This week sees the release of the second issue of Invincible Iron Man – the series Brian Michael Bendis loves so much he relaunched it twice! Following last month’s Superior Spider-Man-like last page reveal, some readers may wonder if this latest volume is just another Iron Man tale masquerading as an Iron Heart story. Well, by the end of Invincible Iron Man #2, Bendis and artist Stefano Caselli make it very clear Riri Williams is in control of the armor.
Invincible Iron Man #2 (Marvel Comics)
I’m going to assume even those who didn’t read Invincible Iron Man #1 know that Riri’s armor AI is in fact the late Tony Stark’s essence – you know, because the only thing comic news sites love more than comics is ruining twists before fans can discover them for themselves. Anyway, I say that Tony’s deceased, but we really won’t know for sure until the final issue of Civil War II is released. I figured I’d get that complaint out of the way, because it’s not the creators’ fault comics are a business. And I’m sure Bendis is just as unhappy to see books designed to follow Civil War II shipping before his story’s finished.
With that nitpick out of the way, I can focus on what works about this comic. I’ll admit, the whole Riri-replacing-Tony announcement really didn’t appeal too much to me. We’re in an age of comic book gimmicks that get attention from major media outlets – can you blame a long-time reader for feeling a bit jaded? Because let’s face it, for every character shakeup with genuine thought behind it, there are three more designed to drive sales and nothing more.
Speaking as someone who has read the majority of Bendis’ Marvel work (and enjoyed much of it), I truly believe Riri’s story is one Bendis is driven to tell. While I liked some of the previous Invincible Iron Man volume, I didn’t find it to be a particularly fresh take on the character. There’s only so much you can do with Tony Stark.
With Riri, like Miles Morales, Bendis is not hindered by decades of continuity. He can tell a very grounded Iron Man story that involves something like Chicago violence and not the Stark-business-rival-of-the-month trope. Now, I realize many readers pick up a comic book to escape from the horrors of everyday life. They want to watch Iron Man blast the Mandarin, not watch Riri lose her stepfather and best friend to senseless gunfire. But personally, what I like about this series so far is how Bendis has one foot in the fantastical Marvel Universe (see Animax last issue), while never forgetting that Marvel has always held a mirror to our world.
It’s something we need now more than ever, and I sincerely hope Marvel’s creators don’t shy away from tackling everything currently wrong with our world, which (sadly) isn’t so easy to relaunch or retcon. I will say, I’m reassured by Bendis’ first two issues of this volume, along with his Spider-Man series and Mark Waid’s excellent Champions. Young heroes stepping up and taking action against BS.
In this particular issue, Bendis balances his exploration of Riri’s past – and the tragedies that drive her to be Iron Heart – while Tony Stark’s ghost in the machine provides superhero training. Riri has a great line – on the recap page, no less – where she points out that Tony has such an ego he created a program that ensures he literally can’t die. Bendis continues his winning streak of creating very likeable protagonists (I’m looking at you, Miles and Jessica Jones).
Like much of Bendis’ best Marvel work, this volume of Invincible Iron Man is blending humor with drama, social commentary and good old-fashioned superhero action. And dare I say, it’s even inspiring to watch young Riri (who, BTW, is a genius) try to make sense of pointless violence. Anyone can be a hero, and sometimes all it takes is realizing you have the potential to change the world for the better.
Of course, Bendis’ words wouldn’t be as effective without Caselli’s pencils. I’ve enjoyed watching the artist refine his style while working on some of Marvel’s biggest characters. Invincible Iron Man, however, shows a real maturation that’s perfectly suited for Riri’s grounded adventures.
If you were like myself – hesitant to get to know a brand new Iron Man – I recommend giving this book a chance. I know Bendis has it in him to tell strong stories, and when it’s clear he’s inspired, it’s very easy to put your faith (aka $3.99) in him and blast off into the unknown.