Brian Michael Bendis run on Invincible Iron Man is over, but the original Golden Avenger is back in Dan Slott and Valerio Schiti’s Tony Stark: Iron Man #1. With Bendis leaving behind a newly reconstituted Tony and a relatively clean slate to go with him, Slott establishes a new status quo for both Iron Man and the former Stark Enterprises. While it’s a fresh start filled with some thrills and welcome surprises, there are a few speed bumps that keeps the new title from truly soaring.
That first bump occurs as soon as the issue kicks off, with a flashback to a previously unseen chapter in the life of young Tony. A one-time competitor is introduced who seems poised to become a future thorn in Tony’s side, and while Slott thankfully avoids such a linear extrapolation, the character is still problematic. With no further background or development, Slott integrates the new Andy Bhang into the backbone of the issue, ultimately relying on Bhang’s character to help Tony save the day. The reliance is all too convenient and contrived, and while shining a somewhat sympathetic light on Tony’s brashness, weakens the overall story that also makes him a hero.
Slott’s story isn’t one that’s intended to be taken terribly seriously, but as if to channel his inner Bendis, parts of his story are cheapened with flippant banter that undermine some of the situations at hand. Conversely, supporting character James Rhodes, while not a central player in the issue, is only given lines that make him seem overly serious and stodgy. The inconsistencies aren’t unlike what Slott often brought to his Amazing Spider-Man, in a run that simultaneously concludes with the launch of this title (Amazing Spider-Man #801 and Tony Stark: Iron Man share the June 20 release date).
Also like most of Slott’s Spider-Man stories, this one is still largely fun, despite its drawbacks. Taking a successful element from that title, Slott confidently launches a bold, new direction for the latest incarnation of Tony’s company, and like Parker Industries, it’s already serving as the impetus for new tech and inventions. Despite a somewhat self-congratulatory ending, the introduction stands to usher in a new level of excitement for those all about Stark technology.
One would expect that technology to include the advent of some new suits of armor, which Slott and Schiti deliver with a summer blockbuster level of excitement. One of those armors, though, is blatantly derivative of a certain recent such blockbuster, right down to the antagonist that Iron Man fights against. While done before, it’s still a unique idea in the world of Iron Man, and still serves as the main highlight of the issue’s action.
Another highlight is Slott’s reintroduction of some familiar supporting characters, whose appearances fit well within the context of Slott’s story and add a refreshing mix to the supporting cast. There’s also the reemergence of a previous, and underused, villain in conjunction with a late-breaking twist that sets the tone for future issues.
Schiti’s art goes a long way towards overcoming the issue’s shortages — his panel layouts that frequently span two pages add a big-budget dynamic that make the overall issue enough fun to forgive most of Slott’s shortcomings. While Tony Stark: Iron Man #1 stumbles a bit, it’s a strong enough performance to sell the promise for the series.