As a kid I was never really a fan of Iron Man, I only decided to give the comic book a try after seeing the movie and really falling in love with the character. Fortunately, there were two great entry points for new readers at that time – the recently released Extremis (which is essentially a retelling of Iron Man’s origin, and heavily influenced the first Iron Man movie) and the new series, Invincible IronMan.I’ve read as many of these volumes as my library has had, so I was very excited when My Monsters arrived.
This is the kind of book that makes for another great entry point for new readers. It brings together three oversize issues of the comic, each providing an origin of sorts. The starting story is from Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 called Mandarin: The Story of my Life. For those who don’t know, Mandarin is probably Iron Man’s best known nemesis, a man who holds ten powerful magic rings – and since magic is pretty much the antithesis of technology, you can see why he’d make a formidable foe for Tony Stark. Here the Mandarin has kidnapped a famous film-maker, with the intention of blackmailing him into creating a film about the Mandarin’s life.
What’s done at this point is a nice trick that only a comic book would really be able to accomplish. Three to four scenes are played nearly simultaneously on each page, as we are treated to the fictional account Mandarin is telling to the Director, while we also see the true history in another panel, and the film version playing out as well. Not only was this a great way to introduce potential new readers to the Mandarin and his history with Iron Man, but it also shows his mental state – that he has decided that he will tell the story of his life, from beginning to end, and no truth – not even that Tony Stark still lives – is going to stand in his way. We also see the brutality of his character in the way in which he blackmails the Director by threatening his wife – and what he has ultimately done to her that twists the knife at the very end.
The Point One issue initiative that Marvel started this year was meant to provide easy jumping on points for new readers, and I’d have to say that Invincible Iron Man’s at least partially accomplished this goal. You don’t need to be a long-time reader to follow this issue, in fact it’s really meant to introduce one aspect of the character that hasn’t really been addressed all that much in the stories that I’ve read so far – his alcoholism. The framework for this issue is Tony attending an AA meeting, and talking about his history with alcohol – which provides the ability to show the highlights from a few decades worth of Iron Man stories. I say that this issue only partially accomplished it’s goal though, because taken on it’s own, I can’t say that this issue would have prompted me to want to pick up the next issue of the comic – it has no real action (save past exploits) so there’s no real driving plot-line which would hook a reader for more.
The reader is also treated to a short story about how Tony’s father, Howard, stole Obadiah Stane’s girlfriend – who ultimately became Howard’s wife and Tony’s mother. Just another layer added to a relationship some readers would be familiar with from the first Iron Man movie.
Finally, the book ends with The New Iron Age, a story that takes place across a couple of different time-periods. Because Tony has recently had his memory reset (like a computer) to an earlier save file (because due to his integration with the Extremis armor, he is like a living computer) much of his memory of recent events in the Marvel Universe has been wiped away – going back to before Civil War. For instance, he knows that Peter Parker once worked for him, but not that Parker is Spider-Man. This is important because Tony needs Peter’s help – he was doing a redesign on his own power-core, seeing how powerful he could make it, and inadvertently created a powerful bomb. And now the plans for that bomb have leaked out and a two-bit wannbe terrorist group is trying to make a machine to house it.
Meanwhile, in the far future, Emperor Mandarin is forcing an elderly Tony Stark to build the same power-core for him – even as he uses Tony’s own war machines to hunt down Tony’s daughter and other freedom fighters. The Tony of today, teams up with Spider-Man to thwart the plans of the terrorist group, and in the process learns a valuable lesson – build a back-door into the plans that only he has access to, something which will allow him to override it should it fall into the wrong hands in the future… which plays out in the future timeline exactly as you’d expect it to.
I didn’t think The New Iron Age was a great story, frankly the differing art style for all the future scenes was too jarringly different (and difficult for me to follow at times) that I just didn’t find it all that enjoyable. I’ve liked these kinds of stories before (most recently in Avengers vol 1) but here I just found the whole future timeline to be kind of boring. The adventure that Iron Man and Spider-Man have in the present was actually more interesting to me, and the decision to cut away from that at times, as well as come back after some time had passed in that story, was sort of confounding to me. I wanted to see more of that story.
Also, because of the fact that the Mandarin had a role in this last story, I felt like the book should have been laid out differently – with the Annual coming second and leading right into this story. Still, as a whole the issues presented in this collection make sense together, and it does succeed at providing another good jumping on point for this series. This would make a good companion book to the others I mentioned at the beginning of this review, as a way to catch up on the history of the character, but if you’re looking for more action you’ll need to look elsewhere.