Iron Man has felt very different from the last decade of stories at Marvel Comics. The character is less of an egomaniac, but a man who is aware he has not been perfect. He’s no longer obsessed with being a futurist with all the answers and instead is growing tired of proving he’s a hero worth celebrating. The first issue introduced a new kind of mindset for the character and issue #2 hammered home a Tony Stark who isn’t sure how to resolve this struggle he’s undergoing.
In the third issue, out this week, Unicorn and Melter join in on the fun, Patsy sets Tony straight, and it gets positively electric for Iron Man. Things are really popping off this week, moving things along nicely now that the first two issues have established a lot of the meat of the book. You can tell, because the book opens with a mysterious first page that leads to a bit more ruminating from Tony and a slick montage of Tony taking his lumps and getting no praise for it. Writer Christopher Cantwell is doing the heavy lifting to show Tony is getting really sick of being the street level hero and getting nothing from the public beyond ridicule. He’s a man who wants to be on the mend, but can’t find his way.
The main portion of this book is devoted to Patsy and Tony talking amongst themselves on a commercial airline. Once again, Patsy is a voice of reason and doesn’t go light on Tony. When someone is feeling sorry for themselves, being tough is sometimes the best course and we see that here.
This first story arc has been quite good at reminding us there is a human being underneath the Iron Man costume. We see it with how many lumps Iron Man takes in battle, but this issue leans into it even more. Iron Man is fallible, can be duped, and certainly isn’t prepared for everything. In this sense, Cantwell has established Iron Man can be defeated, especially when he can’t get out of his own way.
Art by Cafu with colors by Frank D’Armata continues to have a heightened sense of realism. This might be the most realistic looking Iron-book ever. That goes for backgrounds, but also children who look natural and realistic as well as the armor on Iron Man’s back. The interplay of light and shadow is a big part of the realism and you can see that from the interior of the plane to a stormy outdoor scene that ends the book. Speaking of that scene, the rain works quite well thanks how the rain reacts as it hits the ground and Iron Man’s armor. You can feel the weight of it on him, further creating a sense of drama in the final moments.
From a plotting perspective, this issue makes a few bold cuts that are jarring. Cutting from a rather dark moment where Tony is close to murdering a villain to him dealing with a burger joint cashier is just one example. In fact, there are a few unconventional cuts like this, carrying a scene to a second page that suddenly cuts to an entirely different scene rather than cutting between pages. It makes for a reading experience where you’re left wondering if there’s an effect the story is trying to go for visually or if they simply ran out of space and kept going.
This series continues to feel entirely new, which is especially impressive when you consider this character is nearly 70 years old. Iron Man #3 continues to explore a morose Iron Man who is a hero, but is seriously questioning why.
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