Iron Man is a strange superhero.  In the movies, played by Robert Downey Jr., he’s the biggest of big names – Downey was reportedly paid $50 million for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, and incredibly that represents a pay cut from THE AVENGERS!  The reality is that Iron Man is what can only be called a Big Deal.

Iron Man poster

In the comics?  Sure, he’s important, but his sales aren’t great, and he’s typically been a morally-grey superhero who acts as a foil and plot-driver.

Now that all changes.  At New York Special Edition, Marvel announced that Brian Bendis and David Marquez would be working together on bringing the Golden Avenger to the forefront of the All-New All-Different Marvel.  With their top talent on the book, and with the full weight of their advertising might behind it, Marvel are determined to make the new INVINCIBLE IRON MAN series a hit.  So how do they do?

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The story kicks off with the return of a classic love-interest / supervillain – Madam Masque.  Just in time to get Tony Stark out of an awkward date and off to Latveria, where the new regime don’t exactly take a shine to having an Avenger crash the party.  That’s when the story takes a surprise twist, one designed to keep INVINCIBLE IRON MAN at the centre of the All-New All-Different Marvel…

Let’s be honest: any new series of INVINCIBLE IRON MAN stands or falls on the strength of its armour.  I double-dare you to find any series or run that hasn’t kick-started with Tony Stark piecing together a new suit.  But Bendis does it in a way that’s so much fun.  He shows a Tony Stark who’s gotten behind the curve, and who doesn’t like it one bit.

Invincible Iron Man Bendis Marquez builds new armor

That newspaper image alone gives a strong pitch for the book.  This is Tony Stark desperately trying to prove that he is not yesterday’s future – he’s as relevant to the world today as he ever was.  That means a new suit of armour, not one that has been reverse-engineered by “some 15-year-old at M.I.T.”  Let’s face it, with Peter Parker stepping up as CEO of Parker Industries, Brian Bendis’ Tony Stark is going to be under more pressure than ever before, and Bendis makes sure that we know it.

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This is Tony Stark with something to prove.  So what do you think?

Invincible Iron Man Armor concept by David Marquez

Well, we’ve all seen the images; slimmed down, sleek and streamlined, with a really cool redesign of the mask.  Aesthetically, Marquez’s design is so much more pleasing than the last few armours that Tony Stark has worn.  This looks like the kind of armour that a futurist would love.  What’s more, the degree of flexibility that Bendis and Marquez have designed is tremendous.  All previous armour modes integrated into one design – all of them, from Stealth to (perhaps?) Hulkbuster!  The Extremis element, which some fans had always found uncomfortable, subtly rewritten.  Yes, this design is good.

Bendis takes the time to introduce us to a handful of characters who (we assume) will prove important to this run; most notably, Friday, and Stark’s latest date, Amara Perera.  Amara is tremendous, an intellectual equal to Tony Stark who’s stumbled upon her own ‘knowledge man was not meant to know’, and who rejects Stark’s advances because she actually wants a relationship, not a one-night-stand.  Bendis characterises her so effectively, using her to shine a light upon the less admirable sides of Stark’s character, and you find yourself pretty much falling in love with her.

Amara Perera in Invincible Iron Man

In one scene.

X-Men fans, take note: Amara Perera may yet prove important to the future of the Marvel Universe, and of the X-Men in particular.  Bendis may have moved on from UNCANNY X-MEN and ALL-NEW X-MEN, but if Amara’s secret were to get out, well, at a time when the Terrigen Mist is killing mutants, it’d be interesting to see what happened.

The plot is fun and effective, showing a crime spree courtesy of Madame Masque, and bringing It to a head in such a way that Tony Stark can’t help but get involved.  It’s also a genius move, with a twist at the end that gives a promise – this is the centrepiece of the All-New All-Different Marvel Universe, and it intends to stay that way.

Madame Masque

Meanwhile, Marquez’s art is tremendous, and is perfectly complemented by Ponsor’s colouring.  All of the creative team are well aware that they’re under the spotlight with this issue, and they perform with aplomb.  Marquez’s design of Madame Masque is beautiful, with the light of a laptop screen illuminating her face; she’s sinister and deadly.  Stark is portrayed at his cocky best, with facial expressions brilliantly rendered.  And, in a plot that spins out across multiple locations, the art and colouring combine to give every site a different feel.  I particularly love Stark Tower at Osaka, Japan, where vibrant flowers present a beautiful frame for an architecturally gorgeous building.

Yes, I can happily say that this is an impressive debut.  This is like seeing a racing car roar off from the starting line, firing on all cylinders, sleek and efficient.  I can’t wait for #2.

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