Here’s a review of Fred Van Lente’s Iron Man Legacy #1.
If writer Fred Van Lente’s objective with Iron Man: Legacy is to “bring in folks who were interested in Iron Man from the movies,” who could “jump into a standalone, self-contained adventure” then he succeeds admirably as I admit this is the first Iron Man comic I have ever read in my long experience with the medium.1 Although many commentators, including Broken Frontier’s G. Willow Wilson in her column, have noted the failure of movie adaptations to bring new readership into comics and Van Lente’s goals here might be set too high as a result, he accomplishes what few first issues can of late: craft a viable, interesting story for seasoned and new readers alike, juggle recognizable and new characters without cliché, and produce a level of drama that readers should appreciate and as a result, come back for.
From the opening sequence tying Iron Man, more specifically, Tony Stark, into something larger than himself, something simultaneously historical and mythological that transcends time and place, readers should realize this is not your average comic fair. While Van Lente’s goals with this first story arc “War of the Iron Men” to create “a graphic novel unto itself ” reveal perhaps his or Marvel’s intentions on shopping this series more towards bookstores and away from the direct market, audiences who read the single issues or trade wait will not be disappointed.2 We get iconic Iron Man images from the familiar red and yellow suit to the original silver clunker that captivated readers in 1963, both captured beautifully by artist Steve Kurth. There’s a snarky sophistication to Stark both reminiscent of Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal, but something also innovative and decidedly Van Lente in presentation as the character wrestles with the consequences of his past. Long time fans will of course immediately know the names Jessica Drew, James Rhodes, and others who emerge, understanding their connections to Stark, but Van Lente does a stellar of job of keeping those cards close to his chest and reinforcing the intrigue.
Although it remains somewhat unclear what stage of Stark’s life this “legacy” first arc is investigating, as Van Lente has alluded that the series will explore the character’s past, there are a few items that while noticeable do not detract from the overall issue. First, the plot elements that too closely mirror the film or recent DC titles such as 52 or Green Lantern (superheroes as representatives of nation states and resulting international political crisis) may trouble some readers. Second, while Kurth’s art renders the superheroic feats of Iron Man quite well, his depictions of everyday non-metahumans are at times a little awkard and distracting. Lastly, some longtime fans may be put-off by Van Lente’s balancing act of working both within Iron Man continuity while also deviating from established dogma and the concurrent stories in Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man, but both old and casual readers should find enjoyment as Van Lente establishes a solid foundation to bridge film and comics, providing audiences with a fun, accessible character and story.