Review by Ian Keogh
The Extremis program has been seen before in Iron Man, most memorably as introduced by Warren Ellis in the graphic novel of that name. It’s a technological upgrade that in essence transforms people into the form they most desire, be that beautiful looking, in perfect health or even bestowing immortality. The Tony Stark/Iron Man who survived the Axis scenario retained his personality conversion, having a far looser moral compass, and has plans for Extremis.
Before that Tom Taylor supplies a showcase of just how Iron Man works in 2015, with Teen Abomination unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end. It’s an enlightening insight into both Iron Man’s capabilities and Tony Stark’s priorities, and those are horribly revealed by the end of the first chapter. He’s not the direct cause, after all San Francisco’s citizens retain free will, but there’s no doubt Stark is responsible for unleashing the worst crime wave among ordinary people that the city has ever seen. It doesn’t sit well with the city’s protector Daredevil, never mind Stark’s assistant Pepper Potts.
Artist Yildiray Cinar has come a long way since his efforts on Noble Causes. The design sense he always possessed – check out his rendition of Stark’s new HQ in the second chapter – is now allied with a stronger sense of what makes a page of comics work. His Stark is suitably louche, arrogant and slimy, and that fits Taylor’s vision of Stark with the ethical shackles removed. Or, to be more precise, considerably slackened, as he’s not without his inclinations to be the superhero he previously was, rescuing and battling when needed. It’s just his motivations have shifted.
Whereas before Stark and Iron Man were undeniably a force for good, boundaries are now overstepped, and both are positively frightening. Taylor consistently toys with our expectations of what a superhero should be and how they should behave, and the new character makeover permits frequent surprises. Like Teen Abomination for instance, who has a longer shelf life than might be imagined and stars of his own chapter illustrated by Laura Braga. There is a drip feed seeming intervention plot that’s interesting, but not concluded in this graphic novel. That’s a problem for Stark Contrast.
Infamous is a sparkling 21st century superhero graphic novel. It won’t strain the thought processes too much, but it’s fun, frothy and unpredictable.