Saturday, February 18, 2012
TONY’S BACK PAGES: IRON MAN #51-52
Of all the old comics I’ve written about in this featurette, Iron
Man #51-52 [Marvel; April-May, 2002] are the most recent. Slowly,
surely, I have been trying to catch up on my reading of key Marvel
titles. Currently, I’m reading Iron Man from when Kurt Busiek and
Sean Chen relaunched the Golden Avenger in late 1997.
Sometimes written with Roger Stern, Busiek and company produced a
solid super-hero title. It was entertaining, but not exceptional.
Busiek was followed by first Joe Quesada and then Frank Tieri. To
put it as kindly as possible, those runs were pretty awful.
Then came a most unlikely choice to write Iron Man. Mike Grell had
made his writing bones on Warlord and Green Arrow at DC, and on Jon
Sable Freelance at First Comics. He not only brought a strong real
world atmosphere to Iron Man, but he also brought genuine humanity
to Tony Stark and his supporting cast.
The two-issue “Jane Doe” story moved me. Iron Man and Tony Stark
do things more commonly associated with Batman and Bruce Wayne in
these issues, which revolve around the Haven, a safe house for kids
living on the street. Stark not only funds the place, he’s shown
rescuing kids and bringing them to the Haven, as well as involving
himself in helping them build new lives.
The story ranges from the streets to high society and the intrigues
of politics. Artists Michael Ryan and Sean Parsons did an amazing
job depicting all the real world elements and the super-hero stuff.
Grell’s characters rang very true to me through these two issues,
even to the shocking end pages.
Iron Man #51-52 were more or less the start of a terrific series of
comic books that ran about a year-and-a-half. Grell presented his
readers with a variety of different types of stories. He put Tony
and his friends through some emotional, heart-wrenching, and above
all, believable situations. To find a previous Iron Man I liked as
much, I’d have to go back to the David Michelinie/Bob Layton issues
of the 1970s and 1980s and the Archie Goodwin issues of the 1960s.
Unfortunately, the Grell issues have never been collected in either
trade paperback or hardcover. That’s a shame. I’d buy such books
in a heartbeat.
I’ll be back on Wednesday with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella