PUBLISHER: MARVEL, 1997
WRITERS: SCOTT LOBDELL, JEPH LOEB, JIM LEE
ARTISTS: RYAN BENJAMIN, WHILCE PORTACIO
The dash towards the end of Heroes Reborn produced some very poor comics but once again Iron Man came through relatively well due to the writers opting to concentrate on their own ideas instead of just cramming cameos in. Jeph Loeb does wash up as writer but he's largely working from Scott Lobdell's plotting and doesn't do too much harm while intermittent pages from Whilce Portacio not only add a little visual continuity but also mean it comes closest to keeping its' superstar artist.
This means that the issues we get aren't wasting time undermining previous work. There's a nice organic plot featuring the return of Rebel Reilly, the believed-dead original armour test pilot. He comes back initially as a catspaw of Hydra, who are working really for the Mandarin who in turn is really a front for Victor von Doom. It flows better than it sounds, trust me. There are inevitably heavy references to the main Marvel Universe, notably a trip through famous classics courtesy of von Doom's time travel equipment and references to how Rebel (created for the Heroes Reborn universe) always felt like he didn't belong. Uatu then turns up and says as much.
Pepper takes a relative back seat which is a shame, while Happy gets some panel time only to die almost immediately. Maybe; he's upgraded to alive out out of nowhere in the closing issues or no readily apparent reason. While it gets off relatively lightly for cast congestion there is a predictable return from the dead for Bruce Banner while Jasper Sitwell's torture of Doc Samson with gamma radiation turns the good doctor into the Abomination, though only for a few frames before some handwaved blood transfusion with Jennifer Walters leaves him as a ripped green-haired version of his human self and her as She-Hulk, the trio forming the Hulkbusters on the last page of #11.
In among all of this Tony Stark comes through quite well, as does von Doom. It is not a great comic, nothing compared to most of the title's back catalogue or much of what was to come. However there aren't a great many of occasions when you feel like punching yourself in the balls for reading it.