Nothing on shelves this week feels particularly exciting as I eagerly await the upcoming AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 25. But let’s explore some books I’m not reading and see what they have to offer until next Wednesday comes.
Yoda # 7
Marvel. Marc Guggenheim, Writer. Alessandro Miracolo, Artist. Annalisa Leoni, Colors. Joe Caramagna, Letters. Mikey J. Basso, Danny Khazem, and Mark Paniccia, Editors.
We open in a swamp down and Dagobah, where it bubbles all the time like a giant carbonated Soda…S-O-D-A, Soda. There’s the little runt in his house, talking to a ghost in this comic about Yoda. Y-O-D-A, Yoda.
What a disappointment, man. I love Yoda. This comic gives us nothing of anything that makes the character interesting. This is the second Guggenheim Star Wars title I’ve read and I’m not thrilled by the trend.
As far as accessibility goes, this issue is easy to follow but that’s because it feels like a random episode of a cartoon. There are no stakes to be seen. The big shocking major threat revealed toward the end of the issue is that Count Dooku is going to build a big droid, which just menas more cannon fodder for lightsabers to tear through. We know what happens in the Clone Wars. We’ve got a hundred episodes about that conflict. It’s well-trod territory.
Hello Urbane Turtle faithful and newcomers who may have seen this after rage-clicking my last post about the Spider-Man marriage!
Welcome back to another NO CONTEXT COMICS! My semi-regular column where I take a look at 3 new comics I don’t read. Should every comic be written to be someone’s first comic? Does context matter? Is there a good way to lure new readers while catering to longtime fans? These are all the questions one must answer when you’re a big shot comics critic like me.
As I have shared in recent Turtle Club newsletters, it has been a difficult few months to make time for any writing. I am hoping things begin to clear up and I am able to keep doing this more regularly.
But in the meantime, enjoy my rambling about three books I picked at random.
Have you been reading Amazing Spider-Man over the last year? If you haven’t, Dark Web aside, you’re missing out on some of the very best Spider-Man comics to be published in well over a decade.
You’d never guess that by going on Twitter, where the conversations around the title center completely around whether Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson are married or not. Let’s put it out there—I’m pro-Spider-Marriage and am still angry that One More Day happened and that the marriage was thrown out via a deal with the literal devil. But moreso, angry at how it was thrown out, which was among the worst and least thematically appropriate Spider-comics ever made.
One More Day is almost old enough to drink now, and frankly, we’ve all got to move on sometime. I jumped around and floated in and out of Dan Slott’s historic run on the title, which ranged from baffling to excellent, but never good enough to reel me in. I also felt like there was never a good jumping on point. (Do jumping on points even matter? I explore that question in my regular No Context Comics column, hopefully returning soon!) I dipped my toes back in with Nick Spencer’s and Ryan Ottley’s relaunch, which got me very excited after a great debut issue. Perhaps part of what got me to buy in on that issue was its ending, a triumphant kiss between Peter and MJ. They were back together!
But Spencer’s run quickly became a convoluted, senseless, disastrous mess (read more about that here). I was ready to give up on Spidey altogether. But after reading the first arc of Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr’s (along with letterer Joe Caramagna and colorist Marcio Menyz) run, an exceptionally personal and emotionally taught crime thriller with Tombstone, I was back on board, despite being sad to see MJ shuffled back out of Peter’s life.
Most frustrating of all was the “Mystery Box” approach to those first few issues of the run. The book opened with a page of Spider-Man screaming in a crater, holding a strange device and his costume torn up. The marketing asked us “What did Peter do?” After a six-month timeskip, Peter returned to NYC after being away for undisclosed reasons. He was isolated and had seemingly pushed everyone out of his life including Aunt May, his roommate, and The Fantastic Four. Worst of all? MJ was apparently with a new man named Paul, and seemed to have had children with him. Why would they separate Spidey and MJ after the last run spent so much time retconning so many old stories to clean the slate for them?
