Infamous Iron Man #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev and Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Chances are the better a villain is, the more they’ll show up. But even the great ones get shelved in the aftermath of a big event or status quo shift. One would think that after the conclusion of Secret Wars, Doctor Doom would be off the table for a while, but Brian Michael Bendis threw him right back into Invincible Iron Man as a supporting character. That’s because Doom isn’t just a great villain; he’s one of the best. Unfortunately though, Doom’s hero turn in the pages of Infamous Iron Man may leave some readers wanting, even with some solid work from artist Alex Maleev. It’s classic Bendis - structurally sound, technically competent ,and featuring entertaining characterization, but the plot so far is paper-thin as the issue marches toward a forgone conclusion.
When you put Doctor Doom on the cover of a book called Infamous Iron Man and you’ve told us already that Doctor Doom is going to be Iron Man, your book probably shouldn’t end with Doctor Doom deciding to be Iron Man. Despite readers knowing where this issue is headed, Bendis wants to take the time to show us some of Doom’s motivations and set up some of the things that will be part of his world. We get some time with the Cabal, a look at Doom’s brand of heroism, a reminder that Tony Stark will still play a role in this title, and a tease of the villain. Bendis checks all the boxes he wanted to. And I really like his Doctor Doom. The voice and villainy inherent to the characters are correct. The scene with the Hood is a little overwrought and goofy, but it’s still fun. But then why is this book so dull? Simply put, there are no stakes. Debut issues should feel like anything can happen, and yet, that’s not the case here. So while the pacing and build-up work really well, every reveal kind of just fizzles out.
Maleev’s work in this issue is a pleasant surprise. While he is one the biggest names in comic books, his art has a tendency to look too heavily-rendered at times, as if his panels are really just photos fed through a series of Photoshop filters. That’s not the case here. It’s important for a book like this to put the main character’s humanity on display. Maleev’s Doom is still menacing out of his trademark armor but the artist is able to add a bit of warmth to him. That ends up helping sell the interactions between Doom and various characters across the book, and it draws a clear line between Doctor Doom the supervillain and Victor Von Doom the man looking for some sort of redemption. Matt Hollingsworth’s colors help draw that distinction as well. The book gets progressively brighter as Victor makes the change from Doom to Iron Man in a really understated and natural way.
Bendis follows through on his premise, but he doesn’t do it with the flair that the character of Doctor Doom is really known for. On some level, this feels like a book without a solid identity. That kind of works since Doom is exploring his own role in the post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe but it might fail to hook many readers. The book does well to serve its central conceit but to the detriment of drumming up any real interest in the book. If you like the creators or the characters, you’ll likely have a good time, but the hook is weak for potential readers on the fence.