Marvel Masterworks: The Invincible Iron Man – Volume 2
Pros: Some very interesting stories at times with action packed artwork
Cons: Somewhat stale villain of the month formula at times
Iron Man aka Tony Stark attempts to stop a robbery which leads to another man beating him to the punch by the name of Umberto. Realizing that he has some type of talent, Umberto decides to turn to a life of crime as the Scarecrow. One of his robbery attempts brings him to blows with Iron Man, while he attempts to burglarize Stark’s home. -summary
Stan Lee indeed had a lot on his table when he decided to pick up writing duties for his various Marvel comics creations back in the early 60’s. While revisiting these titles some of them would be pretty hard to get through due to their outdated feel (Fantastic Four & X-Men), while others seemed to be lacking some form of identity and are just difficult reads (The Mighty Thor). Iron Man doesn’t seem to suffer from these ailments after its rocky start in volume one; I found this batch of issues to be just as easy to get through as Spider-Man. This is because like Spider-Man, Stan Lee was able to make both Iron Man and Tony Stark’s lives interesting to read. He even dabbles with some very down to Earth themes that reads so well in this day.
Marvel Masterworks: Iron Man Volume Two collects Tales of Suspense issues 51 – 65. It’s also worth noting that during this series original run in 1964; issue 58 would introduce Captain America with his own adventures and the two heroes would share the title for quite some time. Captain America’s stories can be found in his own Marvel Masterworks TPB titled Marvel Masterworks: Captain America.
The only real weakness in this TPB is the villain of the month formula occasionally creeping up through some lame villains, whom never really went on to become that notable; villains such as Unicorn and Scarecrow come to mind. While others such as the Mandarin would return for two epic showdowns, and Black Widow and Hawkeye, two future Avengers, would develop a very heated grudge with Iron Man. For the most part, these stories deliver the goods.
For the most part, the running background story consists of communist Russian spies attempting to sabotage Tony Stark and steal his military plans. This leads to their operatives such as Black Widow, Crimson Dynamo, and Unicorn attacking and getting into scraps with Iron Man. Meanwhile there are other events taking place leading to other confrontations along with the developing love triangle between Stark, his secretary Pepper Potts, and his driver Happy Hogan.
Stan Lee does a very splendid job juggling these various story elements delivering loads of action, suspense, and small amounts of comedy. The book was rather difficult for me to put down, because Lee managed to keep the issues story arcs very well paced despite them being meant to fairly stand on their own. I especially like how he handles the love triangle though. Stark does fall in love with Pepper but due to his heart injury which depends on him wearing a portion of the Iron Man suit, he can’t follow up on Pepper’s feelings because he will blow his secret identity. At the same time, Hogan is making it no secret how he cares for her. It’s done in pretty good taste and it never felt at any time forced into the story. This portion of the story looks even better when compared to the exact same situation over in Thor’s title, which I think was being handled kind of miserable.
Now for the action filled segments; even though the reader won’t be treated to some heavy, over the top slug-fests at this moment; the battles with Mandarin, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and even Captain America are nothing to look down on. These battles are very well written with more than enough cool effect going on for them, such as Hawkeye blasting Iron Man with acid-tipped arrows, or the Mandarin displaying his various powers with the Ten Rings in his possession. There’s nothing to be found here but old school comic book fun.
Don Heck’s artwork captures what Stan Lee may have been planning very well. There’s plenty of action-filled imagination going on here; different strategies, nice displays of power, and intensity. The character designs were probably really cool back then, but there must have been a reason why characters such as Hawkeye and Captain America kept their costume styles across decades, while the Mandarin and Black Widow would see makeovers. In any case, the artwork doesn’t appear as dated as some books that were written at this time.
Over the years I have read many of these stories, but I really didn’t imagine that I would enjoy them this much reading them again. I advise anyone interested in giving these early Iron Man stories a shot to start here. They will no doubt feel different from today’s comics. However, there’s still something cool to find.