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Top Ten Iron Man Stories

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Posted April 25, 2013 by Will Fitzgerald in Ramp Reviews

Iron Man is a character who has only really risen to meet his A-list potential in the last ten years. Yes, the movies certainly helped, but the groundwork was laid in the comics circa 2004 when Marvel relaunched Iron Man with the Extremis storyline (see below) and the intention of making Tony Stark one of the trail-blazing futurist leaders of the Marvel Universe. Almost ten years later, we’re heading to see the third Iron Man installment in a hit franchise. To get you in the mood, or should you feel in the mood after seeing the movie, here are Ramp’s Top Ten Iron Man Stories from the comics.

10. MANDARIN: THE STORY OF MY LIFE (INVINCIBLE IRON MAN ANNUAL 2011)

Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Carmine Di Giandomenico

And already we’re cheating because this isn’t an Iron Man story, it’s about The Mandarin. But hey, he’s in the movie too, right? The Mandarin captures a famous film director and hold his wife hostage until he makes a great movie about The Mandarin’s life. This story is a fantastic insight into the mind of a tyrant. The contradictory scripts he comes up with show us how he sees himself and how he sees his arch nemesis, Tony Stark.

 

9. DOOMQUEST

Written by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, Art by John Romita Jr.

The armoured avenger clashes with the armoured despot in the armoured aged of Camelot. Dr. Doom and Iron Man wind up in the ‘past’ where they respectively team up with the opposing forces of Morgan Le Fey and King Arthur before banding together to return home. Old school comic book fun.

 

8. ARMOR WARS

Written by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, Art by Mark Bright and Barry Windsor-Smith

The most annoying thing about reading Iron Man? Armour is always spelled the American way wrong. Anyway, this nifty story can almost be seen as a  closing chapter in a dark trilogy of Iron Man stories that includes Iron Monger and Demon In a Bottle (below). It’s arguably the most influential Iron Man story because it asks an obvious question central to Iron Man‘s technological theme – what if the technology falls into the wrong hands? As such, this story gets re-told in various ways every so often. Its fingerprints can be seen on the script to Iron Man 2 and the recent Matt Fraction story, ‘Five Nightmares’, if you’re looking for something more modern.

 

7. DEMON IN A BOTTLE

Written by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, Art by John Romita Jr, Bob Layton and Carmine Infantino

This is the one everyone has at least heard of but its not necessarily the best Iron Man story. It’s a great one, sure, but the alcoholism is a tragic consequence of the meat of this story which is the uphill battle Tony is set on by his rivalry with Justin Hammer. Demon in a Bottle had a ‘Dark Knight Effect’ though, in that the alcoholism became a defining aspect of Iron Man for years, as opposed to his being a genius inventor.

 

6. STARK RESILIENT

Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Salvador Larroca

After hitting rock bottom and literally having to reboot his own body, Tony sets about building himself and his company from the ground up. However, eager to keep him down is the new leader of Hammer Industries, Justine Hammer and her own mechanised soldier, Detroit Steel. This story employs a nifty use of peer-to-peer technology and gaming apps in a super-villain application of real world technology we all use.

 

5. EXTREMIS

Written by Warren Ellis, Art by Adi Granov

There is no better place for a neophyte Iron Man reader to start off with than Extremis. This was the beginning of Marvel’s new vision for Tony Stark and was kicked off in high gear with tech-savy, science buff writer, Warren Ellis. It updates Iron Man’s origins as well as his armour and lays the ground work that today’s Iron Man writers are still working from.

 

4. HAUNTED

Written by Daniel and Charles Knauf, Art by Roberto De La Torre

For our money, the best modern Iron Man vs. Mandarin story available. After Extremis, the baton was handed to writers Daniel and Charles Knauf (of HBO’s Carnivale fame) and Haunted is the culmination of their time on the book, dealing with Tony’s tenure as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as the Extremis storyline.

 

3. DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Written by Daniel and Charles Knauf, Art by Roberto De La Torre

After the events of the Marvel superhero Civil War, Iron Man was appointed to Nick Fury’s old job as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. The book sported a terrific new supporting cast during this time and a new espionage flavour, while Tony employed his corporate sensibilities to running the world’s foremost security force.

 

2. (a) CIVIL WAR

Written by Mark Millar, Art by Steve McNiven

The story that divided fans in their love/hate for Iron Man. Iron Man came down on the pro side of a Superhuman Registration Act in opposition to Captain America. While not strictly an Iron Man story, Tony and Captain America were the figureheads of the battle. Right or wrong, Civil War cemented Iron Man’s new A-list status is the eyes of the fans. Whose side are you on? (We here at Ramp thought Iron Man Captain America was totally in the right. Of course superheroes should be registered. Viva la Revolution!)

 

2. (b) CIVIL WAR: IRON MAN

Written by Daniel Knauf, Christos Gage, Brian Michael Bendis.  Art by Patrick Zircher, Jeremy Haun, Alex Maleev

The behind the scenes look at the toll Iron Man’s pro-SRA stance takes on Tony Stark, the people around him and the people he has drafted to his cause. These two stories can be read in tandem with, or exclusive to, one another but this is the one that casts Iron Man in a more sympathetic light. The main Civil War book paints him as a bit of a dick.

 

1. WORLD’S MOST WANTED/STARK DISASSEMBLED

Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Salvador Larroca

Iron Man knows things. Tony Stark has information that the powers-that-be want and shouldn’t get their hands on. So he sets about deleting his own mind while on the run from the government. Will he be caught before his mind is gone? And can there be any coming back from destroying yourself? This is one of the most tense Iron Man stories ever written, again neatly working from the foundation that Extremis had laid several years before and using our understanding of contemporary technology to tell a thrilling superhero espionage story.

 


About the Author

Will Fitzgerald

Film freelancer and comics enthusiast, Will tried to coin the term 'quarter-life crisis' but a younger, more successful twenty-something beat him to it.

  • mindless one

    Nice list. Would throw Hypervelocity in there as well. Great, underrated story.

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