Iron Man 2 opens on Friday, and if you’re excited about the Jon Favreau movie, you might want to pick up a collection of the comic book series that inspired it. Iron Man’s been appearing in comics more or less continuously since he was introduced in 1963′s Tales of Suspense #39, and there’s a hefty stack of books collecting the various series in which he’s starred.
The problem is that most of them aren’t very good, or are mostly of historical interest. Of all the major early Marvel characters, Iron Man was probably the one with the least strong ties to particular creators or a particular approach in the ’60s and early ’70s; even his first story was plotted by Stan Lee but scripted by his brother Larry Lieber, with some of his character design by Jack Kirby but some (as well as that first story’s artwork) by Don Heck. With a few exceptions, Iron Man has been a creative hot potato ever since, and generally a second-tier comic book; the character has usually seemed more useful as an ensemble player (in Avengers or in crossover stories like Civil War and World War Hulk) than on his own.
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Still, there are a handful of Iron Man stories that are in print, entertaining in their own right, and likely to make sense to somebody whose only previous exposure to the character are his movies. Here are three starting points: books a fan of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark could get a kick out of.
THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN VOL. 1 by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca
A forty-dollar hardcover (sometimes listed with “Omnibus” in its title)–although it’s easy enough to find for considerably less–this reprints the first 19 issues of Fraction and Larroca’s terrific current Iron Man series, whose look and feel share a lot with the first movie. (The same material is also available as a series of three paperbacks or slimmer hardcovers, subtitled “The Five Nightmares” and “World’s Most Wanted” books 1 and 2.) Enjoy the flirtatious dynamic between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts? Wonder what would happen if Tony’s laissez-faire attitude toward arms dealing caught up with him? Curious about the prospect of slipping him into the premise of “Flowers for Algernon”? This is the one for you.