Line Holds and Unreality in Tony Stark: Iron Man 3

by Drew Baumgartner

Tony Stark Iron Man 3

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Does Stark not get HBO? Everyone knows that if you make a virtual wild west chances are the NPCs will start killing off everybody.

Jacosta, Tony Stark: Iron Man 3

It’s no coincidence that Dan Slott all-but name checks Westworld in Tony Stark: Iron Man 3, as the issue is all about our ability to distinguish humans from robots. Westworld relishes surprising us at every turn — often with the reveal that someone was or wasn’t a robot all along, but sometimes with the very fact that he world we’re seeing is or isn’t what we think it is. This issue leans into the game of “spot the robot” (with its own Westworld-ian twist), but plays things very straight with the division between reality and fantasy, relying on some smart decisions by artist Valerio Schiti and colorists Edgar Delgado and Rachelle Rosenberg.

The issue kicks off with a cold open set in the real world, which the setting text tells us in no uncertain terms.

The Real World

The visual grammar here is popular enough to feel unremarkable — brushed linework, modern coloring, and some zip-a-tone accents. But it shifts dramatically as the setting shifts to Stark’s virtual reality, the Great eScape. Even as we maintain the distinctive POV shot of this opening sequence, we recognize we’re in another world:

The Great eScape

Note how the day-glo colors and color holds (linework in colors other than black) immediately distinguishes the Great eScape from the real world. The rules of the visual languages of these two worlds are crystal clear and inviolate — where these events are taking place isn’t ever going to be a question.

Curiously, the hands of our perspective character maintain the real-world rendering with full-black linework, more realistic coloring, and zip-a-tone textures. It’s a subtle move, but one that reinforces the idea that our perspective character is “real” — that is, a human. All of which gets shaken up when we discover that those hands actually belong to Jacosta Pym. She may not be human, but she’s decidedly real, anchoring our experience of the Great eScape with, as she later puts it, soul. That’s a clever twist that leaned on input from every member of the creative team to carry off, and it works beautifully.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

4 comments on “Line Holds and Unreality in Tony Stark: Iron Man 3

  1. I’m not going to lie, I would have dropped this after two issues if it wasn’t for the Machine Man reveal at the end of last time. I regret my decision to give it another shot. I have a hard time caring about Tony Stark under any circumstances (I’m zero for however many creators I’ve gambled on writing Iron Man), and this was no exception, except it made me not like the other characters as well.

    Other than the first Iron Man movie, still the best superhero movie I’ve seen, Tony Stark fails to entertain me in any way.

    However, on a completely unrelated note, BlacKKKlansman is the best movie I’ve seen this year. But the actual movie itself was about as good of a movie experience as I’ve had in a long, long time.

    • I gotta say, I’m not sure how much this book WANTS us to care about Tony. Thus far he feels like a supporting character. This is an ensemble book or a book about Jocasta more than an Iron Man book. And I’m okay with that! I’m already very invested in Jocasta.

      But if you don’t like ANY of the characters than yeah, might as well bail

    • Yeah, I’m in the same space, though I say this as a guy who very rarely likes Slott’s work despite wanting to. I think it is supposed to be more of an ensemble book than strictly a Tony Stark book, but I think he’s struggling to get the characters to really work. He has great ideas with Rhodey and Jocasta, but they don’t really work. FOr example, this issue felt like it needed more Jocasta in it, to root us in Jocasta’s internal conflict to make the twist work. I wish I loved it more.

      Also, BlackkKlansman was amazing. Entertaining, tense and truly able to create a sense of revulsion. But with enough cheerworthy moments to keep you invested. The climax was amazing, and followed by that truly sensationally done coda. There is no way that the footage at the end won’t cause revulsion in me, but how Lee built up to that was pitch perfect, and really did the impossible job of making that footage even more revolting than it already is. Oh, and Adam Driver is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors.

      And it truly is a great example of how to do a period piece. Lee truly understands how a period piece should reflect both the time period and today, and Lee so easily manages to use the events of the movie itself to reflect today’s world. Every scene wants you to compare what you are viewing to today’s world. It reminds me a bit of SPielberg’s recent work with movies like Bridge of Spies and the Post, that so perfectly use period dramas to talk about today in the same way

      It isn’t perfect. While I love that it is a movie that will discuss Du Bois and Double Conscousness, I don’t think the second act dramatised that aspect anywhere near as well as the first and third acts.

      But damn, it was the movie I needed. It isn’t the best movie I’ve seen in cinemas this year (the start of this year was full of great movies, whether it was late releasing movies like Coco and the Oscar movies like Shape of Water, I, Tonya, Molly’s Game and Lady Bird, or great new movies like Black Panther, Death of Stalin or Paddington 2).
      But damn, since those movies, I’ve needed a win. Blockbusters have been dire this year, with SOlo the closest thing to a competent blockbuster I’ve seen since Black Panther. I missed the film festival because I was too busy, including missing the MIseducation of Cameron Post, one of my most anticipated movies. Meanwhile, many of my other most anticipated movies, like Thoroughbreds and Sorry to Bother You, don’t seem to be coming out here. SO the fact that BlackkKlansman, the only movie on my most anticipated list that I got to see (well, maybe Inifinity War was on that list if you go down far enough. Except Infinity War was fucking atrocious), was so good was a real win for my cinema experiences this year

  2. “I’m not sure how much this book WANTS us to care about Tony. ”

    I don’t think I disagree with this. Tony is a flawed character that is in many ways an unsympathetic hero. My lack of investment in Jocasta could be the reason we had very different readings of this. Honestly, I looked up Jocasta yesterday and realized I didn’t know anything about her – I thought she was Danger from the X-Men.

    I wanted to try it. Slott has done some things in the past that have been surprising and I was willing to give it a shot.

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