Thursday, 7 July 2011

New Beginnings - The Iron Age #1

It seems that at the moment everyone in comics is playing the time travel card. By far the most obvious is the whole of DC with Flashpoint set to be the key to rebooting the entire universe and starting off 52 titles. Marvel are also dabbling.

A few weeks ago there was a prelude issue for the Iron Age, where Tony Stark has been thrown back in time to one of his lowest personal points of his life after attempting to stop Donald Birch from using the Dark Pheonix from destroying the world. (For full story see The Iron Age Alpha) Now we see where this picks up and how Stark has to “Fight for the Future... Beginning in the Past”.

Whereas Alpha was written by Rob Williams, Iron Age #1 has been penned by Christos Gage who is most recently linked to Avengers Academy. Admittedly this has filled me with apprehension as I tried the first issue and left it at that. Other titles to his credit include World War Hulk and House of M tie-ins alongside a whole raft of comics from the Wildstorm universe but nothing that actually screams mainstream or that stands out at first glance. So is this his stepping up title? I’m not sure and I think that it falls into tie in category and I’m not yet sure if he is returning for subsequent parts either. Rob Williams has taken over for the second part. Before I continue it is also fair to say that Rob Williams hasn’t written anything ground breaking or standalone for Marvel either but has worked a lot with Andy Diggle on 2000AD and somehow his work feels stronger. I'm pleased to say he'll be working on the new Ghost Rider too.

What has been done, however, is not go for the obvious, and I would hazard a guess that an appreciation for 90's tv show Quantum Leap has had an influence. Instead of having an obvious and linear route through the comic it is more episodal with each part plunging Tony into different parts of his own timeline hunting for parts of Doom’s time platform which does form a paradox from Alpha if honest (if Stark finds the scattered parts, how can Birch also do so to create this situation?) but means the door is open to cross over into every previous comic arc and also giving endless possibilities.

Williams also touches on this as well when in the 'Panic on the Streets of London' story when he sees a much younger version of Birch completely prone and easily removed from being a threat thus ending things swiftly but the option is not taken. Gage had a much more fundamental twist on this as he points out that Tony has the chance to change EVERYTHING - Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign and the Fall of Asgard. None of this has to now happen and all Ton has to do is make a few changes or hints. But does he, and more importantly should he?

Both parts are written well but the change in writers have given them different prominent aspects. Gage’s part, as an opening, uses more shock of the situation and dire straits that Stark is in. There is a hint of desperation in the beginning as the task at hand is huge. Williams, with a stronger foundation, pushes more towards a grounded Iron Man with the emotion being directed through his focus on the plan in action. Amongst my concerns with Gage I will be the first to admit that I was a little over zealous and that it’s not that bad at all. It doesn’t set the world on fire but it’s not bad either. Williams on the other hand comes across as a lot stronger but I also think that this is due to the look and feel of the part as well.

As well as splitting writers, artwork has been separated too. Lee Weeks, accompanying Gages work, has drawn more in the style of the time of the original comic. His cover work does display a more “present” style as well though and to prove that Marvel are forward thinking it was created more than 6 months ago as he’s dated it 2010.
Ben Oliver, drawing for Williams, has taken a much smoother approach, very similar to Clayton Crain’s recent work on the Carnage miniseries. Of the two styles my preference is Oliver's but both are good and suit the stories for different reasons. For once, the old school style of drawing, hasn’t disheartened me or put me off.

As an Iron Man fan I’m interested in how this all turns out. It’s only one of three so far so I’m not getting my hopes up for anything deep and meaningful. This has disappointed me slightly as the advertising made it look as if it could be so much more. I’ll be collecting them to complete this mini series but as it is going to happen completely outside of the current universe and not likely to have an impact elsewhere I’m not expecting massive things. What I am dying to see, however unlikely it is, is for the first words in any of the episodes just for once to be “Oh boy....”

Matt Puddy leapt in to the Quantum Leap Accelerator and vanished.

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