The Civil War amongst Earth's superheroes that had been waged between Captain America and Iron Man is over, with Iron Man aka Tony Stark coming out as the victor. The aftermath saw the Superhero Registration Act passed, Stark named the new Director of SHIELD, Captain America was killed, and the heroes whom fought on Cap's side that refused to register being treated as wanted fugitives. Iron Man must now take up the task leading the country's peace-keeping organization on what appears to be random terrorist attacks. But is there some kind of connection between them all? -summary
Iron Man Director of SHIELD written by Charlie and Daniel Knauf, was a new beginning for the golden Avenger during Marvel's status quo change, which would see continued changes even through the Avengers titles. The changes in Iron Man's neck of the woods actually began a bit further back though, with Iron Man: Extremis setting gears in motion. This story saw Tony Stark suffer severe injuries at the hands of a powerful enemy, which lead to an old friend of his named Maya Hansen saving his life. This occurred when she injected him with a nanotechnology serum called Extremis, which was meant to be another attempt to recreate Dr. Erskine's Super Soldier Serum, that was used to turn Steve Rogers into Captain America. Long story short, Stark altered the serum in a way that resulted in him completely controlling the Iron Man armor on will alone, as well as being able to interface with all forms of electronics. This bit of backstory is very important, because Extremis and Maya Hansen are going to be pretty hot topics in Iron Man's world later on. This TPB collects Iron Man 15 - 18, along with the 1965 story Strange Tales #135 and the 1979 issue Iron Man #129 as bonus tales. It's also worth noting that this book is in fact volume 4 (although not listed as such), taking place after Iron Man: Civil War but right before Iron Man: Haunted.
The Knauf's not only manage to follow up on Warren Ellis' Extremis story, but they piggy-back many of their own ideas plus some of the Civil War aftermath adding in some fun elements. They do a well enough job driving the bulk of their story combining espionage and science fiction creating an action packed drama-thriller. It appears that various terrorist networks with reputations of not liking each other are actually working together. Several SHIELD top hats notice the changes in their tactics, training, and even bio technology. The terrorist cells are becoming a serious problem, but old vets such as Dum Dum Dugan agrees with Stark's long time friend Sal, that there's only one person footing the bill and these are still splinter cells.
Speaking of Dugan, he's handled very well here and can be quite entertaining as he voices his concern towards Stark's changes with the organization. There's a form of political commentary going on here, with the positive results vs. choice of methods debate taking place. I found it just about as entertaining as the action, and this goes for several of the character interactions which works into the pacing. Stark is no Nick Fury, he doesn't try to be either, but he becomes quite interesting as he quickly learns that Nick Fury's way is almost always the best way, which his way normally went against the book. This story clearly feels like it's setting the stage for many future storylines as we even see the return of a very old and dangerous enemy; it gives off this salad bowl of ideas just trying to work, yet it does work due to everything moving with a natural coherency making the narrative a breeze to flow through. Even the final panels let's the action work delivering some disturbing deaths. However, I think it's the sci-fi crowd that is going to enjoy this story the most, when they encounter the terrorist methods using biological warfare, and how Stark and Hansen learn to work with it. Now even though this book held my attention, and I do understand that future stories must be developed in some way. The book just feels way too pedestrian, it's all too obvious that it's leading from point A to B.
Roberto De La Torre whom had also been handling the artwork in Ms. Marvel boasts his talents here, yet for some reason he feels a little off when compared to that run. His attention to detail in facial designs is among the things that stands out for me capturing most expressions, plus it helps that not everyone looks the same; background explosions stand out along with the horror of a dead flight crew, but there's this occasional inconsistent feel though as if he was rushing. If you saw the work in at least the first two books of Ms. Marvel, then you'll know what I mean. Fortunately, I can imagine most people satisfied with the visuals. The two bonus stories definitely feel dated by modern standards, and the only purpose they serve is drawing some type of earlier connection between Iron Man and SHIELD.
Besides everything feeling ordinary, the only flaw that really stands out is the lack of an actual villain for casual and new fans to latch onto immediately, there is one that makes an appearance in the form of Mandarin but it's only to set a foundation for a later story arc. Iron Man Director of SHIELD is a pretty solid book for the most part, yet I do not consider it essential moving forward in Marvel's modern universe; you can instead go with Mighty Avengers Volume 1: The Ultron Initiative, if you're just trying to make it to Siege. However, if you're a fan of Iron Man, then I guess this story is mildly essential since it helps set the stage for his confrontation with the Mandarin, which takes place in Iron Man Volume 5: Haunted beginning with issue 21, but if you're trying to track these stories down by volume, then you will notice a little gap in between this book and the fifth volume containing 21 - 26, that is because issues 19-20 crossover into World War Hulk: X-Men, so you're not really missing anything unless you plan on following that crossover. Overall, it's a decent book that delivers what it aims for.
Pros: -Continues to follow up and build on stories
Cons: -Feels too ordinary and not that essential towards main Marvel U.
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