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Iron Man #9 – Review

IRON MAN #9

By: Kieron Gillen (Writer), Dale Eaglesham (Artist), Guru eFX (Colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letterer)

Review: I’d call this issue a return to form if, as has sadly not been the case, any previously appreciable ‘form’ had yet been enjoyed during Gillen’s Iron Man run. It’s just lacked something. Greg Land’s artwork has been a sticking point for many (though I thought some of the criticism was unnecessarily harsh) but really it’s the stories that have failed to ignite. Unlike, say, Matt Fraction’s one-two punch of opening awesome on Invincible Iron Man (with The Five Nightmares followed sharply by World’s Most Wanted), there’s been nothing so far to convincingly set the series’ tone. When part of a new series sees its main character relocated to Space, yet still fails to achieve distinction? That’s when you know there’s a problem.

So The Secret Origin of Tony Stark may have come along at just the right time. Marvel have promised big things of this story, and with its debut arriving alongside that of the ridiculously successful Iron Man 3 it’d be great news for publisher and reader alike if it can deliver. Early signs are positive.

To begin with however, you might want to do a double-take. I certainly wasn’t expecting an Origin story to take place mid-stride in Tony’s latest, not-so-greatest space adventure. Following the Voldi’s destruction at the hands of the scheming android 451, Tony is out for blood (or maybe that milky goo Ash spits up after getting whammied in Alien). To do that he employs the considerable skills of 30ft bad-ass robotic bounty hunter Death’s Head and the two soon set off across the cosmos to track down the errant android for capture or kill.

It’s a great pairing. Death’s Head is kinda loveable for a monolithic, near-unstoppable killing machine, and the partnership delivers some of the best bits of dialogue the series has yet seen. Case in point: the discussion over whether or not 451 should be taken dead or alive. “You’re not one of those guys who has a code against killing ‘except for robots’?” asks DH, “I hate those krypto-fascists.” “Absolutely not!” protests Stark, “Some of my best friends are robots an—That sounds kind of robot racist right?” Good stuff.

Once the target is located a neat l’il twist puts Stark somewhat at 451’s mercy, and from there he’s shown…a short film. Don’t worry, it’s not Robo-porn or anything, but to go into further detail would be wantonly spoilerific. Needless to say it legitamizes that Secret Origin tagline and could see future issues spin-off deep into the past or further into the future (or some combination of the two). Either way it puts the series in a great place and for the first time in a long time it’s had me eager to see what next month’s issue will bring.

As does the art. I had no major problem with Greg Land’s tenure but Eaglesham’s work here is an undeniable improvement. It feels warmer somehow, definitely more organic, and even though those terms are applied to action largely taking place in space it clicks really well. He captures a classic Tony Stark design that’s instantly familiar to new/old/lapsed readers and the sci-fi trappings that frame the story are all very pleasing to the eye. Death’s Head fairs particularly well, as does (and you may have a hard time believing this) Tony’s Space Armour. I think Eaglesham has made a few small alterations here and there to its core design – mainly around the faceplate I think – and, while it’s not yet enough to have me hankering for an analogous action figure, it at least gives us an Iron Man that looks the part.

Conclusion: A great jumping on point that perfectly marries the past and the present, The Secret Origin of Tony Stark already feels like it could be the crown jewel in Gillen’s run. With some excellent banter between Tony and Death’s Head, a visual upgrade courtesy of Dale Eaglesham and an intriguing does of mystery, Iron Man may yet have earned a reason to make it back onto your Pull List.

Grade: B+

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