By Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Pete Woods & VC’s Joe Caramagna
Iron Man 2020 #1 is a bold new beginning for Iron Man, only this time, he’s not Tony Stark. In fact, the real Tony Stark is dead, and with Iron Man’s identity exposed as being an A.I., Arno, Tony’s adoptive brother, is in charge of both the suit and the day-to-day operations of Stark Industries. It’s a radical shift to the status quo and those expecting Iron Man 2020 #1 to cater to fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be surprised as this approach is radically different, and feels like more of a continuation of Slott’s established run, but it’s to both Slott and Gage’s credit that they’re able to make the book as accessible to newcomers as possible despite a few caveats.
It feels different and fresh and rather than hitting the same old character beats, puts Arno in a challenging position from the get go. The conflict between humans and artificial intelligence couldn’t be any clearer especially by the end of the first episode, with Slott and Gage building up both sides over the course of the issue. It seems that the humans will hate anything that isn’t like them in this Marvel universe, with A.I. not being immune from the hatred that is directed against the likes of the Inhumans and the X-Men. Anything that’s different is the enemy, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the idea of what makes Iron Man different from the rest of the A.I. will be brought up over the course of the series, especially as Tony Stark still factors into Iron Man 2020 in a big way. Iron Man 2020 feels more like an X-Men series than any before it. Arno however has yet to go through his transformation that will turn him into a likeable character if at all, he’s still in the stage that Tony Stark was before he found himself trapped in the desert in Jon Favreau’s Iron Man and was transformed into the hero that the Marvel Cinematic Universe knows him to be, to use the comparisons from the films. Iron Man 2020 does succeed in giving Arno enough motivation to justify his cause, though, which is a promising sign that the writers have something planned for the character.
Pete Woods’ artwork is easy to follow, detailed and clean. Arno’s Iron Man suit is different from Tony’s and the inclusion of the gears being made open to the public feel detailed appropriately. For a first issue the action is expectedly tight and that makes it all the more important for Woods to deliver, which he does, with memorable set-pieces coming thick and fast. The confrontation between A.I. and Iron Man is entertaining to watch, as is the final few pages which signal the return of a major character, brought to life by Woods in a vibrant way that showcases the variety and diversity of the various types of A.I.
There’s a lot to establish in Iron Man 2020 and at times it can feel like a bit too much to take in even if you’ll be able to follow most of what’s going on, but it does a good job in preparing to throw Arno Stark through the wire as he looks set to follow through his brother’s legacy. Hopefully now that we’ve been on the receiving end of all these ideas that the first issue rushes to get out of the way, the pace will smooth over and iron out a bit more, as Slott and Gage find sufficient motivation to keep the audience hooked regardless, with the status quo change being huge enough to keep anyone reading wanting to know the outcome.