By Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev & Paul Mounts
It was such exciting news that the brilliant creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev would be working on one of Marvel’s flagship characters. After their amazing runs on Daredevil, Moon Knight and Spider-Woman, one’s mind could only wonder at all the possibilities they can explore with ‘ol shellhead. Now, I’m not aware of any of the events or aftermath in Secret Wars, but apparently Tony Stark has recently found out that his parents weren’t his biological ones. This little revelation seems to be a key plot element in International Iron Man. Why the series is called “international” is still a mystery, except for the book opening with Tony facing off against a group of mech-suited soldiers in Bulgaria and flashing back to him studying at the University of Cambridge. Bendis takes the narrative to the past to set the course of the present…
This issue specifically chronicles how Stark came to meet a mysterious girl, Cassandra Gillespie, in college. This interpretation on the young, intelligent billionaire has him being more of an introvert with evident daddy issues. It is refreshing to see a take on the character that isn’t him being an eccentric playboy (who knows that could still happen, considering this is still his teenage years). Bendis makes it clear that Tony’s familial woes are important not only to the character, but the overall story he’s trying to tell. After a while, it becomes a little redundant. The flashback seems fairly generic and makes one ask the question: “What’s the point of all this?” Brian, of course, has a pay off, but it’s not as exciting or compelling as the issue was building it up to be.
Whether it be zombies in Empire of the Dead , Daredevil or Hellboy & The B.P.R.D. 1952, Alex Maleev’s style is very unique and identifiable. Unfortunately though, this issue just didn’t seem up to his usual snuff. There isn’t anything inherently “bad” in his pages, but nothing really stands out or is noteworthy. There was only one two-page spread and one splash page and even those lacked the intended impact. Sadly, it was flat artwork with little detail. Perhaps, having high expectations for stellar artwork can dampen the appreciation of the material. Color artist Paul Mounts has collaborated with Alex (Lando) and it doesn’t seem like he’s negatively affecting the pencils in any way. Overall, there just isn’t much to write home about. It seems like it all goes back to the material they were given to work with.
This début issue was a disappointment; it fails to captivate and to have the readership coming back for next month’s release. Yes, it’s to be expected that exposition will be a big component early on in a series, but it’s still possible to make those beats enthralling. Having Tony Stark try to court a young woman could be interesting, but this issue comes off as just one note. Considering the minds behind this title, it does deserve a second chance with a couple more issues. The cover may be beautiful and alluring, but beware that all is not as it seems. Remember the old adage: Never judge a book by its cover.