Tony Stark has never been the idealized, larger-than-life hero like some of his Avengers counterparts. He’s a “billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” who, prior to donning the suit and becoming a hero as Iron Man, was a reckless, thoughtless… well, billionaire, playboy, etc etc. Even once he became a superhero, he had to reckon with his past in arms dealing, and also dealt with a nasty spot of recurring alcoholism that brought out the worst in him. The comics fully embrace Tony’s flaws, but he’s almost always portrayed as a hero – or at least someone will fight for something he thinks is heroic and right, even when it turns out to… oh, let’s just say get Captain America killed. But I digress.
Superior Iron Man is an altogether different take on the character. The marketing surrounding the new series by Tom Taylor and Yildiray Cinar seemed to suggest that this series would show Tony, in modern times, behaving as he did before he became Iron Man… but with all of the power Iron Man wield. Essentially, it was pegged as The Invincible Douchebag. I was admittedly not interested, because while the previous two runs that I loved – Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man and Kieron Gillen’s Iron Man from the Marvel Now initiative – were decidedly cerebral, at the core of both series was a warm, beating heart. I was under the impression that Superior would be devoid of that… but there’s no time like Blastoff’s Avengers month to catch up with what’s going on with… well, the Avengers. I loved what’s going on in Captain America, Hawkeye, and Thor, so I figured it’s only right to give shellhead a fair take.
The book starts with some backstory about how the Axis event had a dramatic impact on Tony’s personality – hence the douchery – but the status seems basically quo at the start of the book. Tony sent a virus to the phones of all the citizens in San Francisco, activating a new Extremis app that makes them into their “best self.” It’s questionable, but the intentions are still heroic, if invasive – which, hey… Tony in a nutshell.
The action kicks off when a villain calling himself Teen Abomination throws down in the middle of the populated city in attempt to get Tony’s attention. Tony joins She Hulk, and the two of them throw down with him. Tony quickly gets his head knocked off, revealing that he’s sent a robot to take care of it… because he has better things to do.
This “Superior” Iron Man is every bit the douche I expected, but what caught me was that his behavior isn’t just the hook for the series – it’s the central problem the characters are dealing with. Pepper becomes the unlikely protagonist, as Tony’s behavior very, very quickly devolves from selfish to straight up villainous. Tony’s true plan behind the Extremis app is something that he would’ve fought against as a hero – it’s, well, kinda dastardly.
Superior Iron Man tackles the premise in a way that I never imagined would happen in the first issue. It’s compelling for new readers and, even though I like my Tony with more heart, seeing him play the villain and those around him scramble for answers is wicked fun. I’m looking forward for his mind to shift back to normal, but I’m ready for a wild ride until then.
PAT SHAND writes comics (Robyn Hood, Charmed: Season Ten, Family Pets) and pop culture journalism (Sad Girls Guide, Blastoff Comics). Almost all of his output is entirely thanks to espresso shots.