Tony Stark: Iron Man #3 / Writer: Dan Slott / Artist: Valerio Schiti / Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham / Colorist: Edgar Delgado with Rachelle Rosenberg / Publisher: Marvel Comics / August 15, 2018
“We are Iron Man!”
That appears to be the mission statement so far in the new Tony Stark: Iron Man series by writer Dan Slott, artist Valerio Schiti, and colorist Edgar Delgado. What a fun journey those words have taken readers. After Riri Williams and Doctor Doom’s time as the leads in Iron Man comics by Brian Michael Bendis, Slott and company have taken Tony Stark to new heights as they tell new single-issue stories steeped in high concept science fiction and workplace comedy.
Slott sets the stories in Stark Unlimited. There he creates a big recurring conflict in the form of The Great eSCAPE, a limitless virtual universe. Tony and an eclectic cast of robots, new employees, and family members try to wrest control of it from villainous forces. In each issue, the creative team focuses on an individual cast member and how each of their stories relate to Tony Stark and his struggles. In addition, the series fleshes out minor characters and builds an entire world, both real and virtual, in which you can laugh and become lost.
Imagination and teamwork become the driving force of the series. Both the creators and characters make new armors and find new solutions to respond to new threats and new villains. Each aspect of the series makes your jaw drop. Things like the Fin-Fang-Foom-Buster armor, Gauntlet, and robots playing soccer provide the kind of joy and excitement missing from past Iron Man comics.
It maintains its energetic fun while questioning themes of self-determination and identity in a way only sci-fi comics can. That brings us to start of this issue.
Tony Stark: Iron Man #3 shines the spotlight on Jocasta, a character created by Jim Shooter and George Pérez in The Avengers #162. She works for Stark Unlimited as a robot ethicist, monitoring programs that rely on artificial intelligence in order to maintain their free will. She wants to ensure each artificial intelligence is free to make their own choice despite the confines on their purpose or construction. Previous issues provided the perspectives of new character Andy Bhang, a roboticist, and James Rhodes, the War Machine, through more action-packed tales. This third issue, however, goes in a more introspective direction, exploring Jocasta’s struggle and in her role in building the eSCAPE.
Jocasta was first made by the villain Ultron to be his bride. This issue enhances her backstory. It not only gives her proper agency but a foundation for how she interacts with the other characters. Her boyfriend is Aaron Stack. the Machine Man, most recognizable from Agents of N.E.X.T.W.A.V.E. by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen. The relationship allows the reader to see how she interacts with other artificial intelligences and their way of life. Her subordinate is Andy Bhang, giving her a well-defined stance on humanity. Her boss is Tony Stark, allowing more insights on Tony’s character to be unearthed.
Beta testing of the eSCAPE forms the premise of this issue. The testing goal is to recognize human users from the programs inhabiting the space. Machine Man wants to keep cyberspace exclusive to robots and computer programs and attacks the system, interrupting the beta test. It is up to Iron Man and Jocasta to stop him.
Brilliant Art and Enjoyable Storytelling
The art in this issue is nothing short of fantastic. Valerio Schiti’s skill in expression and composition makes each character feel alive. He perfectly communicates the kind of emotion needed in such a fun and high-octane series. Colorist Edgar Delgado, assisted here with Rachelle Rosenberg, brings the eSCAPE to spectacular life. They give audiences a unique, rainbow-themed, Kirby-style take on virtual reality you may not find in other forms of media
Dan Slott’s story, so far titled “Self Made Man,” works alongside the art. The strong themes and fun dialogue make the perfect kind of virtual reality story. However, it does require a specific sense of humor to fully appreciate the goals this comic tries to reach. My personal favorite part is the scene of a secret robot bar called The Uncanny Valley. If that isn’t hilarious to you, I’m not sure I can recommend it, but you should still try it out.
Insecurity of Machine Man
The issue approaches social issues of appropriation and online etiquette. The analysis of those issues is driven by the pathos of each character. Machine Man rallies against eSCAPE. He believes it robs robots of their own spaces and makes machines more expendable. Feeling left behind by Jocasta and insecure in his own state being, he hacks into Stark’s project. Tony Stark, on the other hand, believes in eSCAPE. He wants to figure out if he still counts as a real man after reinventing and rebuilding himself from the brink of death so often. Jocasta works for Stark and improves the program. She wants to learn what it is like to feel human and interact with organic life without barriers. It is all very engaging, thought-provoking stuff.
Tony Stark: Iron Man is the most fun anyone can have reading a Marvel comic. The series is made to be the perfect introduction to comics for all new readers. It plays with concepts fans of TV shows like Westworld and Detroit: Become Human will love. The story also carries a sitcom tone for those who marathon The Office on Netflix. Lastly, it maintains the personality of a character MCU fans will enjoy and provides deep cut references hardcore readers are sure to appreciate.
If you love sci-fi, robots, comedy, technology, and Iron Man, this is the comic for you.
Verdict: 5 out of 5
When he doesn’t have his head in the clouds, Jose keeps his head down studying and reading books, both graphic and novel. When he’s not reading, you can see him writing his own sci-fi adventures, photographing life in Los Angeles, catching up on television he’s missed, or watching the latest MCU film. He’s happy to live in the now.