It’s a new Heroic Age in the Marvel Universe and Tony Stark enters into it flat broke and missing his memory of nearly everything that’s happened since he was upgraded with Extremis. So what’s a former billionaire playboy to do now? Apparently the answer is to take the technology that the Iron Man is built on, de-weaponize it and license it out as an energy source to power just about everything in the free world. Sounds like a great start, right? Well, that’s all this volume is.
Now there were a lot of little things that I liked about this volume as I was reading it. There’s Tony’s monologue about the bender he went on after being named Playboy’s Man of the Year, his encounters in hiring the staff of his new company, Resilient, and Pepper Potts and Maria Hill’s encounters with Tony after they remember sleeping with him during “World’s Most Wanted” and he doesn’t. They make for great bits of humor, character development and dramatic tension. I also liked how they kept Extremis and even tied the new suit into that system. Some people think that whole setup makes Tony into an actual superhuman, as opposed to a smart man in a machine suit, but I’ve always been inclined to agree with its creator -- Warren Ellis -- who thinks that Iron Man should represent the future. In that regard, it doesn’t get more futuristic than what you see here.
The problem is that all of this is setup. It doesn’t feel like the story or its point has properly cohered yet. Yes, I know that Justine and Sasha Hammer are making their own Iron Man-esque warmech with Detroit Steel but there doesn’t seem to be any depth to their ambitions beyond being really evil and embarrassing Tony Stark. Four issues in and I’m still waiting for this arc to pick up some real momentum. I was also left with the distinct feeling that nearly all of the essential plot points in this volume could’ve been boiled down into one, maybe two issues. In that regard, this collection is a good argument against decompression.
However, if writer Matt Fraction had done that, we would’ve missed out on all the bits I mentioned above along with Tony’s great encounter with Thor early on. That scene alone shows you how great Fraction’s understanding of the character is and why he’s such a great fit for this book. Ditto for artist Salvador Larrocca who does his usual stellar job rendering the machines and the people involved with them in this book. In the end, this volume is only worth picking up depending on how much goodwill or patience Fraction’s run has earned with you, the reader. He has earned enough with me, but I certainly hope the next volume makes all this setup worthwhile.