One of the most engaging elements in the Marvel line of comics has been the focus on history. Not in the sense more associated with DC, where legacy is so revered (arguably to a fault), but in the sense that character progression seemed to hold far greater priority than one might assume from a funny book. While Marvel was no better than DC in terms of their willingness to wriggle out of a set of circumstances through hokey, convoluted retcons, books like Iron Man were once celebrated for continuing a logical, building narrative across different writers and hundreds of issues.
With Invincible Iron Man #1, Marvel heavy-hitter Gerry Duggan (who has been all over the mutant side of the MU in recent times) takes Ol’ Shellhead’s narrative to a tediously familiar stop. After a few pages recounting the basics of Stark’s 616 history (being a #1 issue, the book is undoubtedly aiming to be a starting point for the ever-elusive “new comic reader”) and the inciting incident of the story, we find Tony Stark at a point in his life where he’s feeling particularly guilty over mistakes that he’s made as a result of poor forethought, leading to other people getting caught in the crossfire. Gripping stuff. It could be argued that bemoaning an Iron Man title for focusing on what is debatably the very essence of Iron Man may be a little unfair, but the problems lie just as much in what the book doesn’t do.
Quite a bit of the narrative weight Duggan tries to convey throughout this issue hinges on readers’ outright acceptance of the gravity of what has happened because Tony tells us it’s really affected him. This approach isn’t all that effective when the vast majority of input we get from Tony on these situations comes via first-person narration (framed as Tony working on his autobiography, from some unrevealed point in the future) that struggles to find an authentic voice. A lot of the verbiage sounds decidedly un-Stark, like Tony using the term “unhoused”, and a handful of similar instances of hyper-online wording.
A moderately interesting mystery is competently established, and there’s certainly nothing offensively repellant about this book as it finds its footing. Juan Frigeri provides excellent visuals, and the book makes plenty of sense as a back-to-basics reset of sorts. Is it just too much to ask, after 60 years, for something a bit… fresh?