Review: Iron Man #11 – Gillen and Eaglesham

ironman-11Kieron Gillen is re-building Iron Man and he is using alien technology to do so. Well that’s not entirely true, but he is re-tooling the origin story as told to Stark by the alien robot 451. And what a story it is: engineered birth, pursuing murderous greys, the fate of the world in the balance – this is the kind of story that would make Fox Mulder salivate.

Kieron Gillen has hit his stride – I have liked this book since its inception in the Marvel Now line up but it was never the Marvel book I looked forward to reading. That was usually Superior Spider-Man or one of Hickman’s Avengers books or Bendis’ X-Men but lately I have been mentioning Iron Man in those terms with increasing regularity. The book is improving and not all of the credit goes to Gillen. Dale Eaglesham has brought a visual dynamic to this book that it was so sorely lacking. Although Greg Land is an accomplished artist in his own right I don’t think he fit this title. His work tends to be flat and his faces are all rendered in too similar a fashion for my liking.

This issue begins with Tony and 451 on board a cloaked space ship traversing deep space and in deep discussion when they are detected crossing some sort of perimeter. Tony is becoming more and more irate as 451 implores him to save his ship. At one point Tony refers to the robot as having a “glorified Commodore 64” brain, but when all is said and done he decides to go along with 451’s plan.

The story then returns to the past and Tony’s parents in the company of 451. The robot continues to shed light on Stark’s parent’s relationship and his pending birth. Gillen does a really good job illuminating the changes he is introducing to Tony’s mythology without simply blurting them out. He is building up to what we can only assume will be an Earth-shattering revelation. These changes go a long way in making sense of Tony’s inclusion on the current Guardians of the Galaxy team and really legitimising his status as a super genius. His parent’s story is told in meticulous detail. Howard Stark is the portrait of a father. His love for his wife and unborn son serve to motivate him more than the fate of the world. He is a man conflicted and passionate as Gillen demonstrates by having Howard Stark run after a pair of laser pistol wielding greys armed only with a conventional shotgun. This is the act of a protective father rather than a genius. He doesn’t think of the superior fire power he is sure to face, only of saving his young family. These are the kind of details Gillen uses to flesh out Howard Stark and endear him to us. He becomes the hero of the book.

The story then moves to an examination room of some kind. There we see the Starks and 451 – Howard listens intently to 451 explain what is happening to his son in utero while his wife lies back and receives the treatments from the robot’s hand (literally – his finger is a hypodermic). Again Gillen takes us deeper into what is happening to Tony prior to his birth. The complicated alien alterations that are being made to his genetic make-up are spelled out via a sonogram. This scene works so well.

We then return to the present and deep space as Tony rejoins 451 on board the ship. The two continue their conversation, concentrating mainly on Tony’s parents and the reasons behind the decisions they made. Tony pushes for answers that at first 451 seems reluctant to give but he finally relents and that is where we are left as 451 prefaces his coming answers with the ominous “All the things we did, we did for you.” Gillen leaves us with an unbearable sense of anticipation.

Kieron Gillen has established Iron Man as one of the upper echelon Marvel Now titles. The addition of Dale Eaglesham has only served to solidify that fact. Gillen has proven he is a consummate and capable story teller, adding chapters to the already rich history of Tony Stark and the Stark family. Though this is a decidedly different Iron Man from the one Matt Fraction brought us in the recent past, it is an Iron Man that is entertaining and enthralling. Visually dynamic, briskly paced and complexly plotted, this is what good comic books are all about.  Don’t hesitate to jump on board – this promises to be a heck of a ride.

So until next week, see you at the comic book store.