Review by Frank Plowright
Marvel had a lot riding on the 2008 Iron Man film. It was a resounding success, but that wasn’t assured at the time, and what they needed alongside a successful film was an Iron Man comic that anyone could pick up. Unfortunately, by 2008 both Iron Man and Tony Stark had spent several years at the centre of complicated crossover material spreading all over other Marvel titles.
Matt Fraction’s brief was to start with a clean sheet, and in the opening chapter he adroitly establishes and underlines the central propositions of Iron Man, Tony Stark and their respective worlds and supporting casts. What’s more impressive is that he does so while keeping Stark in place as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., needed for other titles. The second chapter delves into detail about how the Iron Man suit operates.
The five nightmares of the title are enumerated, and amount to what Tony Stark is most afraid of. There’s reference to his previous alcoholism, but the remainder concern others hijacking the technology he’s developed. Step forward Ezekial Stane, engineering genius lacking a moral compass, cocky bastard to boot, and with a family history of conflict with Stark. Atrocities committed across the world are his calling card, and he’s eventually confident enough to take on Stark directly.
Salvador Larroca delivers the artwork as movie-friendly photo-realism. It priorities technology, lights and reflection, but has a solid foundation and clear storytelling. His cast, though have a static, posed quality that sometimes makes it appear as if they’ve been letraseted onto a background. This is a problem rapidly adjusted.
The main story is a little over-extended at six chapters, but professionally polished and pushing all the right buttons while displaying them as you wander through. There’s a fair amount of discussion about the moral application of technology, rather speciously funnelling toward a single conclusion presented as inevitable. Fraction’s smart enough to swerve around that, though, by further filtering it down to individual personality via contrasting Iron Man’s heroic nature with the simpler idealism of Spider-Man in the most interesting story here. The pair take a tour of the New York suburbs knocking on doors of people who’ve been dealing in salvaged Stark technology as they reflect on their methods of operation. It’s touching and revealing. Bonus points too for emphasising the power of the single captured image.