As far as hooks go, it’s difficult to go much bigger than the complete destruction of the Earth. Seriously — everyone. Dead.
That’s just the starting point for The Iron Age, a new story starting in June spearheaded by writer Rob Williams (who was just announced at the C2E2 convention in Chicago as the writer of a new Ghost Rider ongoing series), and former DV8 artist Rebekah Isaacs.Also first revealed at C2E2, The Iron Age follows in the "Age of Apocalypse" tradition — starring with one-shot The Iron Age Alpha in June, and rapping up with August’s The Iron Age Omega. In between those two comics, six as-yet unrevealed one-shots released throughout the summer.
As the title implies, the story stars Iron Man, who escapes the chaos and travels through time to recruit different Marvel heroes — including members of the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and Captain Britain — from several eras of the publisher’s past to try and fix that whole destruction of the Earth thing. His goal: to retrieve parts of a Dr. Doom-built time machine, spread across different periods in history.“The main impetus for The Iron Age was celebrating Marvel characters who have changed so radically over the decades,” wrote Williams in an email interview with Newsarama. “Exploring what it is we love about these characters. And, to be blatantly honest, thinking how cool it would be to see a one-off Marvel superteam containing some Marvel stars in their old, classic uniforms. Iron Man's had so many different sets of armour over the years; the character of Tony Stark has evolved through the decades. He seemed like a good subject to be the heart of our story.” The culprits behind Earth’s doom are Dark Phoenix — yep, of “The Dark Phoenix Saga” fame — and a currently unrevealed Iron Man villain that hasn’t appeared in decades (so break out your Marvel Encyclopedias). Williams stresses that this story is happening in current Marvel continuity; not a dream, hoax, or otherwise imaginary story.
“It's not an alternate timeline story, strictly speaking. The Iron Age opens in today's Marvel Universe, so it's all in continuity and not a What If or an Elseworlds type of deal,” Williams wrote. “Our protagonist is today's Tony Stark, who is confronted with a very old adversary. This is a long-forgotten Marvel character who last appeared in the late '60s, and who knows how to hold a serious grudge. This guy has managed to put together one of Dr. Doom’s old, destroyed time machines, and he uses that to teach Tony Stark a very serious lesson in humility. A lesson that involves Dark Phoenix and the destruction of the Planet Earth.”Isaacs is drawing both the Alpha and Omega issues, with a crop of soon-to-be-announced artists illustrating the one-shots. Having started her career on Twilight Zone graphic novels and Devil’s Due comics, she’s turned to superheroes in a big way as of late with worked on several recent Marvel titles, including this month’s Captain America & Falcon one-shot.
“I have always been a big Iron Man fan so I was really thrilled to get to draw him as the main character, and in two different versions,” Isaacs wrote in an e-mail interview with Newsarama. “Dark Phoenix was really fun, and certainly not a character I assumed I'd ever have the opportunity to draw. Iron Fist was a surprisingly exciting one to draw — he's a bit like Spiderman, in that you can get away with drawing him in more extreme poses and crazy contortions that would look bizarre on other characters.”Though a timeline-spanning Marvel event like The Iron Age may seem far removed from the rebellious superpowered youth of DV8, Isaacs says that one actually helped her prepare for the other.
“Previously juggling an 8-character team in DV8 certainly helped to make drawing the final Iron Age issue a smoother process, since we have a big battle scene of eight different heroes in the finale,” Williams wrote. “Otherwise, my process doesn't change too much from book to book — Rob has the tough part of the job here, I just try to make everything as purty as possible!”
Being that the Dark Phoenix — indelibly linked with original X-Woman Jean Grey — is involved, the X-Men quite naturally are as well, though the main players of The Iron Age aren’t limited to the mutant corner of the Marvel Universe.“Cyclops is heavily involved, although you'll see the rest of the Byrne-era X-Men too,” Williams wrote. “Dazzler's also a member of the group from that time period. Really, if you're coming up with a storyline featuring Marvel characters with memorable old outfits, how could you not include Dazzler. The disco! The roller skates! "But this isn't just an X-Venture. We'll be seeing The Avengers, Johnny Storm, Power Man & Iron Fist. We wanted to create an all-star team who wouldn't normally work together.”
Also among the characters plucked from Marvel history is one of Williams’ personal favorites, Captain Britain.
“Cap's a character I'd include in just about any comic, given the chance. My fondness for the character goes back to being a child and reading his adventures in the British black and white reprint comic Hulk Weekly,” Williams wrote. “Then I read the [Alan] Moore/[Alan] Davis run and it blew my tiny mind. I loved writing him in The Iron Age.“And we get him back in his mask and iconic '80s outfit too. That's a great uniform. He's one of the Iron Age 'Throwbacks' super-team here. A vital part, in fact. That was fun, to see him part of an iconic group, fighting alongside the likes of Cyclops and the Human Torch. It felt like making him an A-lister.”
The Human Torch — who, as you've probably heard by now, passed away as of January’s Fantastic Four #587 — isn’t the only currently deceased Marvel character showing up in The Iron Age.
“What you're going to see in The Iron Age's individual issues is our era's Iron Man travelling to some classic Marvel storylines of the past, and coming face-to-face with now deceased characters like The Wasp, Johnny Storm and Jean Grey, which gives the story an emotional core rather than this slipping into fan fiction,” Williams wrote.“You're going to see Tony Stark confronting himself at the height of his alcoholism and lots more. Some of these storylines are offshoots from past storylines, but we're running our own narrative through these individual eras.”
If this all sounds like a lifelong Marvel devotee's wildest crossover dreams come true — well, that's kind of exactly what it is.
“I'm a huge Marvel fan,” Williams wrote. “This series is really a love letter to the comics that really fired my imagination as a kid and the comics I still enjoy so much today. So I didn't have to do a huge amount of research. I've got the back issues hidden away in the attic.
“But I'm no historian, either. Fortunately, that's what editorial is there for, to point us in the right direction when we stray. Things like setting the Captain Britain issue in the James Jaspers era of the Alan Moore/Alan Davis run? That was no problem for me as that's possibly my all-time favourite comics run. Ditto for pitching Iron Man into the middle of the X-Men fighting the Hellfire Club as per the classic Claremont/Byrne issues. But there's always things you don't know. It's a big universe with an awful lot of history.”In contrast, Isaacs didn’t read nearly as many Marvel comic books growing up, and is coming to The Iron Age relatively new to many of the characters and situations.
“Even though I was familiar with nearly all the characters by name, I'd had occasion to draw only a couple of them previously,” Isaacs wrote. “And even then I was mostly familiar with their modern incarnations. Luckily Tom and Rachel were able to provide me with tons of reference, which I definitely needed, since most of these guys have been through radical transformations since the ‘70s.”Of course, revisiting past eras of Marvel heroes involves rendering some colorful (some might even say regrettable) fashion choices.
“It was funny to see how the aesthetic of superhero comics has changed with the times,” Isaacs wrote. “You could clothe several small children with the fabric from the shirt collars alone on Power Man, Iron Fist, and Dazzler!”
Exactly which writers are joining Williams on The Iron Age one-shots may not be known at this point, but the writer says fans should probably go ahead and start getting excited now.
“Some of the one-shots are written by a really talented group of writers, some of whom have longstanding connections with these characters,” Williams wrote. “Long-time fans are going to be thrilled when they see who's working on these books. Ditto for the artists, too. It's a great ensemble mix of the new and the classic, which is exactly what this series was intended to be. “