STORY: SCOTT LOBDELL & JIM LEE
ART: WHILCE PORTACIO (#1-3), RYAN BENJAMIN (#4-5)
Aside from scribbling an outline Jim Lee had little input into the second title Wildstorm handled during Heroes Reborn; instead it benefited from the presence of an actual proper comic writer in the form of the underrated (and I will fight anyone who thinks otherwise) Scott Lobdell while art was handled, initially at least, by Whilce Portacio, who joined up with Image along with the others but not as a partner. Like The Avengers, Iron Man was not in a good place when it was 'cancelled'; the series had slumped into a series of regurgitated plots in the nineties, with Tony Stark becoming an alcoholic, Tony Stark faking his death, Tony Stark getting Rhodey to be Iron Man, Tony Stark turning out to be a secret villain, Tony Stark getting killed off, Tony Stark being replaced by a teenage version of himself, etc, etc and so on.
Heroes Reborn allowed something of a rollback with the same revised origin as before as cold calculating business bastard adult Tony Stark gets injured by some shrapnel to the heart and becomes Iron Man to save himself, simultaneously having something of an epiphany and deciding to be less of an arsehole. There are some interesting tweaks here, though - one of the Heroes Reborn event's neater ideas is that Tony, Reed Richards, Victor von Doom, Bruce Banner and one Rebel Reilly were college buddies, styling themselves the Knights of the Atomic Round Table before various circumstances derail them from their utopian vision. Tony's fall was largely precipitated by fall-out from the death of the aforementioned Rebel (made up for these stories) while testing the Promethium armour Stark then dons as Iron Man, which is a better explanation for the guy having a battle suit floating around than having built one in a cave.
Another fun addition is Bruce Banner as a supporting character; the Hulk split in two during the closing moments of the Onslaught event, Bruce throwing himself in after the Avengers while the Hulk was left in the main Marvel universe as a bestial nutcase without Banner's personality elements, his title continuing. The Reborn versions of Leonard Samson, Betty Ross and Thunderbolt Ross are all in the cast, along with forgotten Iron Man regulars Pepper Potts (smack bang back in the middle of the story), Happy Hogan and Jasper Sitwell are also in the mix. However, Lobdell is a master of this sort of thing and most of them get some meat on the bones. Iron Man is kept largely clear of the Avengers at this stage as well.
The primary villains are Hydra, whose assault on Stark International gives Tony his heart injury and also sees Bruce - part of SI, constantly trying to find some conscience in his old friend - seemingly sacrifice himself keeping a government-backed gamma bomb out of their hands and getting turned into the Hulk for his trouble. Additional appearances come from a guesting Fantastic Four, a victim of Stark's corporate raiding who turns himself into the new Living Laser and then dies almost immediately and Whirlwind, who Stark doesn't even bother to armour up for. If there's a weak point it's the antagonists.
Portacio's art is as highly stylised as ever, all long necks and hanging locks of hair. It's not the prettiest of styles but it's easy to follow what's going on even if the early issues feature a lot of guys with longish black hair in suits, while I've always liked the armour redesign. Ryan Benjamin follows the style more or less with maybe less overt distortion but overall it's only behind Jim Lee's work on F4. Or only ahead of Liefield's on everything else if you're half-glass full.
The first chunk of Iron Man is no classic but to be the best start to a Heroes Reborn title it doesn't have to be, really. It's an entertainingly different start to Iron Man, a decent modernisation with a lot going on, even if that means by law of averages a couple of bits are silly.