Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Dan Slott
Artwork: Valetio Schiti (#1-4), Max Dunbar/Gang Hyuk Lim (#5)
Colours: Edgar Delgaro (#1-4), Dono Sanchez-Almara (#5)
Lettering: VC’s Joe Caramagna (#1-2, #4-5), Travis Lanham #3)
Release Date: 2nd January 2019
Tony Stark: Iron Man sees Dan Slott taking over from Brian Michael Bendis’ run with the title character, and with a pitch that promised to deliver something between Rick and Morty and Black Mirror, this first volume definitely piqued my interest enough to pick it up.
Slott is a solid writer who frequently hits on winning ideas and manages to flesh them out into something truly special. In fact, his Superior Spider-Man and Silver Surfer runs are among my favourite Marvel comics of the last decade or so. But as this collection clearly shows, he sometimes struggles mightily with consistency and trying to tell coherent stories. This feels a lot like Iron Man by committee, with half a dozen people each shouting out their own ideas and Slott trying desperately to stitch them all together into a series.
Don’t get me wrong, Self-Made Man has some undeniably strong moments, but it’s all cobbled together in such a limp, scattershot way that it’s really difficult to get a handle on. Random ideas are slotted together seemingly at random, characters are introduced and disappear without any real purpose, and most of the dramatic moments seem to only serve to set up gag punchlines (Tony thwarting a robot attack on Stark Unlimited by uploading a dating profile pic so hot it breaks the internet, for instance).
There are the vague outlines of an interesting story here with Tony questioning his own mortality and whether or not he still has a soul in the wake of his “resurrection”, but it only manages to steal the focus for the odd page here and there, leaving it as yet another frustrating, tantalising potential idea. Jocasta is also a real highlight, and her role as ‘Chief Robotic Ethicist’ leads to some humorous and poignant moments along the way.
On the visual side of things, the artwork is certainly solid enough in isolation, but feels way too busy and cluttered when pulled together on the page. Everything is suitably bold and dynamic, and the vibrant colours give it a sense of lively, all-ages fun, but much like the story itself there’s frequently far too much going on at the same time, resulting in an overwhelming and disorienting read.
If you’re a die-hard Iron Man fan then you’ll likely get a kick out of this. Tony is certainly at his smarmy, cocky ‘best’, and there are some amusing gags and pop culture references along the way. For more casual readers, however, this is going to be a much harder sell, and if you only have a passing interest in Tony Stark and/or Iron Man, I really don’t thing this collection is going to do much to sell you on the character. Bright, flashy and colourful, but not too much in the way of real substance.