Review by Ian Keogh
There’s a case to be made that from 1979 to 1982 the writing team of David Michelinie and Bob Layton produced the first continually high quality run of Iron Man comics. Their return in 1987 followed a period in which the series again sank into the doldrums, but it took them a fair while to settle back into the groove, and this is their opening selection.
They’d been previously been very successful in presenting Tony Stark’s world of one of up to the minute glamour, but it doesn’t work as well the second time round. This is partly because artist Mark Bright hasn’t the same eye for fashions, technology and cars that John Romita had (see Demon in a Bottle), and partly because the fashions featured here have dated even further. Stark’s jogging gear midway through and his permed hair toward the end have to be seen to be believed, and Bright’s landed with some particularly clunky remodelled armour that makes Iron Man resemble a Transformer. Otherwise he tells the story well enough without ever providing an image to really stick in the brain.
Michelinie and Layton throw in one good surprise early, although it’s diminished by being divorced from the relevant character’s long involvement with the series, and their decision to reintroduce rival corporate titan Justin Hammer is welcome, although he’s a background figure. Also good is their introduction of a viable new enemy for Iron Man in the form of corporate spy the Ghost, given a visual effect by Bright dropping out black lines and rendering him in blue outlines. However, the writing again suffers from changing times. In the #MeToo generation what was intended as Stark’s old school charm transmits as slightly sleazy, and their narrative style incorporating multiple thought balloons and much emoting is dated.
Gatherings of mismatched super villains are always fun if written inventively, and the collection ends strongly with several gimmick foes uniting to take on Iron Man. It prompts a suspicion, and that leads into Armor Wars proper. Armor Wars Prologue may appeal to anyone who bought the original comics when young, but it’s difficult to see anyone born after 1980 being able to move beyond the ill-advised look of the times.