So far Dan Slott has used an episodic format for his take on Iron Man along with plenty of wit and charm. However, while this recent issue has many similarities to previous installments, there’s something more unsettling going on here by design.
Here we follow Arno, Tony Stark’s younger brother, who spent most of his life in a massive life-support system. Labelled as even smarter than his more famous brother, Arno sets out to “help” as many people as he can. The main narrative revolves around him trying to stop genetic cows from attacking farmers for seemingly no reason.
While that may sound tame in comparison to previous Iron Man exploits, the psychological undercurrent is what’s most fascinating. Gang Hyuk Lim’s art fits with the grimmer tone, although I prefer and miss Valerio Schiti’s dynamic style. Lim draws Arno with a face of stoicism yet self-aggrandizing narcissism. At first I found that weird since I thought Arno was our hero, but as the character reveals himself to be colder than Tony, the artistic decision came into sharp focus. One could make the argument he’s overpowered, but his immense resources add to his characterization, which is fully revealed in one of the final pages. It’s practically Black Mirror at that point.
The dialog has a sharp banter-like quality as most Slott scripts do. However, certain scenes have characters outright explaining the obvious. With comics, one should be more lenient with exposition, but the actions are so clear, unnecessary dialog echoing what we’re seeing is a hindrance (albeit a relatively small one).
While it’s unclear how Arno will factor into Tony’s life immediately, I look forward to seeing him pop up again. Slott’s episodic format for this series has been an entertaining throwback, but occasionally frustrating when revelations or plot-lines are dropped. Luckily, this issue works terrifically as a chilling reestablishment of a complex character.
There’s a framing device present involving Arno typing a letter to his brother, which isn’t totally necessary. It’s perfectly serviceable, although it doesn’t add much of anything.