At a mere four chapters, one of them a 1990s reprint, and no reduction in cover price, Iron Man’s War of the Realms graphic novel completely swerves value for money. It’s Marvel money-grabbing rather than waiting until the next story arc is completed and issuing a longer trade. Even assessed via quality outweighing quantity it doesn’t hit the spot.

We open with a tenuous War of the Realms tie-in to justify the title, with Iron Man pitched against a mythical dragon. In itself it’s a story that has its moments from a good writer, but Gail Simone knows she’s only writing a fill-in, so can’t adjust the status quo in any fashion, and the Tony Stark, Iron Man series opened two volumes back in Self-Made Man with Iron Man fighting a dragon. The problems raised in Stark Realities are mentioned in passing, but only the possible return to drinking occupies more than a panel. The triumph is the dragon, Sadurang, utterly motivated by greed, and with a bombastic human form nicely designed by Paolo Villanelli. In other places his art has a Gene Colanesque look to it.

What’s been the A-team of Dan Slott, Jim Zub and Valerio Schiti return for the final 21st century contribution. It connects more with Stark Realities, guest starts Captain Marvel as the disapproving voice of reason, and continues the discussions of what constitutes human and artificial intelligence. There’s a clever use of earlier revelations as Stark attempts to bypass his alcoholic temptations, but the Iron Man content is of secondary interest to the continuing development of Jocasta, a character Slott’s grasped as being underused since her 1970s introduction and taken in a fascinating direction. Here she’s still conflicted, but the screw is about to be twisted with a deadly acquaintance turning up in what follows as The Ultron Agenda.

The older content has been selected as also teaming Iron Man with Carol Danvers, then calling herself Warbird and having her own alcohol problems, and because as an extra long anniversary issue it pads out the page count. Warbird is needed to help him stop rampaging giant robot Ultimo. It was produced in 2000, the era of Kurt Busiek and Sean Chen’s Iron Man reboot, but proves how quickly technology based heroes age. Stark and supporting cast are bland, the introduction of new armoured warriors never convinces, and the Ultimo himself has always been a dull threat, although Busiek does address an obvious failing of previous defeats. There’s little wrong with art from Chen, Tom Lyle, Bob Layton and Yancy Labat, but this is no-one’s favourite Iron Man story.