Vol 4: Scott Snyder’s Iron Man Noir
Iron Man Noir #1-4
Marvel’s Noir series was weird. With Marvel being a relatively bright world, an entire banner of books under what is the literal antithesis of brightness seemed an odd choice. Sure, there was the MAX universe, and even the Marvel Knights had grit to it, but to go all out into the dark seemed like a misstep.
Which it was. While certain books maintained at least the look of noir, no single one really ever captured the spirit. There aren’t happy endings in noir, and the good guys rarely win. Centering the entire series around absolute good guys then, presents a flaw only truly solved by completely inverting characters to fit some more complicated darkness. Which Marvel didn’t do.
So noir was a misnomer. That general conceit aside, that push to take bygone eras in stride and create an “Elseworlds” type world for well-known characters to play around in did bear at least one piece of pulpy fruit. One Doc Savag-ed bit of citrus, likely chasing a shot of mid-level whisky, in Scott Snyder’s Iron Main Noir.
Scott Snyder is a good fit with billionaire playboys. His runs on both Detective Comics and Batman prove that. So Iron Man, being the Marvel equivalent to the caped crusader, is a natural fit. Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are damaged people, from broken backgrounds, trying to do their best. I’d wager to say that Scott Snyder could very easily slip into the iron suit should he ever hang up the cape and cowl.
What’s unique about both Snyder’s approach and the story overall is the lightness. Aside from the aforementioned misnomer, this story really feels like a breezy adventure, not far removed from Indiana Jones. As any reader of Snyder’s can attest, “breezy” is rarely the word to best describe him. Some of this will likely fall into Marvel creative dictating a certain tone, but more than that, this is some pretty impressive versatility coming from an already impressive writer.
Basically adopting the pulp McGuffin policy, the story follows an alternate Tony Stark, James Rhodes and Pepper Potts as they seek out a massive energy source in a fallen Atlantis. On the way, they’re aided by the Submariner, and have to face off with both Barons Zemo and Strucker, along with their Nazi goons. A clever twist on the villains here allows for Snyder’s recurring rumination on inheritance, particularly in regards to fathers and sons, but even that weighty subject is tackled lightly.
In short, this is fun! There’s not a lot of heft to the story, it’s very quickly told, and even quicker read, but very well illustrated. This is both literal and figurative, as while the script is deft, Manuel Garcia’s pencils here completely capture the adventure it details. The violence is present, as it is a World War 2 adjacent story (you can almost hear the Wilhelm Screams), but it’s never ruminated on. Deaths never really matter, as the hero is going to win, and we know it from page 1. Again, not at all a staple of noir, but absolutely a staple of the stories Snyder is basing this around.
What we have here, in some ways, as an “Elseworlds” Scott Snyder. One that instead of skulking through the back alleys of Gotham, flies through the filled skies of New York. The talent either way is monumental, but seeing it through the Marvel filter is both interesting and rewarding. Comics legend Robert Frost once wrote of “The Road Not Taken,” and like him, wish Scott Snyder could travel both. But since he cannot, at least we have this one piece of what could have been. Or, just maybe, what might one day be again.