Marvel Masterworks Iron Man Vol. 1

This is a review of Marvel Masterworks: Iron Man Volume One. Tony Stark is a millionaire industrialist who designs weapons for the U.S. military. Some of his ideas might seem stupid to me (roller skates that allow troops to travel at 60 m.p.h.), but I’m not a genius like him.

Tony is touring Vietnam (1963, during the Vietnam War) when he’s hit by a landmine. The shrapnel penetrates his chest and injures his heart. He only has days to live, but that’s not a problem to a doer like Tony! He and another scientist design a suit of armor that also acts as a pacemaker under the not-so-watchful eye of the warlord who takes them prisoner. The less said about the warlord, the better. Suffice it to say he’s an offensive racial stereotype. Anyway, the chest plate acts as a pacemaker and the armor enables Tony to escape from the warlord. Thus, Iron Man is born!

I am unsure if anyone who made these comics is still alive…so let’s start with the positives. The twelve-page format works well (the page number is expanded in later issues). The stories are big, loud, dumb, and pretty entertaining. In one episode, Iron Man fights alongside Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile!  Iron Man’s villain gallery is goofy, mostly in a good way – Jack Frost, the Crimson Dynamo, The Melter. The standout is Mr. Doll, who shapes a lump of clay into effigies of his enemies, which he then squeezes. Mr. Doll was originally called Mr. Pain, but the Comics Code Authority wouldn’t stand for that!

The stories aren’t as well-written as other Marvel stories of that time period. Character development is minimal, and the stories are bare-bones basic. Things perk up when we meet two supporting cast members, Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts. Happy is a never-been prizefighter who acts as Tony’s chauffer. Pepper is Tony’s secretary. Happy and Pepper’s banter is entertaining in that they seem quite sincere in loathing each other. We never meet Tony’s parents, and as far as I can tell he has no friends, so he’s not living a very balanced life!

The beginning of this series is overtly political. Many of Tony’s enemies are communists, aka commies, aka Reds (the writers’ words, not mine). Stan Lee expresses regret for this in the introduction to this volume, which is interesting. I think he’s saying he regrets spreading propaganda, which World War II comics were.

Anyway, this volume was worth the ninety-nine cents I paid for it. It’s not perfect, but you can’t hit a home run every time!

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