By Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Matt Hollingsworth, and Clayton Cowles.
Infamous Iron Man is one of those comics people always speculate about; a ‘What If’ thought finally played out from fruition into a series. Seeing Victor Von Doom put on an Iron Man suit in earnest is enough reason to get anyone to pick up a comic, but getting the readers invested in his motivations is the key. Bendis and Maleev are giving it their best shot in Infamous Iron Man #1 to deliver us a sympathetic Doom that also keeps us guessing. We first saw this new Doom after “Battleworld” in Invincible Iron Man #1, when he showed up all pretty faced and eager to help Tony Stark. Ever since then, we have not learned a lot about what healed his face or why he has a sudden apparent change of heart. This issue provides the first look into what is motivating Doom’s current intentions while always paying respect to some past story arcs that have shaped the reader’s perspective on Doom.
The huge elephant in the room around this issue is there are major spoilers for the unreleased issues of Civil War II. If you are reading and invested in this Marvel event, put Infamous Iron Man at the bottom of your reading list and write a letter to Brian Michael Bendis about the ability to balance child birthing with comic deadlines. Anyways, with Infamous Iron Man being released on time it does the unfortunate job of spoiling a possible major payoff in Civil Way II. Who knows, Bendis does, but seriously this issue is pretty spoiler heavy even though it is a delight to get a whole issue helping of Doom.
Doctor Doom is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best, villains in comic book history. He has achieved such a status from his ability to make the reader believe he changes and emphasize with decisions and actions he takes. This is hard to do for someone who wears a metal mask and is often creating schemes to outsmart and maim heroes. There is always a story that sticks out to define a villain in every reader’s minds, and the one that comes to mind is Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment by Roger Stern, Mark Badger, and Mike Mignola from 1989. If you have not had the pleasure of reading about Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange’s crazy romp to battle Mephisto, please do so. It actually ties into this issue and possible future arcs. Either way, it is a terrific read and a good way to also build excitement for the Doctor Strange movie release.
Bendis has a good idea of who the character of Victor is, and this issue is setting up a good dynamic between Doom attempting to take up an unfamiliar mantle: good guy. He is trying to win over affections or admiration from Doctor Amara Perera and get in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s good graces; for what ends, we do not know. Bendis paints this picture of a changed man throughout the entire issue, starting the issue with a flashback to The Cabal, showing him at a point of desperation and savagery. This start to the book allows readers to see him improve, while also reminding us who he is. However, Bendis really earns his paycheck with the last few pages of this issue. He packs a lot of hit in a few short pages (and no spoilers here), but it would be helpful to re-read the aforementioned throwback for some clarity.
Alex Maleev is the best artist for this series; the harsh brush strokes and watercolor effects are a good way to illustrate the struggle of a bad man trying to break good. The torment is in the details, as this issue shows with every page expressing tremendous facial details with great use of colors. The lurid pages with overuse of shadowing are great to create suspense. Half the time Doom is revealed, you as a reader almost expect his face to still be jacked up. Doom is styled almost James Bond-esque in the action panels, as he appears non-mused and debonair in a suit while battling the C-lister bad guy, Diablo.
Infamous Iron Man #1 really does deliver what is to be expected. You get Doom wearing an Iron Man suit, but there is so much more going on beneath that. Bendis and Maleev are creating a rich and wonderfully complex scenario for Doom that could either allow him to be the hero or villain, and that is just how you want a comic with Doom in it. You want there to be enough room for him to flex in the grey area of right and wrong, and this series promises to be full of grey moral areas and lots of great Doom moments alongside some classic characters. It is just a shame it was released when it was. It lost some of its impact having some major Civil War II events, that we have not read about, act as major motivator for our stories’ protagonist.