Posted by: Graeme McMillan on May 5, 2010
There are three things that I really liked about last weekend’s FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2010: IRON MAN/THOR oneshot from Marvel, and that’s not even counting the John Romita Jr./Klaus Janson artwork, which I believe is now legally required to be noted by anyone talking about any comic that the two of them work on together (For what it’s worth, I normally really like both artists, but there was something off about the art in this, for me; a thinness of line in places, an inconsistency in characters (Weird but true: Thor’s nose kept annoying me throughout the book. I have no idea why. I became obsessed with how thin and pointy it seemed at times) and a laziness in panel layout. I know, I know; it’s like complaining that your hearty, tasty, homecooked meal wasn’t up to Michelin standards, but still. Anyway, like I said. There are three things that I really liked about the book, nonetheless.
#1: It felt like an issue of Marvel Team-Up. I mean that as a compliment, honestly. In an era of events and cross-continuity and trade-writing and all those things, there was something oddly enjoyable – if only from a novelty standpoint – about a story that begins and ends in the same issue and sees two bigname heroes team up to deal with what was, let’s face it, a fairly generic problem (Not to mention, deal with it by, pretty much, blowing shit up). It felt weirdly nostalgic, and made me wish that a series like this existed on a regular basis.
#2: It made Tony Stark look like a dick, but an interesting dick. Am I the only person who thought that Tony’s offhand “Yeah, I created this weapon but I’m trying to be better now” came over as very insincere? Or, more to the point, am I the only person who thought that it was awesome if it was insincere, and that Tony Stark, these days – post-Disassembled and Resilient – was someone who doesn’t really care about the morality of superheroing versus weapons-manufacturing, but wants to appear as if he does, and offers up these lazy, unconvincing justifications for his past actions by saying “Yeah, but I’m a superhero now?” I’m probably really reading into what was meant, no doubt, as a sincere, throwaway quip (I have little doubt that Matt Fraction believes that Tony is trying to be better, if nothing else), but I love that there was space for that interpretation. I don’t care about Tony-Stark-as-fascist from Civil War, but Tony-Stark-as-sociopath-who-just-finds-being-a-superhero-more-fun-but-pretends-it-has-a-higher-moral-purpose-to-everyone-including-himself? Yeah, gimme more of that guy.
#3: That coloring. Oh, man, that coloring. Just look at the top of that first page, the way that Dean White has done the cape and the sky and the way they meet, and man, that’s really, really amazing stuff. It made me think about Marvel and DC colorists, and the fact that – superhero lines only – Marvel’s coloring is miles better than DC’s; Marvel has artists like White, Laura Martin, Christina Strain and Frank D’Armata, whereas DC’s superhero line has… Alex Sinclair? Whose style works well for him (I think he did a great job on Blackest Night, for example), but is also more… I don’t know how to put it: Synthetic? Computerized? Less human, somehow, less idiosyncratic than the best Marvel colorists, and that’s the problem I have with most of DC’s superhero colorists, to make a grand, sweeping statement. It’s not that DC doesn’t use great colorists, but folk like Dave Stewart (currently working wonders over at Vertigo) and Trish Mulvihill and Laura Allred rarely work on the monthly superhero books, and it’s there, those books, that I feel the lack of great coloring. I’m guessing it’s a stylistic choice, but I wish that DC could poach some of these guys nonetheless. I’d love to see what White could do with a Frank Quitely page, for example…
All of that said, I’m not sure that this book made me want to go out and pick up an issue of Thor (Invincible Iron Man, maybe; I liked this Tony more than the one Fraction’s been writing over there so far, but I’m reading that in collections and so left him comatose, mindwiped and about to be rebooted); the weightlessness that I enjoyed also left me entirely unstirred of any desire to read further adventures of a Thunder God who, let’s face it, comes across as fairly bland and personality-less for the entire book (And that nose…!). So… Is that a success or a fail for this explicitly-intended taster? I’m unsure. But taken on its own merits, it still comes out as a Good book, considering I paid nothing for it.