So last time we saw Iron Man in his standalone comic, Warren Ellis was “infecting” him with a nanotech thing that ended up making him cooler and more powerful than ever. Daniel and Charles Knauf’s The Invincible Iron Man: Execute Program has the task of taking this new enhanced Iron Man and putting him in position for his major role in Civil War. And, honestly, they do a bang-up job of it: This is yet another one of those comics where, after reading it, the character feels a lot more motivated to me than he did from the mainline Civil War story.

Of course, the story here also serves to undermine the whole triggering incident of the Civil War (an explosion that kills a few hundred people, set off by a villain), because in this book, events conspire to make Iron Man directly responsible for killing many hundreds of people, destroying huge swaths of property, and just generally doing a hell of a lot of damage. Yes, it’s “covered up” officially, but still: It’s hard to see Iron Man doing this kind of damage, and then something much more minor (and for which heroes were far less culpable) triggering such a major crisis. Still, the destruction here gives Iron Man reason to believe that heroes need more monitoring, plus a heaping helping of guilt to drive him, so ends up being a net plus to the plausibility.

The next volume is, of course Daniel and Charles Knauf, Christos N. Gage, and Brian Michael Bendis’ Iron Man: Civil War . In the middle are the Knaufs’ volumes from the direct Civil War continuity, which are both competent and significant; but book-ending those issues are stories by Bendis and Gage that drive home the long history between Captain America and Iron Man.

Gage’s is particularly effective, as the two heroes meet in the abandoned Avengers Mansion, and reminisce about their first meeting and the assistances they’ve provided each other over the years. It’s been hard to take the conflict between these two characters as anything other than a plot contrivance, for precisely this reason: They’ve been working together so well for so long, that it’s hard to believe a political issue like this would cause them to battle so intensely. But Gage’s story ends up making it feel plausible, and humanizing a relationship that had only really been at the level of speechifying and punching in the mainline books. This is really an essential story — and a poignant one, for anyone with a grasp of Marvel history.


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