When comic book writer extraordinaire Brian Michael Bendis took over on Invincible Iron Man, he teased the possibility of a companion piece somewhere down the road. Well, it turns out that road leads us overseas as Major Spoilers reviews International Iron Man #3.
Previously in International Iron Man: Toggling back and forth between present day and 20 years in the past, we learned that Tony met a girl while attending the University of Cambridge named Cassandra Gillespie. In fact, Howard Stark sums it up perfectly in this issue: “Boy meets girl. Girl introduces boy to family. Both happen to be the offspring of ruthless competitors in a very ruthless game. But oh, no! Terrorists attack. Boy, who never did anything like this before in his life… saves the day?”
THEN AND NOW
Like the previous two issues, Brian Michael Bendis uses a mixture of scenes from the present day, intertwined with flashbacks from 20 years into the past, as a story-telling device. As readers, we are slowly learning how what started as a blossoming relationship between a college-aged Tony Stark and Cassandra Gillespie turned into a battle between a billionaire playboy-philanthropist with an armored suit and an international arms dealer (sans one of her eyes, which I’m sure we’ll learn more about later in the arc).
Although the flashback scenes paint the relationship between Tony and Cassandra to be one of mutual adoration, Tony’s adopted (unbeknownst to him at the time) father has been around the block a few times and sees the circumstances revolving around his son and the daughter of his business rival as far too “convenient”. He insinuates that his son’s ability to take out a Hydra agent was, at best, unlikely. Given that this is a Tony Stark that hasn’t even donned his Mark I suit yet, it ís not that hard to see where Howard is coming from.
As for the dialogue, Bendis has proved to be the quintessential voice of everyone’s favorite shell head. Between this title and Invincible Iron Man, his ability to bridge the gap between the Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man/Tony Stark we see on-screen and the one we see on the page is uncanny. One of the Mandroids in this issue sums it up perfectly when he confesses to being a big fan of Stark but remarks that he doesn’t know when to shut up.
When mentioning the writing of Brian Michael Bendis, I’d be remiss to not mention Alex Maleev’s beautiful art. Bendis and Maleev are no strangers to one another. Their work on Daredevil in the early 2000s was sublime, and despite the lighter tone of this story, it’s still very familiar. Maleev has a unique style that lends itself perfectly to the gritty, street-level world of the Man Without Fear, but it works equally well in this international espionage-esque tale. One thing worth noting is that Maleev has an affinity for very dark blacks. While this creates beautiful contrast in lighter panels, things can sometimes get a bit muddy in the darker scenes, which is my only real nitpick. As always, Maleev’s line work and cross-hatching are superb and his Fine Arts background really shines through.
BOTTOM LINE: BUY IMPORTED
As if I haven’t sang their praises enough, I strongly believe that Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev as a creative team can do no wrong. If they can, this book is no indication of that. It comes as no surprise that their paths keep crossing. International Iron Man is the younger sibling of Bendis’ two titles featuring the Armored Avenger but if the quality remains as consistent as it’s been so far, it could easily become the more popular of the two.