems a little gratuitous. She turns up, delivers her most famous line, then destroys the world. It's hard to imagine she's being used as anything more than an alternative for Galactus, or some other cosmic-level extinction event, and what's she doing in an Iron Man title anyway? Then again, you have to admit that it does make a nice change, and it's an amusing idea.
Continuity fans will love it. Continuity virgins... well, it's probably not the right book for them anyway, considering that much of the plot revolves around a villain who has only appeared in continuity once before, in "Tales of Suspense" #63, and Luke Cage is still complaining about the events of a crossover from several years back. Continuity is part of the fun of "Iron Age Alpha."
And after all, it is fun. Williams is happy to go over the top, bringing in all sorts of references and moments that make "Iron Age Alpha" feel like the start of a big, important story, even though it's being spun off into a miniseries. If Fraction's Iron Man is too cerebral for you, then this is the antidote. Not that it's dumb, but neither is it overly serious.
Rebekah Isaacs' has all the range necessary to pull off such a tale, and her work is equally enjoyable whether she's illustrating robots attacking a party or a drunk Iron Man slumped in his chair. Her gifts are for instantly-readable expressions and body language, and for including just enough detail to make a scene feel real.
As it turns out, far from being a throwaway miniseries, "Iron Age Alpha" looks like it's going to be a fun continuity-revisiting storyline for the Marvel fans in all of us. The final page twist suggests that Williams is going to keep the references broad, so even if you're not an Iron Man completist you should have little trouble following the story. If event comics are leaving you cold, or you long for a different take on Iron Man - or, indeed, just a good Iron Man story - the "Iron Age" miniseries this leads into looks like it's going to be all that and more. Worth a look.