Iron Man and his new band of misfit heroes have been blown up. All seems lost. Korvac is on his way to be a god. This is not another Tuesday, but a very bad situation for Tony Stark to be in. Christopher Cantwell and Cafu kick off their second story arc with the chips on the table, and nowhere for Tony Stark to go but up. That is if his body can hold together. Back in November, Cantwell told AIPT Stark was literally going to be held together by his armor, an interesting metaphor to say the least and an interesting place to put Tony Stark before he rides off after a villain.
This issue opens with a shattering opening literally and figuratively. Cast amongst the shattered glass, Iron Man and Hellcat are broken and unsure how to proceed. Tony is literally broken in both body and mind, and Patsy Walker mentally spent. Korvac has done this to them, two people who found solace in each other, and now we’re beginning a journey of redemption — or maybe it’s revenge.
Given how broken Iron Man is at the start of this book — and how much he goes through to simply stand up straight — Cantwell has done well to set up the character for an intensely different approach. He’s short with others, in a hurry to catch up to Korvac, and not pulling punches. We see this literally, but more importantly, we see how Tony Stark probably shouldn’t be in charge. Cantwell does a good job establishing why he has to be even with reservations from his team. It places this character in a rare position where we’re unsure of his abilities, but are also rooting for him to get back at Korvac. Whether or not he can stop himself from killing him is another matter.
All that, and we haven’t even gotten into how the painkillers Iron Man are on is a serious concern since he’s an addict. This issue sets that up as well and it is done in a way that’s earned. Often we’ve seen Tony toy with addiction, but here it’s done in a way that’s believable and all too familiar in a world where opiates have destroyed entire communities. Hellcat doesn’t get quite as much time on the page, but in a key scene between her and Iron Man, we do get to see they are both walking a dangerous edge. Their quest to get back at Korvac is incredibly personal and that makes this narrative all the more addicting to read.
Cafu is backed up by color artist Frank D’Armata and letterer Joe Caramagna is dark, highly detailed, and incredible to look at from panel to panel. The lighting in this book is stellar, from the glow of Iron Man’s chest reactor core to the florescent lighting from the ceiling there are always interesting glints showing off the armors in this book. When Hellcat is rushing Iron Man to get help, the glow of the city streets is unmistakable and atmospheric.
Lettering is quite strong too, with great emphasis where needed. You can practically hear Hellcat’s worry and manic energy at times through Caramagna’s letters. You must appreciate when letters get a touch smaller to convey whispering or in other instances how the word balloons connect in unconventional ways.
The opening page of shattered minds is well done too, capturing the unbearable pain Iron Man and Hellcat are in, but at the same time linking their situations via the cracks mirroring one another from the top to bottom of the page. Layouts are paced well throughout too starting with that opening page. In one scene, we get to see the villains preparing their departure, and over eight panels we get a shot of what each villain is up to. It essentially helps remind us who is involved in this ordeal but also conveys a sense of speed and preparation enhancing the tension of the scene as we know full well Iron Man is in no way able to chase them down. They have a head start.
The book is dark in tone, but still maintains a sense of humor at times. One gripe might be the introduction of Guardsman, who is a great callback to ’90s comics but is also oddly used. It’s obvious it’s in the story to play as a surprise of sorts, but doesn’t add up to much.
Iron Man #6 effectively puts Tony Stark in a darker place, making this an exciting first issue in a story arc that has firmly established this is an Iron Man we have never seen before. Above all else, Iron Man is enduring something that feels incredibly important to his legacy and may change the character forever. It’s also a story about a superhero being pushed to a limit we don’t often see, which is at once exciting and frightening.
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