Marvel Comics is on a tear reprinting their “Season One” graphic novels — now dubbed “Invincible Origins” — whic gives readers unfamiliar with staple Marvel characters a way to jump in. Fantastic Four and Hulk got their “Invincible Origins” and now it’s Iron Man’s turn! Written by Howard Chaykin with art by Gerald Parel, this series aims to reinvent Iron Man, but also stick to the roots of his origin.
When you crack this book open, the first thing you’re going to notice is the all-painted art by Parel. There have been a few comics throughout the years that went with an art style that’s completely painted and while some work and some don’t it still makes for a vividly real experience. Somewhat unfortunately, Parel’s style is a bit too dark and muddy for the scenes not involving colorful blaster effects and shiny chrome suits. It’s especially hard to follow and less pleasing when Iron Man ends up in a cave building his first suit before his heart gives out. That said, in the last third of the book there’s a rousing Iron Man vs. Iron-Bad-Man sequence that’s quite incredible. You’ll audibly whisper “wow” when Iron Man is thrown through the eye of the Statue of Liberty.
As far as the story goes, this book doesn’t diverge too much from the original Stan Lee narrative. Tony is a drunk, ends up getting blown up by his own technology in terrorist hands, and then must flee. The man who attacks and kidnaps Tony is slightly different–in this story, it’s an ex-classmate from MIT–but the general flow and big beat moments are all there. There is a much heavier focus on Tony’s drinking problem. It gets an arc in itself as we see it tear down his company amongst his employees who want to take over before he’s even recovered from the terrorist attack. This leads to his first-ever flight in the suit taking place while he’s practically blackout drunk. That’s an interesting development and it ties his origin very strongly to his alcoholism. Pepper Potts ends up being a strong voice in the narrative too.
Sadly this book doesn’t end quite as gracefully as one might like. In what feels like a rush to remind us Tony is a drunk over and over, the book snaps into an AA meeting on the last page. Yes, it’s believable Tony would want to quit drinking after seeing his mistakes cost lives, but it comes so quickly and after so much stubbornness that it’s hard to believe. We’ve seen Tony give up booze more than once in comics and his rock bottom to get him to change isn’t half as bad as believable other rock bottoms he’s reached. The sub-plot to take over Stark Industries is a bit half baked, too. It serves as a nice B-plot throughout the story but ends up fizzling and not mattering all that much.
This is an interesting origin story that attempted to freshen up Tony Stark’s beginnings, but it suffers from muddy art and an ending that fizzles. If you’re familiar with Tony Stark’s origin you’ll likely find this pretty boring and for those who haven’t been introduced, I’d recommend starting with the original. This series is a good attempt, but it doesn’t come together.