The Noir craze has well and truly swept through the Marvel Universe. What began with X-Men, Daredevil and Spider-Man has expanded to the realms of Luke Cage, Wolverine, The Punisher and further X-Men and Spider-Man stories. Now it's Iron Man's turn as Scott Snyder and Manuel Garcia tackle the billionaire playboy. The series is sure to sell a boat load of comics thanks to its timely release, only a few weeks before Iron Man 2 hits theaters, but is the series worth picking up?
In short, yes. Snyder and Garcia have done a fantastic job of transforming the technology-minded, cutting-edge Tony Stark of today into a 1930's era adventurer and billionaire industrialist.
For those of you that don't know, the Noir series takes your favorite Marvel heroes and villains and transports them back to the roaring 30's. Sometimes the series undertakes a drastic change, like X-Men, or sometimes it's more of a scene change. The stories also rely more on the crime and mystery aspects than superpowers. Iron Man Noir has an added bonus of being set in 1939, allowing the backdrop of World War II to hang over it. It has a more pulp comic focus than a crime noir focus due to the Tony-Stark-as-adventurer story they have going. It gives the story a different feel and focus to some of the other stories.
From the first time I saw Tony Stark up close I liked him. He looked like a 1930's adventurer with his 5 o'clock shadow and mustache and goatee. All he needed was a hat, and, hell, I'd almost mistake him for Indiana Jones. Funnily enough that Indiana Jones feeling stayed with me almost the entire issue. There are some serious similarities between the two, although Tony Stark isn't scared of snakes. The whole 1930's adventurer thing was the obvious similarity, but the ability for the two of them to be sucked in and played by a gorgeous woman was also very similar and, ya know, those damn Nazis.
Apart from the envy of every man Tony Stark the series brings favorites like James Rhodes (Stark's assistant and adventure know it all), Jarvis ( Chief Stark Lab engineer) and Pepper Potts (I won't tell you what she does) along for the ride. I instantly liked the relationships between Stark and Rhodey and Stark Jarvis. Even the fact that Tony is their boss doesn't stop both relationships from having that father and brotherly feel to them. It's good that those relationships are already built up from the get-go as re-establishing them would have taken away from the story. It also means Snyder can have some fun with the characters right off the bat, like the first conversation between Jarvis and Tony. He's in this big Iron Man style suit, guns pointed at Tony and says, "On the table. Now." "Morning, Jarvis." "I mean it. On the table, I've been waiting for over an hour. What do you think I am — Your bloody butler?" Little winks like these to the source material will please long time fans of the Iron Man comics.
While it establishes many old favorites in the story, the villains are somewhat new to the Iron Man universe, but not so new to the time period. Nazi stalwarts Helmut Strucker and Dr. Heinrich Zemo rear their ugly and ruthless heads in the first issue. While their inclusion seems at odds with other Iron Man stories and many Iron Man fans may have wished for a series favorite to show up as the immediate villain, they fit well with the timeline and the adventurer theme of the comic, while their ruthlessness adds some oomph and realism to the story.
For a first issue it wasn't as action packed as, say, Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers; instead it focused on trying to invest you in this new Tony Stark who is operating in a new time under new circumstances. Don't let the lack of action fool you though, as this is still an exciting and intriguing first issue which raises many questions and possibilities for future issues.The story also only peaks behind the surface of Tony Stark and eludes to what his ultimate goals might be. One could probably assume what he is up to, but this probing style could get frustrating if it goes on for too many issues as it is easier to relate and get behind the hero when you know exactly what they want to do and why they want to do it.
Like I said before Stark's womanly ways continue in Noir, but because of the setting it has a slightly different feel and is actually quite funny, if a little bit sexist. As the action isn't the focus, expect for a few panels, Garcia and the art crew are given the opportunity to create a really detailed world. For instance, the men in Iron Man Noir have lots of lines on their face to make them look older or more rugged when you see them up close but the women are drawn with smooth skin and only one or two lines to make them look younger and more beautiful. Other things, like the Iron Man style suit mentioned earlier, are incredibly detailed, and Stark's penthouse captures late 1930's billionaire style in a similar yet slightly more restrained way to Walter Donovan's in The Last Crusade. It all helps transport you to this other time which is really important when you aren't accustomed to seeing a character like Tony Stark there.
All in all, it was a rather interesting first issue which set up a rather interesting world. The issue may play a little too closely to the Indiana Jones idea for some people, but I, for one, liked it yet can also see that this idea will slowly seep out of the story as the armored suit wearing Iron Man we know starts to take a more prominent role.