All those misgivings colored my enjoyment of what has been a tremendous run of stories. After Tombstone, there was a great two-issue fight with The Vulture, followed by a Hobgoblin story that evoked the best of Roger Stern and JRjr’s original stories with the character. And even the hints of what we see of MJ throughout this story, her explanation to Peter that her relationship with Paul and to the children was “about responsibility” showed a clear understanding of MJ’s character and her background as elucidated by Tom DeFalco.
Here we have a somewhat belated entry into the semi-weekly No Context Comics! I’ve been busy outside of Urbane Turtle dot com, lately. You can find my spotlight review for this week’s thrilling new series, ALL AGAINST ALL, over at The Comics Beat. I also had the chance to interview TMNT writer Tom Waltz and editor Charles Beacham about the super fun event series, THE ARMAGEDDON GAME.
I also had a couple days off from the day job, but spent them doing nothing productive whatsoever other than watching a few movies and the Rise of the TMNT series on Netflix. You see, I am teetering on the brink of ~*~ burn out ~*~ and some days of total vegging were paramount.
This week we’ve got a new superhero, fantasy misfits, and a longtime pro hero. So let’s get into it, shall we?
Gene Yuen Lang has written some of my favorite superhero stories of the last few years, and DC has seen a dearth of new superhero creations in the last ten years. So I should be excited by the prospect of the Monkey King, which draws from Chinese mythology to introduce a new player into the fold! Yang’s authentic voice deserves to be heard above the din of the corporate cape books. And yet I have been remiss in even looking twice at Monkey Prince, Yang’s latest mainstream series.
Despite Marvel’s reputation as being more “grounded” or “street level,” it has no shortage of characters pulled right out of mythic pantheons. In that way, Monkey Prince as an idea feels more at home in the Marvel U. DC has plenty of godly beings but most of them are DC originals, not pantheons or public domain heroes. Marvel is much more willing to do that kind of thing, historically.
There’s a LOT going on in this issue, and it feels very disorienting as a new reader. There are general ideas that feel familiar–Metropolis, Lexcorp, Bizarro Clones, and even the “Journey to the West” iconography (thanks, Dragonball!), but a lot that took a bit to put together. But everything needed to get caught up is here on the page.
Marcus, the main character’s, parents are two-bit henchpeople, and Marcus has to deal with that while juggling being a normal kid and also learning how to be a hero. His encounter with Supergirl here gives the reader a firm idea of his character, impetuous, petulant, and frankly, kind of unlikable!
There’s a big twist on the last page that gave me a big laugh. The villain of this piece is genuinely creepy and his attack that starts the issue is unsettling.
I get the point of making a young male hero kind of a jerk but it does make it hard to root for him, even if he is trying to learn. I’m certainly willing to give Yang the benefit of the doubt that Marcus is growign and learning, after all, his parents are crooks. It’s not like he’s had a strong role model.
Crossovers can get exhausting but I did get a little bit of a thrill to see this tie-in to the Devil Nezha and Mark Waid’s work over on World’ Finest/Batman vs. Robin/Lazarus Planet. It’s not ridiculously intrusive (yet, anyway; the next issue seems to be a full tie-in) but it makes all of these new elements feel important and tied into the larger DCU. Something a lot of new ideas in superhero universes fail to do authentically.
The art is serviceable if unremarkable all around. There are flashes of inventiveness and humor, particularly toward the end when the hero is transformed, that play into the Monkey Prince’s irreverent personality. I also really liked to see that most of the creative team is of Asian descent and their names credited in script as well as English.
Overall–this felt like a standard issue of a monthly comic book. Neither particularly good nor particularly bad. A perfectly serviceable diversion, with the bonus of introducing new representation.
A caveat that I think is important here: I have never played Dungeons and Dragons or other tabletop RPGs. I have passing familiarity with some of the concepts, which let me generally understand some of the ideas here. I don’t know that the extreme number of word balloons here are specifically referencing Tabletop games but they certainyl seem to be. And boyoboy are there so many words here. And references to concepts that are not explained. And explaining powers and how powers work like it’s a gosh darn encyclopedia.
