By: Kieron Gillen (story), Greg Land (pencils), Jay Leisten (inks), Guru EFX (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)
The Story: Tony hunts down the last batch of Extremis, but what happens when he discovers that it’s in the hands of someone who might actually be making good use of it?
The Review: I really wish that I could like this this title more than I do. Part of that is due to my being a huge fan of Matt Fraction’s run just prior and the other part is that it’s clear that Kieron Gillen has a very good handle on Tony Stark’s voice and character.
Tony oozes charm and is very much…him. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the character will recognize him. He’s charismatic, likable, and intelligent under Gillen’s hand. Moreover, Gillen does a great job of explaining Tony’s rationale for heading off into the final frontier of space. It makes total sense for the character and allows Gillen to write some solid stuff relating to Tony’s constant concern about his legacy and his need to always be pushing boundaries. It’s all very true to the character and it’s solid character-work overall. Clearly that need to keep pushing higher and farther is pivotal to Gillen’s understanding of Tony Stark and I think that he’s definitely on the mark there. I’ll also add that Tony’s new AI for his new away-from-home space armor was a very nice touch.
Unfortunately, the central plot for this issue wasn’t a strong one. Part of that is due to the done-in-one format Gillen has been experimenting with. Gillen introduces us to a snazzy new character with some pretty good motivations for using Extremis. The problem is, with only 20 or so pages to work with, the character just doesn’t have the development he needs. His motivations are both subtle and grandiose and sort of a mirror for Stark’s own, but that takes time to really develop and become three-dimensional. With what we’re given, the character really only boils down to one witty little turn of phrase fraction has him utter in the first couple of pages. That’s it. So as such, it’s hard to care. It also doesn’t help that the first half of this issue is almost buried in exposition, which makes the book a bit dryer than it really has any right to be.
Moreover, Tony’s logic for taking the Extremis is foggy and confused. I understand that the whole point was Tony’s moral grey area this month, but I actually felt that Gillen himself didn’t know what Tony’s motivations were. It doesn’t help that NONE of Tony’s arguments even make a lick of sense. For instance, we end up with Tony’s argument that, essentially, humanity MUST achieve all its major advancements through the hardest route possible. Why is that? Sure, it sounds pretty, particularly how Gillen phrases it, but even a moment’s reflection makes you realize that this argument really is without reason or substance. And don’t even get me started on Tony’s other, similarly nonsensical arguments.
Then there’s Greg Land. You know you’re in for a bad month when you get an issue with more human faces for him to draw than usual. As a result, this is his worst issue of Iron Man thus far. Pepper looks like a mannequin, Tony changes dramatically in facial structure from panel to panel, and emotions on characters’ faces are completely wonky. Worse still, the new space armor looks ugly as sin.
Conclusion: Reading this and then looking back on Fraction’s final arc just makes me sad. Hopefully, it gets better now that Gillen is returning to conventional story-arcs.
– Alex Evans