Greg Land’s shortcomings as an artist have been known for a while, and here he is in barrel-scraping form. His photo-tracing shots once again show faces that don’t match Kieron Gillen’s dialogue: Tony Stark’s refusal of a cocktail is depicted with the same vacant, celebrity photo grin as in the rest of the scene. This fundamental misunderstanding of body language takes reality out of “photorealism,” turning people into J.C. Penney mannequins. Furthermore, it ruins a mildly clever conceit–Stark’s “bimbo” date secretly being more observant than we’re led to believe–simply by putting her in soulless, Maxim style poses. Another page shows a random girl talking on her cell phone, similarly posing for no reason (she’s standing in a suspiciously vacant street). Dave Sim might have some objectionable views, but at least he would do something like this with some damn skill and a sardonic wink. Land’s work is just lazy.
Gillen’s script isn’t exactly dynamic, either. He opens Iron Man #1 with Stark flying above New York, opining about belief. In fact, he opened his Miss America short from Marvel Now! Point One the same way! That worked due to Jamie McKelvie’s stylish, bird’s-eye view of an alternate Manhattan. With Land, Gillen has no luck, as the opening pages settle for generic flying shots and an unremarkable view of New York’s skyline. Tellingly, it’s Iron Man #1’s best page. The rest of the issue has Stark and the various other characters’ in middle-to-short distance shots. There’s another scene late in the issue where Iron Man infiltrates a weapon dealer’s sales pitch. Land botches the visual by never establishing the size of the room nor how packed it is. Whether it’s only a dozen people or a massive, Apple-announcement crowd is unclear, muddling whatever point Gillen is making. If there’s one thing Uncanny Avengers did right in its first issue, it’s how John Cassaday (who Land is stylistically similar to) indicated scale for scenes like Charles Xavier’s funeral. The wide establishing shots he used for Wolverine standing before a portrait and the other X-Men created a sense of loss and failure. This, in turn, paved the way for the series’ conceit of Avengers and X-Men fighting side by side (though not in grand fashion). Here, Iron Man fights two Extremis-powered soldiers in an isolated bubble. Just another super-brawl.
Land’s art is good for one thing: showing how Iron Man #1 lacks any clear vision. Gillen has one story arc established, and no guiding aesthetic. There’s an unwillingness to do anything but rehash old Iron Man themes of conscience. He does so in hamfisted fashion by making a sequel to the marginal Warren Ellis/Adi Granov arc Extremis, killing off a character from that story casually. Where Gillen was able to breathe new life into Thor enemy Loki over in Journey Into Mystery, he seems hesitant to comb through what’s now become Tony Stark’s pet clichés. The end result is something timid and glacial. Between this and Uncanny Avengers, perhaps “Marvel Eventually!” would have been a better moniker.