I found this book so hard to get through that it was a wonder to me that it exists? There is no compelling character within these pages, or even a plot that I can decipher. These characters seem to exist to talk about going on quests and to research magic we mostly do not see. It’s a real slog.
The art is mostly okay with a few truly standout moments. There is a page in here where a character stops time and speeds past other characters that displayed the idea of superspeed or time manipulation better than almost anything else I’ve seen in comics. The first panel is a shot of three characters. That is then cut through by a second panel with another caracter’s face in profile. In the third panel, the one who interrupted is suddenly standing behind the others, far in the distance. The way Romboli depicts the character slicing through the gutter where we usually read the passage of time is shockingly effective. The fight scene on the train toward issue’s end is well-staged and easy to follow (a trait not to be undervalued in comics!) with a dynamic sense of movement.
But beyond that there was nothing much here to draw me in. Romboli does the best she can with some exhausting exposition, giving the characters plenty of emotion as they shout about things I didn’t understand.
By issue’s end I just can’t help but wonder who this is for. I would like to see more of Romboli with something more to work with, though.
Captain Marvel #44
Marvel. Kelly Thompson, Writer. Sergio Dávila, Artist. Arif Prianto, Colors. Clayton Cowles, Letters.
Kelly Thompson is a writer I have heard a lot of good things about that I always intend to look more into. But there’s always more books to read and I never get to it. She’s maintained an impressive run on this Captain Marvel series, which I am sure speaks to the quality of her work.
At 44 issues of a character older than me, I don’t expect to know all the ins-and-outs of what is going on. Particularly when it seems to be a spiritual sequel to an old Claremont X-Men story. I am sure X-Men fans are happy to see this (or maybe not, X-Men fans are never happy). Ever since becoming Captain Marvel it has seemed like Marvel has tried to distance her from the mutants, despite her having had significant relationships with them during Claremont’s tenure.
I’m not an X-Men aficionado, but I am familiar enough with the broad strokes to appreciate Carol’s opening monologue here, about enjoying getting to bust on Rogue and the Brood simultaneously, in another life. I’m also able to appreciate how Thompson effectively builds this grand space drama around decades of publishing history to effectively tell a story of growth and empowerment over past trauma.
In many ways, this issue is a stellar example of how to tell superhero comics in a long-running shared universe. Just enough mentions of the past to orient newer readers while spurring interest in the old stories. It doesn’t spend pages explaining those events in detail, boring die-hards. And it moves Carol forward as a character forward and illustrates how she has grown and changed since she was Binary and Ms. Marvel. She’s no longer the B-List side character in a team book. Now she’s a blockbuster headliner, and how does that change how she approaches the things that have harmed her?
I really enjoyed this, despite being years behind on Captain Marvel. Thompson has a clear vision for who Carol Danvers is and where she has come from. The art from Sergio Dávila is standard superhero fare. I particularly like how he illustrates Carol’s powers and the almost Super Saiyan way it blows her hair around.
Perhaps I need to stop overlooking Captain Marvel, and get down to finally reading more of Thompson’s work in full.
Iron Man is at his most compelling when Tony Stark hates himself. It is his most important character trait. After his near death experience, Tony Stark looked at the life he led, the things he accomplished, and hated what he saw. Deeply and fully. That is what compelled him to become Iron Man. The best Iron Man stories, on the comics page and on screen, recognize and build from that place.
Everything else: the arrogance, the smart remarks, the attempts to control everything, it stems from this foundational hatred.
Tony Stark is not, fundamentally, an altruistic man, though he knows he should be. He hates that it does not come naturally to him.
Writer Christopher Cantwell beautifully explores this self-loathing and in doing so, tells one of the most compelling and human Iron Man stories of all time. In the Books of Korvac, the epic nearly 2-year story that accounts for the bulk of his run, Cantwell crafts a definitive Iron Man story without aping the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Robert Downey, Jr’s performance.
