Iron Man #22: Holding on for a hero…

We’re in the home stretch of Christopher Cantwell’s Iron Man race, and it’s finally starting to heat up for me. It’s been a long, sometimes bumpy twenty-two issue, but we’re getting to the good stuff. Now I’ll be completely honest, I had high hopes for Cantwell and his Iron Man, unfortunately it was hit and miss. He’s had some absolute triumphs in this run, especially with the emergence of Hellcat as an emotional anchor for Tony, and the resurrection of the Unicorn (one of my absolute favorites of classic Iron Man villains), as well as the ‘art. Art is something that needs to be tackled during this run, and I plan to kvelling (meaning springing in Yiddish) on it.

When we learned that the main villain of his first arc would be Michael Korvac, I was beyond ecstatic. The Korvac saga of Jim Shooter, David Michelinie, the late George Peréz and Dave Wenzel, but sadly no other story involving Korvac has been able to capture the same magic as the original story. At least not in the Marvel Universe. Shooter managed to capture that magic in his Solar Man of the Atom series for the Valiant comics in the 90s. It just seems to me that Shooter can’t be the only one who can write a really compelling Korvac, and Cantwell hit some really poignant character beats early on, so there was hope.

The story of Korvac is a man from a future where earth and the rest of the planets in the solar system have been enslaved and conquered by the Badoon Empire. Korvac, a rather minor villain created by Shooter and prolific ’70s writer Steve Gerber for the Defenders, but would be primarily associated with the original Guardians of the Galaxy. After being transformed into a cyborg by the Badoon, he would gain nigh-omnipotent cosmic power by finding and exploiting Galactus’ worldship, Taa II, and fleeing the Badoon-controlled galaxy to the Marvel Universe in 1978. For those who are aware, the original Guardians were a team of freedom fighters from an alternate Earth future, who fought valiantly against the Badoon. They would have adventures in the current 616 timeline, with the Defenders, but it would be the adventure with the Avengers that would make them fan favorites, who would even get a series in the 90s. one of my favorites at that time.

After losing interest in this run due to the rather… disappointing and overly long arc, Cantwell and Unzueta’s arc touched on some story tropes that work for me. Now, I’m not opposed to elevating the kinds of stories comics tell regarding the superhero line, because telling the same stories with mynutes differences tends to stagnate, but Cantwell’s Tony didn’t seem all just not authentic. Yeah, he’s a control freak. Yeah, he’s a drug addict, which we got in his first arc, but it was so boring. There are a lot of things that are excusable, unfortunately being boring is one of the worst things to deal with, especially with a character like Korvac. With this new arc, we’re dealing with things that work better with the setting of an Iron Man story. We get international political intrigue and international arms dealers, something to do with the Mandarin Rings (could we get a new Mandarin? Or a return of the original?) plus a return of a villain from the cold war era that just tickled me to see again. More!!!! a return of Tony’s Stealth Armor!!!! I admit this is my favorite variation of Tony’s armor. I really hope Cantwell can land the end of this story.

Now let’s move on to the art of an Angel Unzueta. Unzueta had the unenviable position of following CAFU, who put his stamp on the character, and gave us some of the best books to watch since Slott’s run ended (the guy had Valerio Schiti on the book, and it is very big shoes to follow). Now, Unzueta isn’t a newcomer when it comes to the ironed Avenger, as he did some filler issues, and was the artist on the mini Captain America/Iron Man that Landry penned a few months ago, so he’s well-versed in Tony’s world. His work here is reminiscent of CAFU’s style, but a little more… rigid. CAFU is an artist who has been around for a few decades and has evolved as an artist to the point that if you looked at his style that he used in his series of Action Comics with Joe Kelly, you wouldn’t believe they’re the same person . Almost in a photorealistic way, which works on a lot of characters, but it was the human moments that I missed the most here. The footage of all the tech, as well as the fight with Tony, Rhodey, and that Silver Age elder really brought out Unzueta’s strengths in this issue. I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us.

Daniel K. Denny