REVIEW: Tony Stark Has a Mid-Life Crisis in Iron Man #1, and Whatever, I Don’t Care

Iron Man #1 Cover A Alex Ross Marvel Comics. September 2020

In Iron Man #1, Tony Stark decides to renounce his way of life and go back to the simple ways—is he having an existential crisis? Is he going undercover? Is this some kind of covert mission? Or could it be something closer to home? We get an inkling in this opening issue.

Iron Man #1

Cafu (artist), Christopher Cantwell (writer), Joe Caramagna (letters), Frank D’Armata (colours)
Marvel Comics
September 16, 2020

Iron Man #1 Cover A Alex Ross Marvel Comics. September 2020

As we see in Iron Man #1, the thing about billionaires is that, when they want the simple life, they don’t really mean ‘simple’ life. Simple for Tony means reinvesting billions of dollars from his exit package from Stark Industries. Buying a car that he can supe up for a drag race. Buying a new condo in New York. Keeping the OG Iron Man suit. Mostly it means stepping down from his responsibilities and having a mid-life crisis. But is Tony going to get this simple life? It’s a comic book—what do you think?

I don’t know how to feel about Iron Man #1. On the one hand, it’s about Tony Stark, and that guy’s got a history of being a dick in comics. On the other, shouldn’t I expect a character in a book in 2020 to be not so much of a dick?

Let me put it this way—I don’t care about Tony in Iron Man #1. Nothing about this character or his story appeals to me. It isn’t even relevant to me. Tony’s life is like something I can’t even fathom. When you’re starting with someone who is in such a different place from the people reading about him, you should try to make him relatable. This book doesn’t do that.

I don’t care that Tony thinks he doesn’t know himself, that he’s become subsumed in everyone else’s idea of him. How do you think that even happened, Tony? Weren’t you projecting a version of yourself to the world all these years? Didn’t you want to be Tony Stark™?

And even though I haven’t read every Iron Man comic ever, surely Tony Stark, of all the people in the Marvel Universe, gets to be himself when everyone knows Iron Man is Tony Stark? What about all the heroes who still have to hide their identities? Shouldn’t they be the ones feeling sorry for themselves?

I’m not buying the premise of this story. You know who else isn’t? Hellcat, who I have never met in my brief forays into Marvel Comics, but I already love her. I want a new series about Hellcat because she is amazing. From the get-go, she calls Tony out on his bullshit and I am so here for it! She point-blank tells Tony that this humility trip of his is just about his ego. Thank you, Hellcat, you spoke my mind!

The only time that I was interested in this story was when a villain turned up, which is so cliché because it’s such a staple of comics. You know there’s going to be a bad guy and a fight, and the good guys will win, but they won’t actually because there’s a bigger, badder guy on the horizon. Why is that the most exciting part of Iron Man #1, which was supposed to be about a hero rediscovering himself?

I guess that’s what bothers me about this book. Tony doesn’t come across as heroic. I had my issues with Tony Stark in the old comics I used to read, and in the MCU, but I was hoping those would be ironed out—pardon the pun—by now. I’m grossed out that Hellcat actually has to tell Tony not to try anything when they’re going down into his basement. I’m all for anti-heroes who operate in grey areas but you can’t be a hero if a female character—or anyone from a marginalized community—feels threatened by you.

Talking about marginalized voices, why are there so few people of colour in this book? We get Rhodey in one panel, and then there’s Glory Grant, a journalist for the Daily Bugle, who is Black. But Tony almost kills her by driving his car too fast so what are we supposed to feel about this? That he doesn’t care for people’s lives? This happens early on in the book so my perception of Tony was badly marred.

Then when Tony goes drag-racing, he meets a Deaf driver. Initially, I was excited because there was a panel that showed the character signing. Except… it looks like the ASL may be completely incorrect. I don’t know how to sign all the words in the sentence ‘Get ready to see tail lights’, but I checked the dictionary—provided by my teacher—and none of the signs depicted in the book are correct and they can’t be signed with one hand. The character seems to be finger-spelling ‘E. R. L.’, which doesn’t mean anything.

And let me not get started with the ‘Deaf person can lip-read trope’. As I’ve learnt while studying just the basics of ASL, lip-reading is incredibly hard, and Deaf people don’t have an automatic, magical ability to learn it… because it’s hard! So, chances are, the character cannot lip-read and can writers please do some research before adding in marginalized communities?

Even though I didn’t like Iron Man #1, I did love Cafu’s art! This is the style of comic book art that makes my heart beat faster. It’s almost realistic, but just matte enough to look like a painting. It’s so beautiful—I could live inside these pages. I would have liked a more diverse color palette though. It’s so muted and that takes away from the grandeur of the settings.

Look, Tony Stark may not be my favourite character, but I wanted some kind of connection with his story and with Iron Man #1. I got neither. I spent 30 pages reading about a self-absorbed rich man trying to find himself but not doing anything to understand the world he’s in. More than anything else, this book made me feel apathetic about the character. I felt engaged by Hellcat, but Tony? I couldn’t care less. I hope the series gets better but I certainly won’t be reading it to find out.

Louis Skye

Louis Skye

A writer at heart with a fondness for well-told stories, Louis Skye is always looking for a way to escape the planet, whether through comic books, films, television, books, or video games. E always has an eye out for the subversive and champions diversity in media. Louis' podcast, Stereo Geeks, is available on all major platforms. Pronouns: E/ Er/ Eir

3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Tony Stark Has a Mid-Life Crisis in Iron Man #1, and Whatever, I Don’t Care

  1. One of my biggest objections to Marvel and DC rears its head again with this book, which is that it’s yet another #1 issue. How many Iron Man #1s have there been?

  2. I haven’t read nearly as much of Hellcat as I’d like (OG Defenders with her on the team is on my to-do list), but I highly recommend the ongoing she _did_ have recently in Patsy Walker aka Hellcat. That sounds _very much_ more your speed. I miss it dearly.

    Can’t say much about the Golden Age comic she stems from, tho. What I _have_ read of the original Patsy Walker is…well, you could get largely the same material by reading OG Archie.

    1. Hellcat was definitely best as a Defender. Her stints on the Avengers were good but Defenders is the definitive Hellcat. What’s also interesting is I believe that Hellcat was in part responsible for the creation of Tigra.

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