Comic Review: Iron Man: Demon In A Bottle

Published: March 3rd, 2010
Written by: Bob Layton, David Michelinie
Art by: Carmine Infantino, Bob Layton, John Romita Jr.

Marvel Comics, 167 Pages

Review:

This collection of Demon In A Bottle was a pretty cool read. However, people have referenced the story for years and truthfully, it’s not a big arc like many insinuate or imagine. In fact, this covers multiple arcs but each has a common thread and that’s Tony Stark’s fall into alcoholism.

Ultimately, this ends with him overcoming his demons and trying to fix the damage he’s caused, rebuilding himself into who Iron Man needs to be.

It’s also important to mention that this debuted the long-time Iron Man villain, Justin Hammer. Hammer was created as a character similar to Tony Stark but one who stayed on a dark path. He was also deliberately made to look like Peter Cushing and in this story, John Romita Jr. and Bob Layton did a stellar job of conveying that.

The story also features the Avengers, Namor and a slew of C-list villains that Hammer employs in an effort to overwhelm Iron Man. Overall, this is just as action-packed and exciting as it is dramatic and full of real human trauma and emotion.

While it’s not my favorite classic Iron Man story (or stories), it is a very important piece of the character’s history and served to build up his character in a pretty dynamic way. It does what most modern mainstream comics don’t do and that’s showing weakness in a hero.

In fact, this is about a hero’s journey and personal evolution, which is something that was lost in the storytelling art of superhero comics. Hell, it’s been lost in most mainstream media, as we constantly get characters that are made to be perfect and “special” without faults or real struggle.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Iron Man stories of the ’80s, most notably the Armor Wars saga.

Comic Review: Secret Invasion

Published: 2008
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Leinil Francis Yu, Gabriele Dell’Otto (cover)

Marvel Comics, 218 Pages

Review:

Secret Invasion came out after a series of good storylines from Marvel like Civil War, The Death of Captain America and the feud between the two Avengers teams that followed Civil War. I guess this was supposed to be a good payoff for sticking through that solid run of most of Marvel’s major titles. However, this was mostly a clusterfuck that created more problems than the Marvel continuity needed.

This was ambitious, damn ambitious.

Brian Michael Bendis’ ambition really overreached, though, and this mega event became a jumping off point for me back when it was coming out. After a few issues, I dropped it an never looked back.

Since years have passed and Marvel has gotten even worse, I thought that I might enjoy this a bit more and since I never actually finished it the first time, I wanted to give it another shot.

This is just one of those ideas that sounds good on paper but once you start really fleshing it out, you know it’s not going to work. Well, Bendis should have figured that out on his own, especially since the industry considers him a legend.

The biggest problem with this mega event is that it could have worked on a smaller scale. We could’ve seen that the Skrulls had infiltrated the superhero community, replacing some heroes with themselves in disguise. It didn’t need to be so damn grandiose where nearly half the heroes were just Skrulls in hiding. The conspiracy was too big and thus, came across as really fucking dumb.

In fact, this would’ve been much better had the Skrulls just replaced a few key people and there were still less than a handful in disguise. When you expect half the heroes to be impostors, the reveals of who is who loses its impact and you’re left with a half-assed handjob from a drunk instead of great sex from a pretty hot sexual partner.

In the end, when half the characters were impostors, it poses too many questions that just break continuity and it’s way too hard for editorial to keep track of, especially editorial from this era or any after.

Someone really should’ve grabbed Bendis by the shoulders and shouted, “Scale this the fuck down!”

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel mega events.

Comic Review: The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy

Published: November 14th, 2013
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Ryan Stegman

Marvel Comics, 117 Pages

Review:

When I heard about this series before it came out, it sounded like a terrible idea and it seemed that my sentiment was also the majority’s. However, as the series rolled on, people really started talking it up and now it is considered by many to be a high point in the decade long run of Dan Slott on Spider-Man titles. So I figured that I’d give it a shot.

The reason why this was so controversial was because Otto Octavius a.k.a. Doctor Octopus put his mind into Peter Parker’s body and hijacked his life becoming Spider-Man and Peter Parker. Yeah, it sounds terrible on the surface and comes off as a cheap trick to try and deliberately stir up controversy for publicity’s sake. And really, that’s probably exactly what it was.

Controversial moments in comics usually turn out poor results in the long run or at least on the creative side. This is a rare example of it actually working and leading into a narrative and creative direction that fans liked. In fact, this series has since ended but fans are clamoring to see the Superior Spider-Man return in some form, especially after his involvement in the recent milestone issue The Amazing Spider-Man number 800.

I don’t know why this works, as it just seems weird and unbelievable even for comic books. But somehow, you know that this is a redemption story for Otto Octavius, even if his actions to put this in motion were rather heinous. His goal is to be the “superior” Spider-Man and also the superior Peter Parker. He wants to be the best version of both personas that he can possibly be.

Otto alters how Spider-Man operates in a way that is more efficient and he also strives to better Parker’s personal life by going back to school to get his PhD.

Another interesting part of the story is that Peter still exists as a ghost that is attached to Otto but Otto is still unaware of Parker’s presence and his constant commentary on how Otto is messing up his life and reputation.

I know that the premise may sound stupid or off-putting for old school Spider-Man fans but man, this really is a good read and I feel as if it is only going to get better as it finds its stride.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.

Comic Review: The Invincible Iron Man: Armor Wars

Also known as: Stark Wars
Published: December 10th, 1987 (start of the story arc)
Written by: Bob Layton, David Michelinie
Art by: Mark Bright, Bob Sharen

Marvel Comics, 209 Pages

Review:

Good lord, it has been an incredibly long time since I read through this classic Iron Man story arc. Probably at least twenty-five years. But as I’ve been going through all my old comics in an effort to preserve them and catalog them, I wanted to revisit this old school tale.

Armor Wars, at the time of its printing, was referred to as Stark Wars, which was probably a cheap attempt at capitalizing off of Star Wars.

The story kicks off with Tony Stark finding out that his tech secrets have been stolen. He sets off to try to correct this, learning that his secrets have been sold off to a bunch of supervillains and tech industry rivals. This sets up a situation where Tony has to go rogue, deal with the consequences of those actions and also has to battle a bunch of his famous foes, who are now more enhanced thanks to Tony’s secrets.

Ultimately, this is a very well written comic book story arc for its time. To this day, this is still considered one of the best Iron Man stories of all-time. It is certainly one of my favorites and when I was a kid, it really served to introduce me to a lot of Iron Man’s famous villains. This is where I first discovered the Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, the Controller and a few others. I was already a fan of Beetle from his appearances in Spider-Man stories.

This story also features the West Coast Avengers, who had one of the coolest comics in the late ’80s.

One of the biggest highlights, however, was that this has a chapter where Iron Man fights Captain America. This happened a few decades before the Civil War storyline in the comics and was the first time that I remember seeing two heroes really throw down with each other without one being controlled by some villain or being corrupted by some sort of power or force.

Apart from the Iron Man and Captain America fight, I loved the chapter that saw Tony Stark go head to head with both the Titanium Man and the Crimson Dynamo at the same time. This was just a great comic, even as a stand alone and not a chapter in a larger story arc.

This is still one of the greatest Iron Man tales ever written. I thought that the conclusion was a bit anticlimactic but it was an ending that still worked and ushered in a new era for Tony Stark and his friends.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Other classic Iron Man story arcs: Demon In A BottleDoomquest10 Rings to Rule the World, Iron MongerThe Ghost and the Machine and The Dragon Seed Saga. Also, Armor Wars II.