Iron Man 2020 #1
Written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Art by Pete Woods
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Dan Slott has made his name spinning yarns out of the kind of superhero continuity minutiae that most of us probably forget. And for the most part, it has served him pretty well. His run on Spider-Man was lengthy and introduced new concepts based on seeds of ideas from the past and led to status quo shaking changes. When you’re writing Big Two comics, that’s pretty much the ideal. With Iron Man, Slott has tried to make a meal out of the crumbs left behind by Brian Michael Bendis. And while that’s a worthy cause, coupled with what feels like an editorial mandate to do something with Iron Man 2020 because you know, the year, it feels like Slott twisted up the status quo into something that’s about robots, sure, but doesn’t really feel like Iron Man at all. Pete Woods is a great artist to have onboard though, giving some emotionality to the various robots featured.
I’m sorry to the twelve of you I might be offending, but if I’m being honest, the real problem comes down to Tony Stark’s replacement and long-thought-lost brother, Arno Stark. He lacks the sophistication of Tony or determination of Rhodey or even the charm of Riri Williams. I don’t think he has a clearly defined role in the Marvel Universe and the journey of the characters that we’ve lived with for a bit longer. I know he’s been a supporting frenemy throughout Slott’s run, but I’m failing to see the appeal of having him lead a series.
That said, Slott and Christos Gage make the stakes pretty clear to readers (the Extinction Entity is coming!) and establish that Arno just isn’t going to let these robots revolt against humanity. Throughout his tenure on the series, Slott has gone to great lengths to outline “AI rights” and what that means for the Marvel Universe. But a robot rebellion feels ill-conceived (and is essentially the C plot from Solo, right?) at this juncture. Even the reveal of the Thirteenth Floor feels rote, less evoking shades of Scott Snyder’s "Court of Owls" and more feeling like too much of a carbon copy. There are a lot of elements to this story, but the Iron Man of it all feels slight and doesn’t result in a really satisfying read.
Pete Woods is a good match for this book, though. For my money (which is unfortunately very little, but it’s the thought that counts), he’s probably one of the more underrated artists working today. He’s able to bring out some humanity in the various robots he has to draw. That’s no doubt aided by the fact that some of them have indistinguishable human faces, so it would have been nice to get to see a little bit more variety. But his clean lines make for really effective expression work and an ability to deliver on the Big Superhero Moments that Iron Man 2020 gets. The colors are bright and effusive, too. This is a good looking book. Wood even makes Arno’s awful shoulder pads work - no small feat.
Iron Man 2020 is a book for the diehards. If you haven’t been enjoying Slott’s time on Iron Man, this probably isn’t going to win you over. It is a table-setting issue first and foremost, but I don’t think it’s really pushing the envelope in terms of the types of AI/robot rebellion stories we’ve seen before. I think this mini-event just hasn’t hit its stride yet and once the pacing gets moving, it will be more effective. But right now it feels like an attempt to get everything in order before delivering the goods.