Now you get to put up with me in print as well.

*New Releases Dept: Right, then. As several sources have noted, I am the new writer for Cape Fear, the superhero comics column at The Comics Journal. The first of my pieces will run in the very next issue of the Journal, #276. I am very excited about this new endeavor, and I hope you’ll all enjoy the results!

Iron Man: The Inevitable #5 (of 6)

Just tossing this one out to remind you all of what a nice superhero book this is. Fun (often funny), intelligent, good-looking, and with a keen grasp of character dynamics and melodramatics - it’s the sort of thing that threatens to give miscellaneous Marvel superhero miniseries a good name.

Actually, this issue really makes me wonder about the project’s status as a ‘miniseries’ - it’s now very clear that writer Joe Casey means to directly follow up on the themes Warren Ellis suggested in his own just-concluded run on the ongoing Iron Man book, which makes me wonder if this project wasn’t meant to actually be a storyline in the ongoing book, perhaps later bumped into the form of a miniseries due to the lengthy delays the ongoing experienced, and a desire on Marvel’s part to not create a backlog of material awaiting publication. Just a thought.

Regardless, in this book readers of the Ellis run will have some extra stuff to chew on - the core conflict in those issues was not between Iron Man and some guy who can throw cars and stuff, but between Tony Stark’s desire to use technology to improve the lot of humanity beyond mere hitting and exploding, and the potential for such technology to be turned toward additional acts of violence and aggression. Eventually, Tony winds up simply beating the shit out of a villain, yet again, his pleas for surrender ignored - we’re left with Tony telling himself that he’s trying to look toward the future, though the actions he must take (as a superhero in a superhero book) prevent the species’ actual arrival.

In this issue, Tony’s even madder. The Living Laser, whose humanoid form was temporarily subsumed into a new brand of living, of perception, has apparently executed a murderous getaway. Once again, villains from the past are haunting Tony, but he’s no longer even in the mood to participate in such a setup. Artist Frazer Irving visually cites Adi Granov’s conception of Iron Man’s new flesh from the Ellis run, and Tony loudly rants about how others perceive him, “…one side of a ‘vs’ marquee that I’ve come to see as a ridiculous paradigm of pro wrestling clichés and wasted energies.” - amusingly, Marvel then follows that very page with a double-page spread advertising pro wrestling action figures. That’s unwittingly telling, as what’s a superhero to do in a superhero book other than fight villainy? Doc Samson makes the argument for slam-bang status quo: “Do you think you have a choice? You might’ve found a new way of doing the same job. But you’re still a super hero.” And by the end of this issue, Iron Man is leaping back into action, now against a villain that that seems to hunger for little more than the thrill of a clash. If Ellis himself asked at the end of his run, ‘Is all of this upward-gazing futurism futile in a genre like this?”, then Casey replies with a resounding ‘Probably!’ The visionary scientist in this story has died, and the transformed villain seems to have reverted to wrongdoing.

But what’s The Inevitable? It’s set up as several different things in this issue - for one, it could be death. But is Tony Stark likely to die anytime soon? Is any ‘major’ superhero? Maybe it’s the future, as Tony puts it, the ascension of people and superheroes beyond slugfests through the aid of technology. But then - on to another fight. Or just maybe it’s what Doc Samson hints at, superheroes needing to be superheroes, fighting villains. It may be done in different ways - “Something to do with futurist technology,” as Doc puts it - but it must be done. Perhaps all the talk of a gleaming technological future is futile, even dangerous, as it takes the eye off of immediate problems. Casey doesn’t settle on any one answer, but he deftly expands on Ellis’ concerns with his own re-imagining of the character, maybe forwarding the philosophical dilemma as Iron Man’s new core struggle for future writers to play with.

Those writers will be at something of a disadvantage without Frazer Irving, though. These pages see yet more lovely visuals from this fine talent, from the grinning big-headed characters of an upper-class party (the style there a bit reminiscent of Richard Corben), to the quiet majesty of Iron Man floating through space, searching for what's missing, to the smoky curves and spires of gigantic, ruined research facility. If it's inevitable that costumed heroes be grounded in such a world, at least they're assured much beauty.