Writers: Dan Slott, Christos Gage
Artist: Pete Woods
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Pete Woods
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
You may not know his name now, but in the pages of this week’s Iron Man 2020 #1, Arno Stark — the all-new Iron Man — wants to change that in a big way.
Launching from the pages of co-writer Dan Slott’s Tony Stark: Iron Man (and teased briefly in this month’s Incoming #1), Iron Man 2020 is Marvel’s first big event crossover of the new decade. But if you haven’t been keeping up with recent continuity, you may be surprised to know it’s not Tony in the Iron Man armor here, but rather his little-known, morally-questionable brother Arno. Introduced as part of Kieron Gillen’s Iron Man run in 2013, Arno has seized control of Stark Industries as well as the mantle of Iron Man, kicking Tony (himself recently brought back to life through science and technology) to the curb. Making matters worse, the Robot Rebellion for robotic rights has begun, and they’ve got a surprising leader at the helm of their movement. It’s all-around bad news for the Marvel Universe.
Despite Tony’s lack of presence in this first issue, Iron Man 2020 feels like a quintessential Iron Man story at its core, which bodes well for the storyline moving forward. With that being said, however, I’m not sure how diehard Tony Stark fans will feel about the classic character being sidelined for another one who isn’t nearly as well-known or liked, even. Though sympathetic with a tragic backstory—experimented upon in the womb and hidden away from the world, essentially replaced with adoptee Tony— he’s not especially likable. I’m sure Slott and his co-writer, Christos Gage, will work to make him a character worth following, but it remains to be seen how that will play out for them.
It’s also not especially certain if Arno is meant to be this story’s protagonist or antagonist, which is fairly problematic for a first issue. I’m leaning more toward the former, as Machine Man and the aforementioned leader of the Robot Rebellion seem to be clashing with his goals, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Arno emerges as some sort of final “boss” that needs to be taken down. That could make for an interesting trajectory, but it feels a bit muddled at this stage in the game. I’m interested to see how the myriad of tie-ins coming out over the next few months (such as a new volume Force Works, as well Rescue debuting her MCU armor in the comics) will relate to the core series, possibly benefiting what’s here already.
In any event, artist Pete Woods does a pretty great job with the visuals, packing a lot of detail onto each page that begs to be observed closely. As he proved with his Justice League arc from a few years back, Woods is particularly suited to the superhero world, providing some handsome art that moves at a brisk pace you’d expect from someone like Iron Man. He draws Arno’s Iron Man armor as stark (pun unintended), big, and imposing, making him fairly distinct from the usual Iron Man look despite sharing its exact same color scheme. Doubling as his own colorist as well, his lighting is some of the best I’ve seen lately; it’s easy to forget how much the mood of a scene can change depending on how it’s lit. On one particular page, what should be a heroic moment from Arno instead comes off as kinda scary and threatening because of the shadows and positioning of light, potentially signaling Arno’s true intentions. It’s just subtle, clever work from Woods that reminds you how crucial an artist can be in conveying the intent of their writer’s script.