Page 45 Review by Stephen
This is the first book since SECRET WARS which I am not about to spoil with its most enormous repercussion here. I've even chosen the illustrations carefully.
There will be no love lost there but in Dr Amara Perera Tony may have finally found someone worth dropping his facade for. She's not feisty, she's thoughtful, and I like her already.
"I have a cure for the mutant gene."
"You do not."
"One that would absolutely do not harm to the host."
"But it... it is like curing Judaism. It's not to be done. I won't do it."
"Because by the weekend it would become a law that everyone has to take the cure."
Just because we can doesn't mean we should is no new scientific argument, but usually those who have discovered fight the opposite, self-serving corner. I told you I like her.
"I didn't even write it down. I didn't want anyone to find it if I died."
"That's not good enough, actually. There are psychic spies, psychic industrial spies, and psychic mutants. And psychic mutant industrial spies."
If that does become sub-plot it's not happening here.
Under David Marquez the various Stark Towers, particularly the one is Japan, are slick pieces of architecture and Marquez's fashion sense is impeccable with smooth, broad strokes for soft-skinned beauty contrasting with the most intricate details of Dr. Perera's necklace or Madame Masque's mask. It's almost unearthly - which is handy given what will become of Madame Masque and her mask.
Yes, sorry, the protagonist is Stark's ex-lover Madame Masque who - in an uncharacteristic departure - has taken it upon herself to seek out mystical artefacts which that have fallen through the cracks between dimensions into ours. What would possess her to do that?
None of this has ping-ed on the astral radar of our Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange, but it's certainly set off alarm bells at Castle Doomstadt - home to Doctor Doom - which Masque has raided for a Wand of Watoomb. Apparently there are five of those spell sticks. Who even knew there were two?
Again, not Doctor Strange, but in case you've forgotten Victor Von D is an accomplished mage himself and here comes before Stark as a much-changed man, and in more ways than one.
It's going to drive Tony nuts.
As much as anything else, this is a comedy. Everything Bendis writes is at least in part a comedy, even JESSICA JONES. The reason it works so well here is that Tony Stark is at the top of his inventive and mental-health game, but he's thrown by all the magic involved, confounded by Doom's open-arms about-face* and finally found a woman - in complete contrast to mentalist Madame Masque - who deserves being dealt with sincerely rather than charmed using his trade-mark, defective, deflective, non-stop quippery / self-deprecation:
"I can't shake the idea that becoming the man that would actually deserve you... would be a good goal in life at this stage of the game."
It's not the only serious thing he says, either. For the first time there is some serious consideration of whether Tony truly has any friends he can offload to when things go wonky on the scale that they do. It would go some way to explaining his former 'friend' in the bottle. Offloading is important, but Stark's faced with two walls few seem prepared to scale: in his line of work someone else's day was almost certainly worse, and poor little rich boy, boo-hoo.
Some of the best exchanges are between Stark and his dead-pan, on-board artificial intelligence called Friday, partly because they can afford to upset / annoy each other, and do. I cannot wait, however, to see what happens when someone new joins the crew next volume. She's been a major supporting cast member of another title for decades and Bendis has written her before but within NEW AVENGERS instead.
Lastly, this delivers the best "Hail Hydra" ever, in the most unexpected context.
* I am trying to be subtle here!