Brian Michael Bendis

Brian Michael Bendis and IRON MAN: A Retrospective

With the recently released INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #600, Brian Michael Bendis bade farewell to the character he’s been writing for almost 2 ½ years. Bendis’ Iron Man series had had its ups and downs and its fair share of positive and negative criticism. Despite what you thought of this sometimes polarizing run, you have to admit that Bendis left a memorable mark on the character. In this retrospective, we’ll highlight the biggest moments in Bendis’ run and what they mean for Tony Stark and the Marvel Universe as a whole. From Riri Williams to Dr. Doom’s heel turn, Bendis added quite a few interesting elements to Iron Man’s history. Join us as we remember these moments and more in our INVINCIBLE IRON MAN retrospective!

Brian Michael Bendis and Iron Man: CIVIL WAR II

Even though Brian Michael Bendis’ Iron Man run began two arcs before CIVIL WAR II, this event sparks the first of many major changes to the Iron Man lore. First off, Tony loses his best friend of many years, James Rhodes AKA War Machine, while trying to apprehend Thanos. This leads Tony into a tailspin of guilt and anger targeted at Carol Danvers, who leads the mission. The tip to apprehend Thanos comes from the Inhuman seer Ulysses foreseeing Thanos’ heist.

After some choice words between Tony and Carol, they begin yet another ideological civil war, which only gets worse after a vision of a rampaging Hulk. Tony and Carol fight multiple times in this story until, during their final battle, Carol hits Tony so hard he winds up in a coma.

Brian Michael Bendis

CIVIL WAR II #1. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

CIVIL WAR II received mixed reviews across the board, but it did lead to some interesting status quo changes. For one, Rhodey’s death was genuinely shocking. He is one of Tony’s closest confidantes and longest friends. Unfortunately, we never really got to see much of the aftermath of his death, since Tony is taken out of commission soon after.

We see Carol’s reaction multiple times (Rhodey is her new beau before CIVIL WAR II). Although, SPOILER ALERT: in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #600, apparently Rhodey is back thanks to Tony. It seems like this cheapens his death a bit, however perhaps we could get some interesting stories out of Rhodey’s outlook on life after death. I still wish we saw more of Tony’s mourning of Rhodey. It could have made for a great, emotional issue.

Brian Michael Bendis and Iron Man: Victor Von Doom – Iron Man?

Doom’s eventual time as an Iron Man is hinted at during the beginning of the INVINCIBLE IRON MAN run. Brian Michael Bendis’ Iron Man run begins with Doom trying to convince Tony that he’s changed for the better. Tony is skeptical of this before his coma, but Doom still respects him.

In fact, he respects him so much that in order to memorialize Iron Man, Doom constructs his own iron suit and decides to fight evil. In the pages of INFAMOUS IRON MAN and later INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, Victor seeks out his former villainous comrades and begins apprehending them in the name of justice. This understandably draws the ire of these former allies and, with the help of The Hood, they bring the fight to Doom.

Meanwhile, Ben Grimm isn’t all too happy with the idea of a heroic Doctor Doom, so he battles him a few times, before reluctantly accepting Doom’s heel turn.

Brian Michael Bendis

INFAMOUS IRON MAN #12. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

This is one of the more interesting changes Bendis implemented. Seeing Doctor Doom fight for good is incredibly exciting. He’s one of Marvel’s most fascinating characters. As such, placing him in a story where he’s the protagonist for once only adds to that fascination.

Bendis did a great job balancing Doom’s more heroic tendencies with his still ever-present gigantic ego. It’s always fun to see a hero who isn’t as altruistic as his peers, who sees himself as better than the majority. It’s one aspect of Bendis’ run that I’m sad to see go, since he’s not appearing in any solicitations for Dan Slott’s run and, SPOILER ALERT, it looks like his face is back to being horribly scarred after INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #600. We all know what happened last time he received a scar.

Brian Michael Bendis and Iron Man: Tony’s Mom

The first of two new characters introduced in Bendis’ Iron Man run is Amanda Armstrong. Amanda was a tough rock star who joined S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 80s. While on a mission, she falls in love with a fellow agent named Jude and becomes pregnant. Soon after, Jude reveals himself as a Hydra agent and nearly kills Amanda before she kills him. She gives birth and places the baby up for adoption. Howard Stark later adopts him. He names the boy Tony and the rest is history. Right before CIVIL WAR II, in the pages of INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN, Tony finally finds Amanda and introduces himself as her biological son.

Then he goes into a coma.

Stark Industries goes into crisis mode as the CEO is “missing,” so Amanda, along with Tony’s assistant Mary Jane Watson and his AI Friday, takes control. She fights off Stark Industries’ greedy board of directors and puts on a search for her still-living, albeit comatose, son.

Brian Michael Bendis

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (VOL 3) #3. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Amanda is a fantastic new character. The revelation during Kieron Gillen’s run about Tony’s parentage gained some ridicule. However, I feel that Amanda makes up for that. She’s a tough, independent woman. She lives a freewheeling and compassionate lifestyle that makes her likable. Her somewhat brusque manner is endearing too. While the plot point still seems a bit muddled (why does Tony look just like Howard if he’s adopted?!?), Amanda proves to be a welcome part of the Iron Man mythos. Let’s see how long she stays on for once Slott takes the reins.

Brian Michael Bendis and Iron Man: Riri Williams, the Ironheart of the Series

Now comes the best addition to Bendis’ Iron Man saga: Riri Williams. Her introduction led to some backlash from some less forward thinking comic fans and media personalities. However, for others, Riri was possibly the most welcome new character to an Iron Man series in years. 15-year-old engineering wunderkind Riri Williams builds a prototype Iron Man suit with stolen materials. MIT kicks her out for that. This catches the eye of Tony Stark, who pays Riri a visit and encourages her to use her suit to do good. She makes her superhero debut during CIVIL WAR II, but after Tony’s coma Riri, with the help of an AI modeled after Stark, takes up the mantle of Ironheart.

As Ironheart, Riri begins where Tony left off, fighting evil with a suit of technologically advanced armor. However, she quickly forges her own path. She deposes Latverian monarch Lucia von Bardas and, for a short time, becomes queen of Latveria. Riri even fights the forces of Hydra during Stevil Roger’s occupation. She proves to be more than just a worthy successor for Tony. She’s become her own hero.

Riri’s also empowering. She’s a person of color who fights adversity as a superhero. She defies typical stereotypes of people of color. For one, Riri gains the respect of the public and the hero community. Plus, her fondness for STEM could inspire girls and young women to pursue those fields. I really hope we haven’t seen the last of Riri. She’s still a member of the Champions. As such, she’s now broken away from Tony’s legacy and forging her own path.

Brian Michael Bendis and Iron Man: A Historical Run

I believe that Bendis’ Iron Man run will go down as one of the better runs in the character’s history. Despite some bumps at the beginning, the series really hit its stride once Riri and Doom became the main focuses. Bendis added some incredibly memorable characters, including Riri. She’s sure to be a new favorite for years to come, much like Ms. Marvel. Not to mention his Dr. Doom, which could be a huge turning point for his character. Only time will tell. What we do know is that Bendis’ portrayal of the Iron Man mythosh was, overall, a great success.

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