Iron Man 3 Feature –The best Iron Man story arcs.
Part 2: Civil War/Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. era, (volume 4, Daniel & Charles Knauf, 2006-2007)
It was tough to be an Iron Man fan in 2006 and 2007.
Now allow me to explain that …
Iron Man’s always been one of the most recognizable and interesting characters in comics at any point during his adventures. But things weren’t always so rosy for ol’ Shellhead. Ironically enough this time was one of my favourites for Iron Man.
Let’s rewind, the year is 2006. Warren Ellis and Adi Granov had just wrapped the incredible Extremis story arc on the Iron Man comic, passing the torch to father and son writing team Daniel and Charles Knauf. This wound up being a very busy time for Tony Stark with many ups and downs for the character in his own Iron Man comic book and in a lot of other books across the Marvel Universe.
All because of a little mini-series called Civil War (maybe you’ve heard of it?). For those who haven’t, Civil War was arguably one of Marvels most successful summer crossover events ever. Love it or hate it, it had an impact. With superheroes being forced to register their identities and powers with the government it inevitably led to a split. Pro-reg heroes and anti-reg heroes went to war. Iron Man was not only on the side of pro registration, he was also their leader. While this move made sense for character at the time, in a sense it had almost vilified Stark to other heroes and yes the comic readers of those heroes as well. You see I had only just branched out and began collecting Iron Man comics regularly and now this had happened? Civil War saw Iron Man leading the charge against friends and team mates from Captain America, Spider-Man and the remaining members of the New Avengers team and seemingly half the Marvel universe. This was the guy who was supposed to be having a big movie coming soon remember? He was being made to look like the bad guy?!?!
Now … This is where I should tell you I’m a Spider-Man fan. In the run up to the CW event Pete and Tony had become best buds with Stark taking Peter on as his protégé. They were living and working together in Avengers tower. Tony even made Peter the infamous “Iron Spider” suit. These guys were close. CW ended that in a huge way. As a Spider-Man fan, Tony Stark was essentially the bad guy now. This was reaffirmed by amazing Spider-Man writer of the time JMS. While he’d done great working building the bromance of Peter and Tony his book also wasn’t shying away from making Stark one of Peter’s biggest problems after CW and eventually leading to blows. So now Spider-Man fans weren’t seeing Iron Man in a rather negative light. But it didn’t stop there.
Captain America wasn’t Tony’s biggest fan either. With Cap leading the anti-reg side during CW they were bound to butt heads I know. But with Cap surrendering to Tony’s forces to end CW and subsequently “dying” on his way to face charges over his role in CW, Bucky became the main protagonist in the Captain America comic. Bucky blamed Iron Man for Cap’s death and the pair would also come to blows on the issue. All this plus the fallout and split happening in the New Avengers book.
I remember meeting CW writer Mark Millar at my first convention and asking him if he was worried about Shellhead getting such a bad rap before he was due on screen. In his own words “People are trying to make him look evil as if he’s some kind of villain saying “Mwah ha ha haaa I will eat your children” he said while twirling his imaginary moustache in his fingers. (What a nice guy). So sure in his own book and in the Civil War books themselves the characters were being portrayed fair. But such courtesies didn’t always extend to other books as we saw.
Things looked very bleak. Spider-Man and Captain America and New Avengers fans alike now weren’t all that happy with Iron Man. While Tony struggled with these issues in his own book and in the phenomenal Civil War: Confession, he was not Marvels most popular hero anymore if you asked a lot of the fans, and all this happening with a movie on the way? Surely now wasn’t the time for such a gamble? How wrong we were …
Over this timeline fans went from seeing Tony Stark as “Yeah he’s pretty cool” to “Ugh no Iron Man’s being a jerk now” and then finally after the Iron Man movie dropped, the public entered a stage I like to call “Stark craving mad”. We couldn’t get enough of him. Still can’t. While a motion picture can do that to a character Iron Man also boosted, redeemed, restored and improved himself within the comics too. Charles and Daniel Knauf’s Iron Man comic book was renamed “Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D” to appropriate Tony’s new job in the Marvel U seeing him overcome the guilt he carried over his past decisions. He was also now leading the Mighty Avengers team in their book. Then a second monthly Iron Man comic appeared in the guise of Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca’s “Invincible Iron Man”. Now at the time I couldn’t afford to pick up TWO Iron Man comics a month and decided I’d stick with the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D book … which later ended and “Invincible Iron Man” went on to become the main Iron Man title, just my luck. Thankfully I scooped it up in trades and caught up. Tony also helped outfit Bucky Barnes as the new Captain America to apprehend the Red Skull and well … he literally just forgot about Peter Parker thanks to a magic spell nobody really understands to this day. But that’s a whole other thing. But they’re buds again now just don’t ask how or why.
So now anyone who had their doubts about the tin man couldn’t deny him his cool. Tony got his groove back, when few of us expected him to. He’d gone through ups and downs, lost friends and gained new allies and had to make some dam hard choices along the path to his redemption. To me anyway, looking back this will always be one of my favourite time periods for the “Invincible” (and former Director of S.H.I.E.L.D) Tony Stark aka Iron Man. With Iron Man now facing his third solo motion picture as well as the incredible Avengers Assemble under his belt, surely there are many more stories to come.
To think we ever doubted him …