Arno Stark was both blessed and cursed even before he was born into the fabulously wealthy Stark family. The blessing was obvious, but the curse came about because his parents entrusted an alien being to solve their fertility problems, leading Arno to develop a debilitating illness that confined him to an iron lung after his father tried to hack the enhancements the alien had put into Arno’s DNA. Enhancements meant to turn him into a living weapon capable of fighting a cosmic threat that would one day come to Earth.
The Starks would go on to adopt a son they named Tony, who would be the perfect heir they’d always dreamed of. To Tony’s credit, he did everything he could to cure Arno’s condition and truly bring him into the family when he learned of his existence decades later. Unfortunately, Arno was still bitter about his birthright and soon entered into a partnership with Stark Unlimited’s main competitor, Baintronics.
Things changed for the worst after Tony Stark, in the interest of full disclosure in the face of robots starting to rebel against organic life, admitted that Tony Stark’s body had died and that he was a simulation of Tony Stark’s mind in an advanced replicant body, almost as human as human. The law was clear upon this point, however, and the Tony AI lost everything that Tony Stark had owned to Arno.
Now, Arno Stark has made himself into a new Iron Man for the new decade. Partly because the people need a hero to believe in as the robot rebellion grows in size but also because the entity he was born to fight is coming to Earth. And forming a ready-made army of robots soldiers to serve its whims is Step One in its plan to destroy mankind…
I was surprised by Iron Man 2020 #1 in several respects. I can’t discuss most of them for fear of spoiling the issue’s secrets. I can say, however, that this was not the anti-hero story I expected given everything we discover about Arno as the issue unfolds and the details revealed in a helpful timeline outlining the last few years of Iron Man stories.
Moral ambiguity is a staple of Iron Man comics, of course, but Arno makes Tony look like St. Francis of Assisi. I enjoy a good anti-hero story better than most, but I still like to have someone to root for in a comic and I didn’t see that happening as I read this issue. Not until one magic moment when the veil was pulled aside and it became clear just what illusion writers Dan Slott and Christos Gage had crafted.
The artwork by Pete Woods is similarly beguiling. The first pages filled me with dread, resembling the kind of line-heavy, neon-tinted nightmare that was all too common in 1990s “extreme” comics. A shift in view and suddenly we’re back in more realistic and better drawn territory, as Arno wakes up from a nightmare and explains to the reader how much he really hates sleeping. Woods’ artwork is equally detailed elsewhere, but not as cluttered or so dark.
Iron Man 2020 #1 is an interesting book and it presents an stunning new change for the status quo of the character beyond the immediately obvious. Even if you’re a fan of Tony Stark, you’ll want to see what the new kid on the block has planned and give this book a shot. And if you’re a movie fan who is in Iron Man withdrawals after Avengers: Endgame, this book will be an open and accepting starting point to begin reading the Iron Man comics.
Iron Man 2020 #1 releases on January 15th, 2020!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.