by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer
Iron Man (v4)
Written by Christos Gage, Art by Jackson Butch Guice
Published: August 2007
I feel bad for the writers who had to take on Iron Man following Marvel’s Civil War event. That event took Tony Stark from bring an impulsive know-it-all who still had a good heart and made him what was basically a fascist dictator. Sure, Civil War tried to be nuanced and clever, mirroring real-life politics to a degree and presenting a conflict where there was no “right” side to be on. But poor communication among Marvel’s creative teams led to widely varied views on how the event should have been done. So instead of an Iron Man who sided with the Superhero Registration Act in an attempt to keep his fellow superheroes from being hunted down like criminals, he became the guy who ignored the United States Constitution by unlawfully detaining his fellow vigilantes in the Negative Zone, the guy who used nanotech to mind control Norman Osborn into attempting a political assassination, and a guy who used a mockup of Captain America’s corpse in an attempt to arrest his former friends. Basically, Civil War and its aftermath took Iron Man from being a flawed but noble hero and made him a complete monster who treated the ideals of America like toilet paper. He showed that same disregard for basic human rights when he and his fellow Illuminati members exiled the Hulk into space without a trial of any sort, leading to Planet Hulk and then World War Hulk.
But the time World War Hulk rolled around, people wanted to see Iron Man get his comeuppance. That’s what the cover to Iron Man #19 promises, as it shows the Hulk punching the head off of one of Tony Stark’s drones. It’s an excellent cover. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the only good parts about this issue.
Iron Man #19 is basically a retelling of World War Hulk #1 from Tony Stark’s point of view. Sadly, the story doesn’t really give us another point of view outside of a few added narration boxes. Early on we get some scenes of Tony Stark dealing with bland and nameless senators before the Hulk arrives. Mid- issue, we get a talk between Tony and “Dum-Dum” Dugan about whether he should surrender to the Hulk. Everything else is taken right from World War Hulk #1. We see the Hulk’s speech again. We see the same battle we saw in the other issue again. The issue relies on you having read World War Hulk #1, but then basically just cribs from that much better issue.
Throughout his battle with the Hulk, Tony’s refrain is that he always does what he thinks is right. This is basically Stark’s motto from Civil War out until he gets his brain erased in Secret Invasion, the next big event following World War Hulk. And it never, ever makes sense. Newsflash, Tony: doing what you think is right is not always a good thing. Magneto does what he thinks is right. Doctor Doom does what he thinks is right. Heck, the Hulk is doing what he thinks is right as he invades New York City.
The thing that separates superheroes and supervillains is an adherence to some sort of code of ethics. In American comics, that often means an adherence to American values and freedoms. In the case of Iron Man, a guy with long-standing ties to the American government, this should be even more true. But instead, we get yet another issue of Tony Stark trying to explain that he is somehow justified in ignoring human rights because he felt it was the right thing to do.
This issue, quite honestly, is a waste. It’s not terrible, but it’s just unnecessary. Unless you’ve read World War Hulk #1, it won’t make all that much sense. And if you have read World War Hulk #1, you’ve already seen 90% of what the story has to offer – including Stark talking about how he tries to do what is right, which he espoused to the American people while fighting the Hulk. The only good thing about the issue is the art by Butch Guice, which I personally prefer to John Romita Jr.’s art in World War Hulk. However, even that seems lacking when it comes to layouts. For example, during the climactic event of Iron Man bombing the Hulk in an attempt to kill him, this issue jumps from one panel of the bombs hitting the Hulk to the next panel of the Hulk leaping out of the flames at Iron Man. That same scene in World War Hulk #1 took two whole pages. This would have been a good time to show some internal conflict on Iron Man’s part as he tries to kill a friend of his. But no, it’s a wasted moment. In fact, that’s all this issue really is: a string of wasted moments.