Page 45 Review by Stephen
Hallelujah! In this companion title to his INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, Bendis is back off autopilot, a word which Maleev - his partner on SCARLET VOL 1 & 2 - doesn't even know the meaning of.
Like Michael Gaydos, Maleev brings out the best in Bendis, so it's time once again to throw away the costumes (for the most part) and enjoy some honest-to-goodness human interaction and humour à la JESSICA JONES: ALIAS which was the very best series ever to be published by Marvel.
Almost as brilliant as Bendis & Maleev's DAREDEVIL with all of its wit-riddled snappy patter, this catches Iron Man at an inopportune moment under Bulgaria's Monument To The Soviet Army, dead, paralyzed, or "rethinking his disastrous life choices that led up to this humbling moment".
Amongst those disastrous decisions was Stark's determination - twenty years ago while studying at Cambridge - to get to know a mysterious young woman with an overprotective family, famous in some circles at least. She knows exactly who Tony is, but Tony...?
"You really don't know who I am?"
"Should I? Is your father a big deal or something? Is it - is he Bono?"
"Is she Bono?"
He's such a scallywag!
"What does your Mom do that warrants bodyguards? I only ask because they're coming this way and I think one of them is about to punch me in the face so hard I probably won't remember even meeting you."
"Ugh! You're going to get tasered."
"I'd really rather not."
"I'm not joking."
"Neither am I. Can you request that they don't?"
All the while Maleev plays it as deadpan as usual, except with a new energy during irreverence of youth. Tony cannot help throwing his head back and laughing with joy at Cassandra Gillespie's fantastic name, nor can he resist smiling at his own bravado and wit. It's perfect characterisation for Marvel's charming but smuggest git.
Paul Mounts' daytime colouring adds a new air of optimism to Maleev's fresh-faced students meeting for lunch (less of an assignation, more of the-stalked-stalking-stalker scenario) and when you look at those panels, concentrate on the eyebrows and lip-line especially, imagine a moustache, chop the flop of his hair right back... and that really is our Tony Stark.
"You Googled me by now."
"How'd that go?"
"I found out you're a world-class trapeze artist."
"Is there a trapeze artist with my name?"
"Just admit you trapeze. There's nothing wrong with that."
New verb: to trapeze.
What could any of this possibly have to do with Iron Man flat on his back, systems down, in Bulgaria?
Well, first it's time to meet Cassandra's family for dinner in not the most awkward and hostile reception by prospective in-laws ever (he lies)... and then there's the unsolicited postprandial intervention by those oh-so-shouty regenerative ones, Hydra.
But essentially it's Stark's modern-day quest to discover the identity of his true parents now that he's learned that he was adopted as a baby. You'll find out exactly who they are in this volume.
His father's not whom I strongly suspected - which I think is a missed trick and a shame - but it could certainly make things interesting. I'd tell you right now (you can always ask at the counter so long as I'm not serving), but it may be that Bendis still has a trick up his sleight-of-hand sleeve.