Iron Man Annual (#1, 2021) – Jed MacKay

4 out of 5

This starts out really quippy and fun, which was worrisome, because I didn’t know if I could do a whole annual’s worth of that tone – it’s a fine line between when that style feels inventive, and when it feels just like a fallback Marvel mood. After that, it clunks its way into its setup, which was also worrisome, because… clunk.

But then Iron Man becomes the central star of his book, following a thread Miles Morales put him on – tracking down “tech” bad guy The Assessor – and MacKay’s smart character writing and intelligent action (arted by Ibraim Roberson) clicked into place. Going back over the book again, I appreciated those two worrisome aspects moreso, and actually got a little hyped for the mini-event Jed is orchestrating across several annuals – “Infinite Destinies” – in which the Infinity Stones are finding some new owners. Since I neeeeever get hyped for Marvel / DC crossovers, that gave me pause: I actually enjoyed this annual quite a bit, didn’t I?

The openings sequence has Miles and Iron Man “battling” some sass-talking Moloids. It’s very, very funny; very New York; and gets to revel in some dated references (because the Moloids only have access to 90s media for their references). Knowing this is balanced out by the rest of the book’s events – not worried that I’ll have to deal with a writer going for excess laughs a likely whiffing half the time – makes this a really solid, en media res-ish way to just plop our two heroes together. The plot handover is still clunky, but even here, Jed nuances it a bit: it’s an exposition dump, but it’s attached to emotion, with Miles troubled by his memories of the Assessor’s tortures. This gives Tony’s pledge to track the baddie down some oomph, and thus doesn’t come across as bland hero platitudes. Thereafter, with Tony’s foiling of various science-y traps in the Assessor’s lair, Jed’s writing of Tony is quite perfect, and the same goes for the cold and calculating Assessor – I was finally reminded (after reading a lot of one-shot / mini-series in which Jed was working from the alluded-to quippy character template) of what drew me to MacKay’s writing in his Black Cat series, which is populated, similarly, by individuals, even if they only pop onto the scene for a moment or so.

The “part 1 of 8” Fury short that’s apparently going to run in the back of annuals was… less impressive, but I’m not going to knock the rating based on that. Perhaps after I read all 8 parts (which I maybe probably will) it’ll work, but if not, I’ll come back and tear this review a new one. (i.e. a 3 out of 5 one.)