Review by Win Wiacek
For a popular character/concept lumbered with a fifty-year pedigree, radical reboots are a painful, but vital periodic necessity. To keep contemporary, Tony Stark’s origin and Iron Man’s continuity have been drastically revised every so often with the crucible trigger event perpetually leapfrogging to feature America’s most-recent conflicts. Thus, with the final Iron Man movie imminent, Believe opens a brand new era by closing out an outmoded and obsolete model: specifically Warren Ellis and Adi Granov’s cyberpunk epic Extremis. It directly influenced the film franchise and led to illustrator Granov working as a designer and producer on the cinema interpretation.
Under Kieron Gillen and Greg Land, Believe shows Stark has been through hell, but has reinvented himself and his company. Even after cutting himself loose from official Governmental affiliations and all military contracts, abandoning guns and bombs to return to the life of a maverick entrepreneur, happily risking profits for the betterment of humanity, his past continues to haunt him.
As he and trusted partner Pepper Potts build up their new company Stark Resilient, the inveterate playboy gets a pre-recorded failsafe message from old flame Maya Hansen that states she is dead and Extremis is loose. When she first devised the nano-tube bio-package it was designed to overwrite human biology and cure any disease or injury. Tragically the military were the only institution interested in funding her research as the process also made super-soldiers possible, with injections capable of making a body faster, stronger, tougher and able to grow new organs with unsuspected capabilities. Now Stark discovers Maya had been captive of ruthless tech-merchants Advanced Idea Mechanics for more than a year and forced to recreate the deadly process. At least she left him a method of tracking any “Enhancile” altered by the seductive transformative menace, and his mission is to shove this genie back into the bottle.
Gillen ensures that isn’t as simple as just dealing with the AIM connection, and several single chapter stories feature new forms of Extremis while cleverly filtering in old enemies. This is achieved by the use of several variations on the standard Iron Man armour, primarily redesigned by Land, and by taking Stark into different environments and out of his comfort zone.
Straightforward, smart, and surprisingly engaging, this compelling return to the basics offers big fights, big thrills and big ideas at a pace that will satisfy any reader, new or old, who likes the movie franchise as much as the comicbook canon. It has the added distinction of being self-contained and readily accessible to new, returning or casual readers. Gillen and Land’s reboot continues in The Secret Origin of Tony Stark.