Instead, Cantwell’s Iron Man is an unabashedly broad, high concept superhero tale where Iron Man merges with cosmic power that gives him near omnipotent power. It uses superhero iconagraphy and cosmic scope to dramatize Tony’s inner turmoil in the way the best superhero stories reflect the human condition through grandiose action.
Like the Warren Ellis/Adi Granov Extremis storyline that defined much of what makes modern Iron Man, Cantwell is joined for most of the run by an artist who renders with a humanist depth and realism. Spanish artist Cafu is of a similar mold to Granov, imbuing depth and realism to the technology and architecture of Tony Stark’s world. But where Extremis was concerned with putting Iron Man in a realistic 21st Century context, Cafu takes that same verisimilitude and propels Iron Man far beyond Earth. Cafu’s artistic sensibility, his precision use of light and shadow, is critical to keep Tony Stark’s all-too-human concerns front and center. Frank D’Armata’s colors complement Cafu’s pencils and rendering, giving the Iron Man suit a sleek but whethered sheen.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Tony spends the early portion of this run in a subconscious slide toward his death. Being Iron Man has become his addictive escape. He is dealing with the emotional fallout of Dan Slott’s run on the book, which saw Tony’s body rebuilt through cloning and his mind restored through a computer backup. He’s left to ponder existential questions of life and death.
Tony looks inside for an answer and sees nothing within himself, as made literal in his hallucination aboard Galactus the World Eater’s worldship, Taa II, where he absorbs the all-powerful Power Cosmic. As his body absorbs and merges with the Power Cosmic, he sees visions of himself. Alone. Unnoticed. Crying in an opulent house, his father and family nowhere to be found. This is ultimately what Tony sees when he looks in the mirror. Not a hero. Not a friend. Just a boy, desperate to be noticed and without love.
The perception of people, frustrated with his failures and ungrateful for his heroism, becomes Tony’s only metric to measure himself.
In response, Tony castigates himself in a self-humbling journey to “reconnect” with the common man. An egotistical bravado that he can somehow learn through performative actions the secrets of lesser men.
In walks Patsy Walker, the superhero known as Hellcat. Patsy points out early on that Tony is newly obsessed with how people perceive him and his actions.
“This new humility you’ve got going on? It’s still your ego in different clothes.”
The inclusion of Patsy, one of Marvel’s most human characters, pulls Tony down to Earth. Her openness to talking about her frailties and mental health issues draws Tony to be honest with his own.
By the time they face the threat of old Avengers foe Michael Korvac, Iron Man is at a crossroads. He sees his only value as dying in battle to save others. Patsy warns him that this deathwish is not altruism but an escape from self-loathing. She knows that temptation all-too-well.
God is a Verb
Iron Man’s foil and the primary antagonist throughout this run is Michael Korvac. Originally from a future where an alien race known as the Badoon conquered humanity, Korvac sold out his human allies for a position in the alien’s military. The Badoon quickly turned on Korvac and eventually punished and tortured him. They removed his lower half and converted him into a cyborg. He later traveled to the past and absorbed the Power Cosmic, making him nearly omnipotent. His abuse of that power in his misguided attempt to save humanity put him at odds with the Avengers. During their battle, he killed all of the heroes before returning them to life and destroying himself in grief.
At the start of Cantwell’s run, Korvac is revived in an android body by a mysterious group of scientists. He quickly escapes and seeks out the power to regain his former godly status. As a first act, Korvac poses as a scientist to garner funding from Stark for his research into harvesting the energy from lightning.
Korvac introduces himself to Tony as Teilhard Fuller, a mashup of two 20th century science-minded philosophers. The first, Teilhard De Chardin, a Jesuit priest and scientist nearly excommunicated from the Catholic Church because of his scientific research and rejected by scientists because of his spiritual conception of physics. De Chardin believed the cosmos were working not toward a destructive entropy but to a full spiritual unity. In his book, The Phenomenon of Man, he wrote,
However convergent it be, evolution cannot attain to fulfilment on earth except through a point of dissociation. With this we are introduced to a fantastic and inevitable event which now begins to take shape in our perspective, the event which comes nearer with every day that passes: the end of all life on our globe, the death of the planet, the ultimate phase of the phenomenon of man.
