The work Dan Slott did with Iron Man is pretty intense when you stop and look back at the run. Over the course of 19 issues, Slott made a strong case for treating A.I. like people with the same rights and respect any human would be given. We also learned Tony Stark is more of a digital copy inside a cloned body than the actual man. All of this set up the six-issue miniseries Iron Man 2020 which Slott is co-writing with Christos Gage featuring Tony’s brother Arno as the new Iron Man. Judging by what Slott told me on the AIPT Comics Podcast we are in for a wild, and in Slott’s words, “weird” ride.
The issue opens with Arno experiencing his worst nightmare. Soon we’re learning what we see isn’t real, yet, but it’s what Arno is fighting against. There’s an Armageddon coming for humanity and it’s in the form of A.I., which is a good motivation to kill all machines — at least, that’s what Arno thinks. Soon Arno is gearing up as Iron Man 2020 and fighting Life Model Decoys and his personal mission is underway in the book itself.
It’s (Iron) Man vs. Machine in the start to a new 18 issue mini-event
In many ways, this series is the mirror opposite of Slott’s Tony Stark: Iron Man series. Familiar locales are used to show how robots with A.I. are under threat and in danger. The once cohabitation and collaborative nature of robots and humans are long gone and robots are on the run. More than once I got an X-Men vibe in how the robots are cast out and under threat all the time even though they don’t deserve it. Surprisingly, you will likely take the side of the robot. At one point a character strips a cat of its collar which allowed it to speak. The poor kitty wants to talk, but she says to onlookers with certainty the cat never talked it was the A.I. in the collar.
This issue does well to set up Machine Man as one of the main antagonists as well. Again, the way he was depicted in Tony Stark: Iron Man plays an important part here. He was always forced to help Tony or humans in that series and did it reluctantly. Arno is giving many reasons to devolve into his old human-hating self and you really can’t blame him.
Artist Pete Woods draws with a clean style that’s very easy on the eyes. Robots and their circuitry, as well as Arno’s Iron Man suit itself all look quite cool with exposed gears and wiring, looking almost organic in how they are depicted. The opening splash (see below) is horrifying, and the action, while limited, is easy to follow. I particularly like the panel shapes used here. At one point we see replays of TV shows and the panels curve to convey the panel itself is a screen floating in space. Other panels have a flat edge on top left and right of a square that helps draw the eye from left to right. On that same page, we see Machine Man standing at a white table, which bleeds into the next panel as the white light behind his head. It has a symmetrical look to it that again flows the story forward nicely.
One drawback to this issue is how there isn’t anyone likable in this story. Arno has valiant ideas, but he’s also a jerk and a villain and doesn’t know it. Machine Man is just, but also really hates humanity. There are humans here and there that want to do the right thing but don’t seem to be main players. I’m curious about the final few pages, but I’m holding a reservation on how they’ll be used.
This is an enjoyable first issue to a major war between man and machine. Arno Stark and his motives are outlined well here, so if you’re jumping in now you’ll have an easy time making sense of everything. Fans who read Tony Stark: Iron Man will be rewarded with some visuals and themes that progress well here and show us the world is changing.
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