Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Infamous Iron Man 1, originally released October 19th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Drew: I tend not to sweat spoilers — frankly, the notion that a story could be “spoiled” by knowing the plot ahead of time so disregards the importance of every other aspect of storytelling that I believe it misses the point of stories entirely. BUT, I do get how annoying it is to have the ending of a story blurted out when I wasn’t suspecting it. I may not mind clicking on articles I know contain spoilers, but I’d at least like to know what narratives those spoilers pertain to. Which is why Infamous Iron Man 1 seems to warrant a special spoiler warning: one for readers of Civil War II. Certain events in this issue fall out directly from events of Civil War II that haven’t happened yet, making it all but impossible to talk about the issue without spoilers. Consider yourself warned.
(In hindsight, many of Marvel’s recent new series are so built on the fate of another hero, their solicitations amount to a kind of spoiler. Could Sam Wilson taking up the shield suggest something bad happens to Steve Rogers? Could the presence a Totally Awesome Hulk suggest something’s up with the totally not-awesome one? Could a series starring female Thor tell us something’s wrong with the male one? I realize the outrages spawned by those series hasn’t really focused on the spoiler-y nature of their premises [it’s no coincidence that this series, where it’s a white male that takes up the mantle of another white male, hasn’t inspired nearly the same level of vitriol], but it seemed worth noting that this is following in a kind of modern tradition.)
Anyway: Tony Stark is… Dead? Comatose? Missing? Writer Brian Michael Bendis cleverly avoids anything too specific, but we get enough to understand that the events of Civil War II have left him unable to fulfil his duties as Iron Man. Enter Victor Von Doom, who has decided to take up the Iron Man mantle, though undoubtedly for self-serving reasons. It’s a variation on Superior Spider-Man, though trading in different notions of identity and morality.
It also features a much tighter structure (though with Bendis writing, that could change): S.H.I.E.L.D. is already tracking Doom down — in the form of Ben Grimm, no less. Doom is also being monitored by a mysterious woman I’m inclined to believe is his mother. Here’s that tightness kicking in: Bendis introduced the idea of Doom’s mother in a cold open that at the time seemed more about establishing Doom’s impatient disposition.
Artist Alex Maleev delivers distinctive work throughout the issue (along with colorist Matt Hollingsworth), but I’m particularly impressed with the first-person perspective shots he uses throughout this sequence. Doom’s is not a point of view we get very often, but using it in this opening prepares us for a series that’s all about him.
Of course, the next we see of him, he’s changed quite a bit. Obviously, the mask is gone, but more importantly, he seems to be acting in a selfless manner. He rescues Maria Hill from Diablo — adding that he wants no recognition — and has set up Amara Perera with a lab at Cambridge to study Alzheimer’s. The former is pretty easily dismissed as incidental morality — Doom seems more offended that Diablo is using sloppy science than that he’s kidnapped someone — but the latter is a little harder to fit with Doom as we know him. Indeed, while he tells Amara he just wants to do good in the world, she seems deeply disturbed at his presence.
Her tears capture something that isn’t quite expressed in the text — while Doom may look and sound sincere, there’s something about him that is terrifying. I wish this issue could dwell a bit more on why that is, but there are a lot of moving parts.
And actually, it’s those moving parts that have me so excited about this series going forward. I’m excited about the cat-and-mouse game that seems to be set up between Doom and Ben Grimm; I’m excited to see just how sincere Doom’s motives really are (I guess I’d call myself cautiously pessimistic on that front); I’m excited to see Doom’s relationship with his mother explored — it’s hard to imagine Doom admiring anyone. I thought this was a strong issue, even if we had to focus more on breadth than depth on any of these fronts. Did this do anything for you, Taylor?
Taylor: The thing that most fascinates me about this issue is that it’s a character study of Victor Von Doom. Doom has always been somewhat of a flat character in my experience, but I find the idea of a story where he’s given actual volume enticing. The most interesting villains are always those who on some level are relatable, and if Bendis can make Doom seem more human, iron mask and all, consider me intrigued.
The way Bendis has teased this idea is clever and nuanced. Ostensibly, Doom has taken a turn for the better and decided he will be a hero from now on — but this being Doom, everyone is skeptical about this turn. First off, Doom isn’t becoming a hero under his own name. Instead he dons the Iron Man mantle. While this conceivably could make sense given the bad PR surround the Doctor Doom name, it seems like maybe there’s more to it than that. The scene where Doom meets Tony Stark’s digital ghost offers a clue regarding this.
Doom admits that he admire’s Stark’s work — high praise coming from a man who considers himself the foremost genius on the planet. And therein lies the rub. Could it be that Doom isn’t so much interested in being a hero as he is interested in being Iron Man? This type of thing certainly would fit Doom’s character profile. Victor has always been an egomaniac and like all egomaniacs he feels the need to constantly validate himself. What better way to show he is better than Tony Stark, a man he admires, than to take up his mantle and become him? And what better way to prove your worth if you can be Iron Man better than Stark? Considering this Doom doesn’t “need” to be Iron Man so he can help people. He needs to be Iron Man so he can prove he is better than Tony Stark.
There are hints dropped earlier in the issue that this fascination with Tony Stark might be the source of Victor’s desire to be a hero. When questioned by Red Hood about his past, Doom clearly becomes agitated. However, it is only when Red Hood further presses him about his motivations that Doom exiles him to India. And what, pray tell, did Red Hood specifically say to receive this punishment?
He asked Doom what motivates him. This isn’t exactly the type of thing that gets a person sent to India even if they are a henchman, so why did it bother Doom so much? Like I said, Doom is a man who needs constant affirmation, which is to say he constantly needs something to prove himself against. Now if as the Hood states he has everything he wants, what is there left to prove? The answer comes from an unlikely place. Having basically been the most successful villain ever, all Doom has left to prove, paradoxically, is that he can be a hero. It’s not enough for Victor to simply defeat his enemies, he also wants to be better than them at their very own game. The Hood’s questioning is basically picking at a scab in Doom’s mind and that necessarily ticks him off.
Whether or not this proves to be the case only time will tell. As a stand alone issue, it drops enough intriguing hints to suggest that Doom, finally, is becoming a little more interesting.
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