In his Catholic thinking, this implies a turning toward a higher power. Evolution was a movement toward fulfillment of God and creation.
The second name in Korvac’s alias references R. Buckminster Fuller, who, like De Chardin, believed society was marching toward a utopic fulfillment. He believed that society had reached a point where the accumulation of knowledge and resources extracted from the earth, had attained a critical level. He posited that competition for necessities had become unnecessary and cooperation was the optimum survival strategy. He declared: “selfishness is unnecessary and hence-forth unrationalizable … War is obsolete.” Though Fuller’s futurist bent was more in the area of sociology, both philosophers envisioned a utopia of equality.
The names are no coincidence. Korvac seeks to attain godhood to enact his utopian ideals. Individual consciousness would be eradicated, physical differences eliminated. It is, for the Neon Genesis Evangelion fans out there, a version of its Human Instrumentality. Utopia via the death of the individual. Cosmic, universal peace. Under one man’s vision. Without self.
Naturally, Tony Stark rejects this idea outright. Cease to be Tony Stark? Out of the question. Even for all his faults and self-loathing, Tony believes himself to be among humanity’s greatest.
The Drink or the Dream?
One of Tony’s great faults is his addictive proclitivities, which manifests in both substance abuse and obsessive behavior. He has become addicted to self sacrifice and risky behavior. His obsessive need to take Korvac alone results in being severely beaten and nearly killed.
It is enough to make him realize he cannot go it alone. Iron Man gathers a ragtag group of heroes who dub themselves his “Space Friends.” Gargoyle, Misty Knight, Scarlet Spider, Frog-Man, Hellcat, and War Machine, travel through space with Iron Man to stop Korvac.
After his first disastrous encounter with Korvac, Tony’s allies, under his direction, fuse Tony with his armor to keep him alive. To deal with the pain he has a controlled morphine drip installed into his armor. Tony knows it is a desperate measure that could prove disastrous. But his need to prevail over Korvac, to prove his heroism, drives him beyond anything else.
It is a compromise of one of his most sacred vows.
The drink … or the dream? In this moment, I remember that question. Something I asked myself a long time ago. Something I still have to ask myself time and again. I am an addict. I know that. I know what these drugs could do to me. But I’ll die right now without them. My blood-brain barrier has been damaged… The drink…or the dream? The drink…for the dream?
As he is fused to his technology he compromises his sobriety and thus his humanity. It is a step that draws him even closer to Korvac, himself a fusion of man and machine.
Tony awakes from his cyborg operation newly convicted. The fear and doubt replaced with resolute, obsessive purpose that closes him off from his allies.
“I am alive. I am angry. I am no longer apologizing for anything. Not my machines. Not my decisions. Not my deeds. I am going to win this fight.”
The clarity of mission drives him to view his new allies not as friends but tools. While they joined Iron Man to save the universe, they had no intention of being his soldiers.
While things get contentious, Iron Man is abruptly teleported off the ship. He arrives on a mysterious planet, where a group of stranded beings from across the universe have formed a cooperative society. The only catch? They are terrorized by seemingly random attacks from giant Ultimo robots, native biosynthetic organisms. The threat is omnipresent but ultimately seems to bind the disparate beings into a tight-knit community. Tony eventually discovers that this community is led by his old enemy Stilt Man, which naturally leads to the requisit superhero fisticuffs.
Ultimately, Tony is won over. On this stranded planet, Tony is forced to rely not on Iron Man but Tony Stark. He comes to see the world as a chance to restart.
As Stilt Man summarizes:
“Everyone here lost everything. People. Purpose. But also…responsibilities. Not just to others, but also to some…version of ourselves we believed necessary.”
