Warning: If you wish to avoid any direct spoilers skip to the My Opinion section.
Tony Stark has learned he is not the child of Howard and Maria Stark. This bombshell of lineage has sent him on a journey to find his birth parents. The comic opens at the funeral for Howard Stark twenty years ago. Young Tony Stark is talking with Nick Fury after the funeral. Though Nick Fury is saddened at the loss of Howard, Tony is drinking and questioning whether his ‘dad’ really loved him. Fury tries to convince the upset Stark that his dad loved him, but Tony is not listening to a word he says.
The actions shifts to today where Tony Stark is in the midst of a verbal assault with Casandra Gillespie, a former girlfriend and now rogue arms dealer in Bucharest. It was Cassandra Gillespie that Howard Stark dragged Tony away from many years ago. Imprisoned by Cassandra and her Mandroid robotic guards it looks like she has the upper hand on Stark. The verbal battle between the two was short lived as Tony hacked and destroyed the Mandroid guards. Cassandra takes off, only to be stopped by Tony’s artificial intelligence, Friday, controlling the Iron Man suit. SHIELD flies in to arrest Cassandra.
The action shifts to Sofia, Bulgaria. The records of Tony Stark’s birth have disappeared. But with the help of a kindly old worker at the orphanage where he grew up, the medical records of the mothers have been found. This leads Tony to London, where he tracks down the older woman in the mixing booth of a record company.
Sitting down with this unknown woman, Tony asks her if she gave up a baby years ago for adoption. Then he springs on her the final line of, “I think I might be your son.” The tagline The Secret Origin of Tony Stark ends the comic.
There really isn’t much story to International Iron Man #5. It gets to the point quickly and frees Tony Stark from the clutches of Cassandra Gillespie. Though we see the supposed birth mom, we know nothing about her. That will be continued on in the next issue.
Because there are few characters in this story, it was an easy story to read when I had a few minutes free. In some ways, comics don’t always have to be long complicated stories with complex themes and inner dialogue. Brian Michael Bendis has written a concise story that wraps up one end of the International Iron Man saga and acts as the starting point for the second half. Opening with the funeral of Howard Stark was a nice touch in making him a part of the story without having to include him in the dialogue. The reader experiences the importance of Howard through Tony’s dialogue with Nick Fury. Though they disagree with how Howard ruined Tony’s life and pulled him away from his girlfriend Cassandra, we see through Nick Fury’s viewpoint that Howard was actually saving Tony from a Hydra plot. We the reader know differently. Alex Maleev’s artwork and color artist Paul Mounts did a terrific job in just two panels that show the reality of what Fury labelled the Auckland incident.
I also have to give credit to Bendis for bringing hints of Tony Stark’s alcoholism that played out so well in the “Demon in a Bottle” story arc in The Invincible Iron Man from 1979. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe we don’t see this major character flaw of Tony Stark, and to connect back to a very successful story line was a nice change from the movies. Bendis did it with subtlety. Nick Fury tells the grieving and drunk Tony that Howard would want him to “smack the crap out of you for diving headfirst into a bottle, but it’s a funeral, you’re allowed, for today.” Anyone who is well versed in the Iron Man comics will make this connection and appreciate the reference to the classic story line.
Overall this was a fun comic to read. You don’t have to ponder the meaning of life, or question the state of the world. Sit back relax and watch as Tony Stark uses his brains and technology to outwit an arms dealer showing how much of a superhero he is. Then at the end the comic we watch the very real person struggle as to how he should confront his birth mother. Not bad for a twenty three page comic which is filler for a larger and longer storyline.