Review by Karl Verhoven
Christopher Cantwell’s version of Iron Man has, in effect, been a novel with diversions, but with a starting point and completion in Source Control, which jumps forward three months from the end of Cosmic Iron Man. Tony Stark has completed his rehabilitation course and concluded his life requires some changes. As with Cantwell’s approach all the way through, there’s nothing commonplace about that. A major life decision hangs over the opening chapter which is also occupied by a chess match between a super-intelligent gorilla and a holographic artificial intelligence. That develops into a threat simultaneously ludicrous and dangerous, yet is only the prelude to the title story.
After the pick and mix selection of artists used last time, Angel Unzueta emerges to draw this entire book, and that’s very welcome. He’s been solid when filling-in earlier, and the sample page represents several where he nails the sheer thrill of operating an armoured suit. He supplies taut character moments, and is solid on the conversation scenes. One really nice page is just nine panels each featuring an incredible weapon – almost a trading card set.
Cantwell will throw in references betraying his age and meaningless to most younger readers like “Here’s the John Wayne haymaker”, although D. B. Cooper’s story is worth an online search. However, they’re just passing dialogue in a suspenseful thriller concerning a black market group dealing in world-changing weapons. The post-rehab Tony Stark realises it’s not a problem to be solved by going in repulsors blazing, and greater subtlety is required, along with most of his personal wealth. Cantwell makes it clear that the mission is personal. The Stark fortune was made by his father creating state of the art weapons, and this is redemption. It’s pleasing that after reducing Jim Rhodes to one of the gang in his earlier books, there’s now the reinforcement of why he’s a stronger personality than a bit player.
That’s the approach Cantwell’s also taken with a whole host of old villains that might have been assumed to be well below Iron Man’s power level, and several more show their faces here. Well, actually, they don’t as they’re masked, but the point remains valid. In the right circumstances any loser can be very troublesome. The surprises keep coming, and there’s a great one set up by the appearance of the Cobalt Man. That’s right, the Cobalt Man.
Strangely, though, having hit the right notes all the way through, the ending falls flat. The idea of contrasting celebration and tragedy is viable, but the point made is saccharine and the ending so rapid you’ll swear pages are missing. Don’t let that put you off what’s otherwise a fine finale to a fine run.