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Tony Stark: Iron Man #14 review: ultimate style

This issue is far from bad. Unfortunately, it’s also far from great.

I skipped the previous two issues because they were War of the Realms tie-ins, but now we’re back to the regularly scheduled program with Dan Slott, Jim Zub, and Valerio Schiti. Yahoo.

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After the “eScape” fiasco, Tony is grappling with his humanity, or lack thereof. However, a bigger problem arises when Spymaster (is that his name?) steals a hard drive containing important memories of Tony’s.

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This issue is far from bad. Unfortunately, it’s also far from great. Slott and Zub make a decent team who share similar instincts for comedy and juggling a diverse cast of characters. In theory, all the characters have intriguing sub-plots. but not many of them are given their due diligence. I’m not saying every hero should have the same amount of page time, but if their B stories are going to continue, they should be developed.

Tony’s supposed to be going through a grim existential crisis about not being human, a thread Brian Michael Bendis left dangling before he stumbled his way out of Marvel. Dan Slott has given us moments where it seems like Tony is actually struggling at “Demon in a Bottle” levels. But this issue just has Tony dryly explain his problem only to end this issue (like many others) satisfied because his friends have vaguely promised to “be there” for him. Again.

Carol Danvers shows up, but there’s no real conflict between her and Tony. In fact, Slott and Zub have the audacity to joke about how Carol gored a fist through his chest in Civil War II. She raises her voice at Tony a couple times only to, like Rhodey, put a hand on Tony’s shoulder and says she’ll “be there” for him.

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Let’s talk about exposition in a segment I’ll call, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Exposition.” We open with exposition between Tony and Carol, only to be expositioned (is that a word?) by a holographic Tony, and then given more from holographs and Arno in his super-secret lab.

Haven’t we moved on in the comics medium from info dumps this egregious? Isn’t that what the “previously on” text is for? I’m getting bad flashbacks from ’90s X-Men comics where every issue opens with Cyclops going, “Boy, oh boy, that sure was crazy how you came in to help us fight those intruders at the last minute, Bishop. I’m sure glad you’re helping us now, as opposed to earlier when you were fighting us.”

Oh yeah, didn’t I mention Spymaster? He’s in this too, apparently. I’ve been digging Dan Slott’s “monster of the week” format, but this has to be the weakest one yet. Spymaster is just a cocky henchman who clumsily steals a file before getting punched out (spoilers, I guess). He has no expressed motivation or personality other than being an arrogant villain man in a jumpsuit. Tony doesn’t even have to pull out any special gadgetry or think up a plan — he and Carol just blast Spymister, or whatever he’s called, out of the sky.

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Don’t even get me started on the pop culture references. Every time I hear one, especially in a comic, I can’t help but picture how horribly dated an issue will be in one month. The worst example in all of comics has to go to Mark Millar’s Ultimates for name-dropping everything from Cameron Diaz to George Bush — but there’s a Game of Thrones reference here that’s Ultimates tier bad.

It’s not all bad, however. Slott and Zub keep exploring J’Costa’s paradoxical desire to protect machines from humans and pursue humanity for herself. Also, it’s always a delight to have Machine Man whine his way through these issues: “What is Iron Man, anyway? Amor’s just a layer of awesome robotics with useless fleshy stuff in the middle–instead of more robot.”

Somehow I’ve gone on this whole time without mentioning Valerio Schiti’s work, which is typically explosive. This guy deserves to be on a dozen books, because his command of action scenes is a sight to behold. I’ve most likely said this about him before, yet I have to mention how he doesn’t crowd action sequences with extraneous details. That allows us to easily follow the ‘splosions and high-flying. But somehow he’s also great at delivering comedic beats and boosting dry exposition to tolerable levels. Joe Caramagna’s colors do a decent job at fitting each scene’s emotions, even if some choices come across as rather drab.

Tony Stark: Iron Man #14
Is it good?
Tony Stark: Iron Man has always been a complicated animal trying to carry a dozen subplots through a mixture of standalone issues and multi-issue arcs. Sometimes that format works; sometimes, like in #14, the mess is more evident. But with such a vibrant creative team, it’s a charming mess.
Valerio Schiti's clean, electric work.
Jocosta/Machine Man subplot.
Wasted opportunity on Tony's existentialism.
Carol Danvers offers little.
Exposition, exposition, exposition...

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