5th June 2013
Iron Man #11, Kieron Gillen, Dale Eaglesham, Marvel Comics
“The Secret Origin of Tony Stark” continues with more concrete revelations than previous instalments, some truly rocking the foundation of Iron Man’s identity. #11 sees Stark still held prisoner – and unwilling bodyguard against some unremarkable space robots – by the not wholly unlikable 451 on a course for destinations unknown while we flit back in time to witness the mysterious pre-natal care and universe-altering burden given to Tony by the same conniving ‘bot.
As with many flashback narratives in comics, past events are streamlined to the nth degree so that the only events we see are solely plot-relevant and so set pieces like this issue’s attack on Mummy and Daddy Stark’s home begin to feel more than a little contrived. That said, the art’s still subtly cinematic (other than a rather dull space fricassee early in the issue in which each panel looked like scrap metal exploding in imperceptibly different ways) and the contrasting relationships Howard and his son have with 451 are fun to explore.
As regard the revelations, I’m not the biggest Iron Man buff ever, having read only this, Warren Ellis’ Extremis arc and part of Fraction and Larroca’s Invincible run so I’m not entirely certain how much retroactive continuity is being perpetrated here, though the changes to Tony’s past are huge enough that I’m sure a hardcore subset of the fanbase are going to be a little miffed. I won’t spoil anything, but the story alters – or reveals, depending on your opinion – some pretty fundamental aspects of Tony’s character. Now, this could all be a huge misdirect on Gillen’s part and I wouldn’t put it past him, but if this arc does become canon as it stands it won’t change all that much going forward except Tony himself, and I’ve no beef with character development.
Blackacre #7, Duffy Boudreau, Wendell Cavalcanti, Image Comics
A new arc introduces new characters, new struggles and the promise of a little nuance, which never goes amiss. Protagonists Hull and his new teenage wife Lee (don’t worry, it’s a marriage of convenience) run into trouble with the religious community they’re now a part of and Hull has to go on a mission to secure their safety, having to team up with the woman who tormented Lee when she first arrived, which looks to be an interesting dynamic and a chance to peel away some layers of what is ostensibly a villain.
In other parts of the world, unscrupulous merc Bird tracks down a new accomplice to help hunt down Hull and Blackacre political big shot Sinclair sweats in his studio apartment about the upcoming hearing delving into his paramilitary operations while his wife struts about in not much clothing and gives him something of a hard time for letting his plans fall to shit. Their relationship was interesting as we’ve seen no women of power inside the walls of Blackacre thus far and it’s good to see that she has ambitions equal to his, though while she comes from old money like her husband it’s not clear if she has a career of her own, putting her closer to Lady Macbeth than House of Card’s Claire Underwood than I would like.
I like Blackacre, but there’s just something a bit off with each issue. It sounds kind of ridiculous with three concurrent storylines happening in different locations, but the world feels a little small, especially when it comes to the walled-off city itself. I’m not asking for an infodump or a map of the surrounding country (though that certainly didn’t hurt when Prophet did it) but a little local colour here and there would really help me believe in the world Boudreau and Cavalcanti are creating. I’m sure that given a few more issues the mythos of the series will become clearer, but I’d rather that be due to the strength of the storytelling than the amount of time I’ve spent reading. I like it, but it’s just not connecting with me the way great comics do.
East of West #3, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Image Comics
A single solitary comic for me this week. There were other books that appealed but as I get more and more into this comic-buying lark and working out which titles I really like, I find myself having to try out less new stuff in order to maintain some sort of semblance of a bank balance. Which is a shame, as I don’t wish to stick rigidly to the same old books indefinitely. That would be boring for both you and me. With that in mind, I decided that East of West #3 would be my stick or twist point for the series. If I liked it, I’d continue reading, if not, then I’d drop it, maybe with a view to reading a trade later.
Fortunately for the accountants at Image, issue 3 does just about enough to keep me interested and engaged in the book to keep buying. This issue focuses on the woman Death calls his ball and chain; a Chinese woman named Xiaolian, who has been kept prisoner by her family for reasons that are as yet not entirely clear. Death intends to free her and this issue sets the stage for what looks to be a heck of a ruckus next month. We also catch up with the other horsemen who have tracked down the dodgy barman from the previous issues. We find out – heh heh – that this guy clearly has an ‘eye’ for trouble and lends the three antiheroes a unexpected helping hand.
The series is progressing at an agreeable pace and it does feel like its heading in a strong direction quite quickly. Dragotta’s art continues to impress and it’s worth tipping a hat to Frank Martin’s colours. The series has a surprisingly bright palette which makes the book pleasing to read generally and perhaps offers a little clarity in opposition to the as yet still fairly murky narrative.
So yeah, Imma keep buying this for the time being, at least until the first arc is done. It’s not my favourite item on my pull list but it’s interesting, pretty to look at, a little more challenging than some books and reading it does make me feel part of something slightly special.