Deadshirt is Reading: Infamous Iron Man and Venom

Deadshirt is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more.

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Max Robinson is reading…

Infamous Iron Man #8

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev
Colored by Matt Hollingsworth
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics

“But you have your own legacy.”

“Yes. You want it?”

When Secret Wars—Marvel’s best event book ever by a wide margin—ended with the omnipotent Victor Von Doom returned to humanity with an unscarred face courtesy of Reed Richards, I mentally prepared myself for another writer to squander Hickman’s beautiful poetic status-quo adjustment. Dr. Doom is truly Marvel’s best villain, and it’s easy to think that Doom’s redemption would either be tossed out or retconned in order to throw him into the mix of another big story. This has, thankfully, not been the case with Bendis and Maleev’s Infamous Iron Man, a book I would dislike on paper but really love in execution.

Bendis’ Doom, bearing a more than passing resemblance to Vincent Cassel under Maleev’s pencil, is fittingly complicated as a protagonist. The prior seven issues have seen Doom, now trying to honor Tony Stark’s legacy as Iron Man, taking down former super-criminal associates, dodging the attempts of S.H.I.E.L.D. to take him down and even running into his suddenly alive sorceress mother. All of this and, oh yeah, the evil Ultimate Universe counterpart of Reed Richards is playing puppet master.

Maleev and Bendis are frequent collaborators and while his art sometimes feels stiff and painfully static in books like their Dark Reign one-shot, it feels very right for Infamous Iron Man. Maleev’s Marvel work leans toward gritty street level characters like Daredevil or Moon Knight. His style—heavy on shadow and micro-expressions—feels suitably unsuperheroic for a book all about Dr. Doom discovering the remains of his destroyed castle or The Thing broodily drinking a beer in his apartment.

Talky Bendis comics are extremely hit or miss, but this issue, which is built around parallel conversations between Doom and Stark protege RiRi Williams/IronHeart and The Thing/Evil Reed, is fittingly fantastic. RiRi’s incredulity that she’s having a civil conversation with Dr. Doom is crosscut beautifully against Ben Grimm’s guarded pain as he listens to his seemingly now-alive dead friend recount a late night adventure to prove his bonafides. Glacial pacing tends to sink lesser Bendis storylines but an issue of characters just calmly talking feels earned, probably because the conversations have clearly established pathos and goals for the larger plot. Also, we get some real bugfuck stuff with Tony Stark in the future.

Despite what you’d imagine from the book’s name, Infamous Iron Man handily the best Fantastic Four title Marvel’s put out in sometime. It’s another Doctor Doom vs. Mr. Fantastic story, only this time Doom is finally the hero he’d long believed himself to be and Reed really is the bad guy out to screw him over. Here’s hoping it sticks the landing.

Joe Stando is reading…

Venom #150

Written by Mike Costa and Robbie Robertson
Art by Tradd Moore and Gerardo Sandoval
Colored by Felipe Sobriero and Dono Sanchez-Almara
Lettered by Clayton Cowles

“No one will pull us apart again.”

Everything old is new again! I admit that I’d stepped away from the various Venom books for a while, but this issue is clearly intended as a jumping-on point for the character’s new status quo. “New” is a relative term here, since the book reunites Eddie Brock with the Venom symbiote, and generally pushes the reset button on the character development shown in previous Venom books.

I’m of two minds on this. On one hand, I was a big fan of the evolution of the symbiote and Flash Thompson’s partnership, and I’m sad to see that era end. Although Venom: Spaceknight wrapped up some of the most offbeat, Guardians of the Galaxy-esque plots, the stage seemed to be set for adventures in the vein of Remender’s “Agent Venom” era, and I find myself pining for more of those.

At the same time, you have to give the people what they want, and any period of Venom as something other than a toothy monster was always going to be temporary. The main story here hearkens back to Venom: Lethal Protector, with Eddie Brock fighting to channel the symbiote into a force for good. There’s enough difference from previous Flash Thompson stories that it doesn’t feel stale, and enough shading and subtlety that it reads like a new take on the character. Tradd Moore’s art is a perfect, disgusting fit, especially a panel where the symbiote seeps from Brock’s face in preparation for a fight. It’s a new, scarier Venom that plays with themes of love and instability, rather than the usual take on the symbiote as a simple corrupting force.

The backup story splits the difference, with a fill-in by Robbie Thompson and Gerardo Sandoval bridging the gap between Agent Venom and here. It’s nice to see Flash Thompson again, if only for a moment, and Sandoval’s designs are still punchy and fun. It’s unclear what the future holds for these characters, but I’m engaged enough by this return to form for now.

Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!

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