Iron Man: The End

This one-shot written by 70s/80s Iron Man vets David Michelinie and Bob Layton is part of MARVEL's "The End" series but you wouldn't know it just from reading the comic because it's got nothing to do with the doom and gloom cynicism of the rest of the series.

Iron Man: The End envisions an uncomfortable and a little bad sad end to Tony Stark's Iron Man career that purposefully lacks the extremes of the rest of the series. No body dies and Iron Man as hero and icon still exists. It's a comic that actually has less to do with "The End" and more to do with the comic book subgenre of superheroes past their prime (Dark Knight Returns, Spider-Man: Reign, Kingdom Come, etc.) but without the simplistic "getting old is sad" sense all of those series contain however interesting they might be otherwise. This probably has a lot to do with Michelinie and Layton being over fifty and therefore, write aging as it really is and not from the perspective of someone in their twenties or thirties.

At the same time of course, the comic book isn't some silly "getting old is great" comic or something. It's all about adjustment and confronting changes and fundamental realities that sort of suck but will be way worse if you pretend they're not there. Much of the issue is an aged, hands-now-trembling Tony Stark refusing to see that he can't keep flying around fighting villains. An early scene has his slowed reaction time nearly causing the death of two Stark Enterprises employees and in a scene that's particularly astute to the psychology of men getting older, this isn't enough to make him really stop and think.

The event that puts him over the edge is being nearly killed by a super villain with better technology and less wrinkles. It's an interesting detail that points towards Stark and well, everybody's vanity; he only changes when his own life and pride are completely at stake. And even once he's decide to hang up the Iron Man suit, there's still plenty of angry outbursts and confrontations, especially with a young scientist that reminds Stark of himself. Of course, the problem soon becomes the young scientist's disinterest in filling any and every role Stark once occupied. A particularly ugly but real scene has the young scientist--who's just been promoted by Stark--denying one of Tony's request to which Stark spits back: "Listen up, Travis! Your position could disappear in a heartbeat! Strings can be pulled! You'll be lucky to get a job washing test tubes in a prep school lab!" Stark later apologizes.

This comic reads like silly stuff like "Civil War" never happened and instead gets back to the character-driven stories Michelinie was writing--most famously, the never-can-be-praised-enough "Demon In a Bottle"--back in the 70s. There's even a fun part of this new story where they kind of reference "Civil War" as Stark scans a database of noted heroes and mutants not for their registration but to replace him as Iron Man! It's not aggressive and doesn't veer into angry old comics writer junk, it's just a tossed-off and subtle reminder of how different (and less cynical) this take on Iron Man is than most of what's been going on (except for the movie which is really inspired by those old Iron Mans.

We all have a grandfather or maybe father who injured their back because they didn't want you to help or pretended they weren't paying attention when in reality they're developing a hearing problem, well this comic's a sober and sympathetic look into events like that. Neither seeing it all as tragic or stumbling into the idealization of old-age, Iron Man: The End just plain gets it right.


samuel rules said...

This is sort of a nerd question, but does it go into the fact that Stark and Ironman are one in the same? Like the way he IS the suit now and it's like his armored skin? just curious

brandon said...

Nah, it's basically pretending like all that weird sort of silly continuity didn't happen or rather, it picks and chooses what it keeps in. It's more like a "classic" Iron Man story in most ways.

Viagra said...

One thing that caught my here is when you say that the thing that made Tony react was when he was the one at stake. That is a proof that Tony is very selfish and realizes that if he can't protect himself he's useless.