Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Indomitable Iron Man #1

Marvel, 48 pages, $ 3.99

Writers: Paul Cornell, Howard Chaykin, Duane Swierczynski, Alex Irvine
Artists: Will Rosado, Howard Chaykin, Manuel García, Stefano Gaudiano, Nelson DeCastro
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Cover artist: Lucio Parrillo

Indomitable Iron Man is one of those 1970s pastiche black-and-white anthology one-shots that Marvel's been publishing lately.

The book's biggest problem is that the stories in it are nothing remotely unconventional, which begins with the format: There's a 22-page lead, and there are two 11-page backup strips. The only thing that's unusual by today's standards—aside from the retro trade dress—is a 4-page illustrated prose story in the back.

As such, the pieces are inoffensive, generally well-made riffs on single ideas, of the kind you also find in fill-in stories or Annuals. In Paul Cornell and Will Rosado's rather bland lead story, a rogue deep-space terraforming unit returns and attacks Earth. Howard Chaykin writes and draws the most entertaining and effective strip, a densely told exploration of what a typical day looks like for Tony Stark; it comes with a poignant punch line that gets to the heart of what makes Iron Man a compelling character in the right hands.

Duane Swierczynski, Manuel García and Stefano Gaudiano focus on Stark's zeal as an inventor. While that's certainly an underused aspect of the character, I don't think Mr. Swierczynski gets what Stark is about; his behavior in the story seems more like something Reed Richards would do. The illustrated prose piece by Alex Irvine and Nelson DeCastro, finally, is neither terribly well-written nor terribly original, unfortunately.

In terms of quality, this is pretty much what you'd expect from this type of package.

Still, I'm wondering whether a book like this one shouldn't try to be a little more adventurous in its ambition than the average filler story—or, at the very least, should have the kind of cocky everything-goes attitude you'd get in the 1970s, on a good day. What's the point of doing '70s style pastiche comics when nothing about the stories says "1970s"? If you're setting out to produce a collection of throwaway strips, shouldn't they at least strive to be memorably trashy, rather than inoffensively bland?

With the possible exception of the Chaykin story, there's nothing memorable about this book, at any rate, and that makes $ 3.99 seem like an awful lot of money.

Grade: C-

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