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Gilbert and Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic after Thirty Years
Annette R. Federico, Sandra M. Gilbert
Annette LaPointe
Iron Man, Vol. 1: Believe - Kieron Gillen, Greg Land Read in single issues.

I expected Greg Land's art to be a problem, and it was. I didn't expect Kieron Gillen's writing to be a problem, but it was.

The best writing in the world would struggle against Land's art, with its squinty-eyed men, its complete inability to depict any convincing human expressions (especially for women, who are limited either to smiling maniacally or looking like they're faking arousal), and its objectifying poses. It is, to be fair, pretty good at the technofantasia -- Iron Man in space looks quite nice.

Gillen's writing here, however, would drag down better art (it is not possible to drag down Land's art). This entire story is going through the motions, without verve or distinction, nothing entertaining, let alone anything that feels urgent to say. Tony Stark hunts down rogue Extremis installations and has self-centered or outright creepy interactions with Pepper Potts, who seems overly concerned with Tony's personal life for someone who is now the CEO of a company unaffiliated with him and also has a boyfriend. Maya Hansen is killed off in the first issue. The third issue features a bunch of women whom Extremis has turned into Dracula's wives: albino, mindless, and demonic. The conclusion of the arc is Tony naming his new AI after Pepper to remind him of earthly ties while he travels in space. Gillen lampshades this by having Tony realize this is creepy, but frankly I do not think either of them realizes how creepy it is, or how much it plays into sexist associations of women with earth, home, and care-taking, and men with exploration and adventure. Meanwhile, the entire arc of Tony's concerns about technology and interest in space exploration falls flat, both because Matt Fraction's run just ended the exact same way (Tony going off on a outer space trip) and because off in Jonathan Hickman's Avengers, space exploration is not only well-launched, but Tony has made a casual trip to Mars and been captured by galaxy-traveling world-destroying space aliens. Other people can't be trusted with the Extremis, but Tony has no ideas how to use it -- except to save a brown damsel in distress dying of cancer, who of course needs a white knight to swoop in with advanced technology to save her. Gillen's attempts at wide scope feels rote and his attempts at intimacy feel ham-handed.

Particularly bad bits:

* Apparently, recovering alcoholic Tony Stark keeps bottles of champagne around in his apartment.

* Tony Stark, notoriously paranoid about his tech and also engaged in a quest to recover and sequester Extremis, works on Iron Man designs at a poolside surrounded by women in bikinis, because no woman in a bikini has ever been a corporate spy. Then, because there just can't be enough of the male gaze in this scene, Greg Land frames the panels so that the Tony/Pepper conversation is dominated by the image of Pepper's ass.

* Pepper's expression as she asks, "Be honest, Tony. Do I look the same to you?" Gillen is obviously trying to suggest that Tony is using casual sex to avoid intimacy and that his contempt for the women he sleeps with deforms his emotional relationship with Pepper. This is undermined by the writing (in which Pepper's attitude towards Tony's one-night stands is even more misogynistic than Tony's) and then it is flat-out blown to bits by the art because ohmygod just look at it.

What worked:

* The new sulky adolescent AI amused me.