Tony Stark: Iron Man #5
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Gang Hyuk Lim
Dan Slott’s run on Iron Man has been energetic, optimistic and rapid-fire. While the Marvel Universe has its share of geniuses, few are as charming and witty as Tony Stark. The dive into the fast-paced world of a rockstar futurist has already given readers glimpses into what might very well cease to be science fiction in a few short years. Gan Hyuk Lim’s illustration keeps it bright and airy, and the jewels of technology gleam just as much as the toothy grins of the Stark boys. The hopefulness of Slott’s tone is underpinned by the threat posed by those that would use all of Stark’s technology for evil, but it’s a vague sort of threat. While it’s allowed for some cool foreshadowing of betrayal and calamity ahead, it doesn’t have the same sort of punch, say, a sibling rivalry would.
Enter Arno Stark, the brother you’ve never heard of. Arno boasts an intellect that tops with older brother’s and wit to match. On the scruples front, it seems that Tony might have gotten the lion’s share. While Arno is definitely, at least thus far, a force for good, he’s more preoccupied with racking up accomplishments than establishing patterns of global improvement. To that end, his time is precious, and he’s more than callous about that fact. Though he’s hacked his genetics and body to forego the need for sleep, he’s still short on time. Carrying the Stark name and talent but untethered to the responsibilities and limitations of being a hero sets the younger clout-chasing Stark up for an eventual showdown with Tony. While hubris has always been a big part of the Iron Man mythos, Slott has given readers a potentially sinister Icarus to watch.
Old Man Hawkeye #10 (of 12)
Writer: Ethan Sacks
Artist: Marco Checchetto
Ethan Sacks’ tale of an Avenger seeking vengeance may be winding down, but there’s plenty of powder left in the keg. The score is far from even, and though Clint Barton never does find true respite from his own past (as we know from Old Man Logan), we do know that he manages to make some solid moves in the right direction. With Kate Bishop along for the ride, the good guys have just enough firepower to keep their road trip to redemption going. Bullseye as the primary antagonist really has brought this series together, and his depiction as a crazed, cyborg rendition of a frontier lawman (complete with the requisite facial hair) is inspired. Seeing the Thunderbolts go down one by one, each with their own motivation keeps this from being a plodding kill count affair.
Marco Checchetto’s illustration keeps devils in the details, with plenty to look at in the background of the post-heroes world. There’s a lot of love and care in the lines on the faces of all the characters, and it really makes the book sing on a highly emotional level. Barton’s running out of arrows and eyesight, however, but destiny has him on the road to a former Weapon X site, now home to a successful Red Skull super soldier program. With Bullseye bloodlusting just behind them, the two Hawkeyes have nearly reached the end of their tale.
X-Men: Extermination #4 (of 5)
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Pepe Larraz
There are only a few characters in comic books that might deserve to be killed off multiple times, and this issue leaves the reader hanging as far as the final kill count for a very famous X-man. Extermination has been a really solid cross-over that’s not a cross-over. Appearances by members of the Blue, Gold and Red X-Men teams, as well as Old Man Logan, X-Force and plenty of others, not only keep the book interesting, but it reminds readers that just because a certain title is soggy doesn’t always apply to the characters themselves. The book, regardless of the conclusion, also promises to simplify things by sending the younger versions of the X-Men back to their home time zone.
Ed Brisson’s corraling of these disparate elements of the X family is largely made possible by the primary villain, Ahab, the master of hounds from the largely mutant-free future. It’s Ahab’s unassailable advantages that keep the story turning and the X-Men on their heels. The X-Mansion is in shambles, Old Cable is still very dead, and Seaboro is under attack by Ahab and his ever-increasing army of Hounds that include friend and foe alike. Pepe Larraz keeps up with the firepower, and there’s some really solid imagery in the quieter parts. Ahab’s ship (the Pequod, because naturally) is pure Golden-Age villainous doom, complete with a throne room and attendant flunkies. Extermination continues to bring the heat and is a great reminder that the X-men can still deliver punchy and poignant stories, even when the flagship titles are a little bland.