Tony begins to embrace this simple life, even as the morphine drip becomes a crutch. In a psychic conversation with Hellcat (who rediscovered her psychic powers earlier in the run) he explains his new sense of peace. If he has to sacrifice himself on this world, defeating the Ultimos for good and preserving this paradise, it would be a good death. More noble than a great battle to save Earth where the public would always doubt if he acted from altruism or for recognition.
Hellcat is glad Tony has found a kind of peace. Stripped of all of the wealth and celebrity, Iron Man cannot be driven by headlines.
“Before everything else, you have to be Iron Man. Here you’re just the guy I knew was underneath the entire time. The selfless one. A hero. And a friend.”
“A hero and a friend, I like that.”
The stranded planet’s utopian society is revealed to be a lie. The Ultimos are not a force of nature but have been intentionally programmed by Stilt Man to attack the town at regular intervals in order to bind them to common purpose.
Stilt Man’s hubris, like Korvac’s, makes him believe he can create a perfect society if people just operated under his control. He needed to prove that he could be a leader and, more importantly, that he could create something good.
Tony chafes as much at the artificiality of Stilt Man’s world as the human toll. And sees too much of himself in Stilt Man’s delusion.
Stilt Man’s mission is no different than Korvac’s, a picture in microcosm of the greater universal conflict Iron Man has been fighting. The same arrogance and temptation to prove one’s human worth. It is the same conflict within Tony.
Iron Man falls into the same patterns and temptations when he later absorbs the Power Cosmic to stop Korvac’s ascendance. The godly power allows him to reshape the world into his image and set things how he believes they could be.
The Iron God
In the first issue, Iron Man fights an old enemy and destroys one of the last copies of the Gutenberg Bible in existence. It is a destruction of an old conception of God.
Cantwell’s Iron Man is awash in spiritual themes, from his refrences to Teilhard de Chardin, to quotes from various gospels. It is not a question of religion versus science. But rather, the danger of a religious view of science. The destructive conception that one man with the right math and a big enough brain can fix everything.
The last few issues see Tony ascend to godhood aboard Taa II along with Korvac. When they emerge on the other side, their battle rages across the universe. Both men utterly convinced of their righteousness and worthiness to wield omnipotent power.
Ultimately, the battle of gods is interrupted by the arrival of The Living Tribunal, creation’s avatar of balance itself, along with every other abstract entity in the cosmos that represents a facet of reality. They capture Korvac for the threat he poses to existence itself. They let Iron Man go free.
The Books of Korvac seemingly closed, Iron Man turns his attention back home.
Believing his purpose just and his ideas infallible, Tony proceeds to reshape the world despite the protestations of his allies in the Avengers and the Space Friends. His first act, to show the promise of his ideas, is to share his genius intellect with all the people of New York.
His alternative to Korvac’s forced unity is to overcome the barriers of small mindedness that stand in the way of his grand solutions.
In effect, he turns everyone else into him, too, because who wouldn’t want to be Tony Stark?
When he gives his intellect to everyone in New York, he doesn’t see it as stripping away choice. It is a gift to grant others a better way of living.
Of course, the irony is that Tony Stark also hates himself. By using his godly powers to extend his mind, he inflicts his own misery upon others.
It is a striking allegory of extreme depressive episodes and the addictive experience. The absence of self-love radiates outward, tearing down those around him.
When the Space Friends confront Tony, the Iron God kills them all in horrific fashion with the wave of his hands. Their deaths do not register on his conscience until he approaches Patsy. Patsy Walker, the tether to his humanity for the last few months, drags the Iron God down to Earth once again.
“I guess it’s my turn huh? At least I’ll go out a hero. And a friend.”
The words break through Tony’s delusions. Reminded of the brief glimpse of the man on the stranded planet, he stops in his tracks and breaks down in tears.
