And, NOW!: Iron Man #1

And, NOW! is a series of posts about Marvel NOW!

Let's get one thing straight: Greg Land is not a bad artist. He's not a good artist, either, but I think I've been hyperbolic about his work in the past and I just wanted to clear this up. Although I'm not attracted to his artificial style, which is a stiff and lightboxed parody of photorealism, I am willing to admit that his lines are solid and that his characters have a certain boldness, a kind of magnetic density that draws the eye towards them and away from the rest of his compositions, which, themselves, merely suggest scene dressing.

Part of the problem with that kind of composition, though, is that individual panels often closely resemble one another. To avoid a repetitive page, then, Land is forced to pull the reader a great distance in between panels, effectively slowing any natural movement from one to the next by forcing the reader to close more space than he or she should have to. Since the relaunch of Uncanny X-Men, a year ago, though, he's been doing a few things that ease the reading experience, like varying compositions in interesting ways and, most importantly, allowing panels to interact with each other through the gutter. In the sequence below, for example, the cell phone flies out of one panel, up and over the gutter, and into the next one. The move between individual compositions is kind of awkward, the first indicates movement and while the second is still, but the airborne phone suggests, very deftly, how the character in the white shirt moves while the reader is in the space between.

All of this to say that I'll defend Greg Land, yes, but only up to a certain point-- his human characters all have exaggerated soap opera facial expressions that leave much to be desired. Like Sal Larroca before him, though, his style lends itself to the drawing of machines, so that his version of the Iron Man armor is dynamic in the same way that his drawings of people are stilted, at least in terms of the individual panels. This seems to make him a perfect choice for Iron Man and he may indeed prove to be, but only if Kieron Gillen does his damnedest to keep Tony Stark in the suit rather than leave him out of it.

Basically, its up to Gillen to write for his artist's strengths, in a way that Matt Fraction didn't always manage to do when he was writing for Larroca. Reading this first issue, it seems likely that this will be the case, since Gillen is eschewing Fraction's fascinating corporate espionage angle in favor of a more traditional man-of-action faces down terrorists kind of plot, one that will require Greg Land to draw more than one kind of armor. For his part, the writer does a pretty good job, even managing to relatively concisely explain a piece of information from an old Iron Man arc, even as he's placing it at the center of his own story. It's a masterful example of how good shared universe writers can relay enough information to keep new readers in the loop while still managing to keep old ones interested. Gillen has experience with this particular kind of counterterrorism story, often pulling it out during his Uncanny X-Men work, but much of that stuff was sort of out there and I expect that he's going to play Iron Man much more traditionally.

I think Fraction and Larocca's work with Tony Stark is probably definitive for the next little while, but if Gillen can keep it up, and if Land can behave, then we may very well have another classic on our hands. 


  1. I stopped reading less than halfway, mostly due to Land's art.

  2. While I agree that Land is not a bad artist, I feel that he cuts to many corners to outweigh his ability. On the very first page we get faces and not armor both of Tony's head shots are identical. Not merely the same expression from the same angle, I mean IDENTICAL. As in: I scanned the page and meshed them in Photoshop and it was the same face.

    This happened on more that that one page. When you're reusing faces on over 20% of your pages it detracts from the story.

    This lady's subscription is up after the next issue and I'm not renewing for the first time in 7 years. I really wanted to give Gillen more of a chance because I LOVED how his run on Journey into Mystery played out but I had to deal with the ups and downs of Fraction and Larocca for to long.