The first time I read I Am Iron Man #1, I think I let myself get too distracted by my preconceived notions of what I thought it was going to be. The limited series has been billed as a celebration of sixty years of Iron Man, and I guess I just expected a nostalgic slugfest between Tony Stark and classic rogues like Iron Monger, Ghost, and the Living Laser through the decades. I was prepared for something that would be pretty to look at and that included plenty of callbacks to previous Iron Man stories (which are both things that I Am Iron Man does), but I wasn’t prepared for this comic doing something entirely new.
Writer Murewa Ayodele and artist Dotun Akande craft the rare sort of comic that is simultaneously a nostalgic character showcase and a look towards what’s next. The moment I realized that I loved I Am Iron Man is when I realized that it was operating on the same frequency as Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman. Both comics embrace their episodic nature, present time in a fluid way, focus on the feeling of a scene rather than heavily explain it, and feature a timeless-feeling icon that serves as a constant through it all.
Also, the “villain” of the story has that sort of “Silver Age character that was actually created in the present” vibe that many Morrison creations have. Tony is confronted by a self-described fangirl from the future named “Tami” who just wants to fight Iron Man in his prime. Her weapon of choice? A bass guitar that allows her to manipulate giants made of a strange, futuristic material. There’s something very Sixties about a powerful being that’s more mischievous than malicious- especially one that attacks with a musical instrument. And yet, Tami is a modern teenager looking to kill her boredom, and maybe also her idol in the process. She drops into Iron Man’s life with no warning- just an unspoken “here we are now, entertain us”. I have no idea if we’ll ever see Tami in the near future, seeing how this is an anthology and next month’s story promises to be completely different, but in one issue Ayodele manages to flesh out this character so much while also barely sharing anything about her and allowing her to be surrounded by mystery.
Akande brings so much beauty and dynamism to his art on I Am Iron Man. I initially didn’t click with his occasional uses of open spaces, but when the action hits, it becomes clear what he’s doing. When the pale giants and colossal holographic armor comes in, you instantly have an understanding of their immense scale compared to everything else. Also, Akande employs a lot of perspective tricks that immerse you in unconventional ways. For example, the first time Tami strums her bass, the view is positioned from below, like the viewer is sinking with that long, deep note.
The issue’s credits simply list Akande as “artist”, so it seems safe to assume that Akande does his own coloring. There’s a gentle smoothness to the colors that reminds me of previous colorists’ takes on Iron Man, particularly Adi Granov’s work on Invincible Iron Man. However, Akande is more bold with the intensity of his colors, and this proves to be a very practical way of differentiating the different times and places that this issue switches between. You’ll never mistake red ruins of the future with the vibrant purple of a strip club or the blue skies of open farmlands. I love when comics use little visual shorthands like that to make the “where and when” of it all.
Also, the interiors definitely live up to the cover’s promise of lots of Iron Man suits from across the character’s history. The Mark I armor, Silver Centurion armor, Extremis armor, Superior armor, and more appear in the issue as embodiments of different eras. The way Ayodele and Akande work all of these nods (and more) into the story really shows how big of Iron Man fans the two are.
I Am Iron Man has rocketed off to an incredible start, and the previews that have been shared of future issues suggest that things will only get better (Iron Man fights a prehistoric sea monster). This issue alone not only has me excited to see what Ayodele and Akande have in store for the rest of the limited series, but it also has me eager to check out their previous work with the “Golden Avenger” in Iron Man #25 and the “Kaiju War” arc of the Avengers Unlimited Infinity Comic (issues #9 to #13). Between I Am Iron Man and the current ongoing, the future looks bright for fans of the old shellhead.