Patsy transports them into Tony’s mindscape where Tony reflects on his misdeeds. He could bring everyone back, make them forget everything. It would be easy to make it like their deaths never happened. But once again, Patsy anchors him. “But it did happen. You did this.” Tony operating under the assumption there were no consequences to his actions, like he was a god even before he ascended, has long been the root of his destructive tendencies.
Pretense stripped, in the vulnerable space of his own mind, Tony admits that it was fear that drove him and put him at odds with friends and allies. Fear that they were standing in the way, not of heroism, but of his chance to make his life worth something. Being Iron Man allowed his better angels a vehicle for doing good even as the man inside became emptier.
Every grand attempt to make things right ended in disaster because Tony Stark was still there, no matter what good Iron Man accomplished.
Patsy encourages Tony to bring those he killed back, but make them remember what he had done so he could not run away from it and forget. Only by accepting his failures could he move on from them. Tony brings back those he killed and apologizes. As they watch, he relinquishes the power cosmic. An addiction overcome.
Like any addiction, there is consequence and withdrawal. His friends walk away without a word, leaving Tony alone. As he walks through Central Park, no longer all-powerful, the delayed symptoms of his morphine withdrawl hits all at once and he collapses. He knows his death will come.
But as he passes out an escaped Korvac returns. He announces his new plan. Universal balance through universal annihilation.
Expecting a fight, Korvac is thrown off by Tony’s weakness and hallucinatory rambling. Instead of killing his hated enemy, Korvac falters back. A vulnerable Tony asks Korvac, “When was the last time you were a human being?” Korvac explained that in his time humanity was slaughtered. “But not you,” Tony pointed out. What did he do to survive? What deal did he make?
It threw Korvac into a rage. Stark mocked him. “Just know that this is how you had to beat me….This has been your thing since the beginning. You were smart but you always needed more. A security blanket. Protective alien masters. Android body. The world’s electricity. Cosmic power. You always had to have an ace… How long have you been scared to lose?”
The words were pointed at Korvac but they were just as much a curse upon himself. He thought that if he had just one more advantage he would finally fill the emptiness, overcome the fear of his own ignonimous existence. But even control over reality itself didn’t fix anything. He understood Korvac’s temptation now.
Tony challenged Korvac. “Stop hiding. Be a #&%#ing man for once in your life. Try it. Or are you too scared?”
Korvac relinquished the power, just as Tony did. He wanted the satisfaction of killing Stark with his bear hands. As he beat his hated enemy bloody, he demanded to know why Stark wasn’t fighting back. He admitted he was dying even if Korvac didn’t kill him.
Tony beaten and bruised at his feet, Korvac looked at his bloodied hands and up into the night sky, where the remains of his Power Cosmic streaked past. Suddenly, the meaninglessness of his vendetta, the delusions of cosmic mastery, were clear.
The final moments of the Books of Korvac are a powerful emotional payoff to this deceptively deep and introspective look at Tony Stark that uses the full tapestry of the Marvel Universe as allegory for Tony’s demons. Korvac lifts Tony and carries him to a hospital in a series of silent panels. Cafu draws Korvac with a succession of emotions ranging from confusion, to anger, to sorrow, and, ultimately, a crushing emptiness.
After leaving Tony at the hospital, Korvac turns around and climbs a ladder to the top of a building. For a moment he looks out at the horizon. He steps forward, and is gone.
Months later, Tony is driven to a rehab center by Patsy. Because of his relationships, he is able to accept his failures and weaknesses and work to heal them, even as Korvac succumbs.
Everything that Iron Man went through, the reality warping, the super villains and space travel, it all acted to literalize the human struggle of addiction and depression. This has always been the greatest potential for superhero storytelling, to make grand the personal battles we all face. Tony’s inner conflict is reflected in the external battle with Korvac, magnified a thousand fold.
In the story’s final moment, Tony reads a letter of support.
Just thinking of you. You can do this.
Tony smiles and looks out the window. He realizes at last that the world is not the empty, lonely place he remembered it being.
Ultimately, the solution to his self-hatred was not to become a god, or to fix everything to his liking. It was always about being a hero.