Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 5 years you have most likely seen either one of the Iron Man films or the Avengers and would be familiar with Iron Man. For those 3 people who are not, Iron Man aka Tony Stark is a millionaire playboy, industrialist and inventor who, through a string of events, now fights super villains, terrorists and evil corporations with the aid of a highly advanced suit of armour.
If you are unable to wait for Iron Man 3 and crave some Iron Man action then here are 5 Iron Man stories that I recommend you should read. I have tried to pick stories from various eras of the character, all of which are fan favourites. Just keep in mind that some of these stories are older than others and might be reflected in the art style and writing, but all of these are fan favourites and should be enjoyable.
As a bonus I have included a further reading section so if you enjoy any of these Iron Man stories you can continue reading.
Iron Man was in need of a story that would push the character into the future and Extremis happened to be just that. Not only did Extremis introduce a new suit it also changed the status quo of the character in a way that was fresh and not done before. The changes are set in motion when Iron Man is sent to recover the Extremis nano-tech technology from a villain significantly more powerful than him and in the process is left near death. Tony Stark has to make the choice of infecting himself with the Extremis nano-tech virus or die. This choice of infecting himself with the virus created a new status quo for the character as his armour technology is now integrated into his body, stored within his bones.
The story visits Tony’s past and present with a revised origin, which the first Iron Man film ended up borrowing from. Throughout the story the reader also learns more about Tony Stark, the man, as he contemplates whether his technology has benefited mankind and if he has been short-sighted, even as a futurist.
This story is very continuity light so it is a great place to start if you want to read Iron Man. This story is collected in Iron Man: Extremis or track down issues Iron Man (volume 4) #1-#6.
Demon in a Bottle
Considered to be one of the greatest Iron Man stories, Demon in a Bottle sees Iron Man face his greatest foe yet – alcoholism. The story sets up Tony Stark as an alcoholic and explores the effects of alcoholism, especially on a man with a high-tech suit of armour. As we see Tony fall deeper into his addiction the reader discovers his failings which flesh out the character beyond a billionaire playboy. While these themes have been explored many times today, back in the 1970’s this was ground breaking.
The story also has appearances from many of Iron Man’s rouges gallery – including Wiplash, Justin Hammer, The Beetle and many more as well appearances from heroes, Namor the Submariner and Ant-Man too. For icing on the cake Demon in a Bottle introduces readers to James Rohdes (played by Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2), who a few years later will become War Machine.
As it was written in the 70’s Demon in a Bottle has dated a little, mostly in dialogue, but is a strong concept that holds up today an well deserving of being called a classic.
This story is collected in Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle or track down issues #120-128. These issues are not cheap so I highly recommend the trade paperback or getting the issues through Comixology.
What if the designs for Iron Man were stolen and sold throughout the black market? That is fear that Tony Stark has and that is what happens in this story. Armor Wars shows the reader what would happen and how Tony Stark would go to any lengths to get those designs back, even if that means breaching international law. This means coming to blows not only with villains, but also good friend Captain America.
Armor Wars is very much a story about the danger if Iron Man’s technology fell into the wrong hands and the lengths that Tony Stark would go to do what is right, even if that damages the relationships with the people around him.
The entire story is is collected in two trade paperbacks with the first acting as a prologue to the second. Otherwise you can track down issues #215-232.
While Doctor Doom is one of the Fantastic Four’s greatest villains, he has also had a great rivalry with Iron Man. Doomquest is where it all begins, when Iron Man and Doctor Doom are whisked back in time to the days of King Arthur. Naturally Iron Man teems up with King Arthur while Doctor Doom teams up with the evil Morgan le Fay.
Unlike other stories mentioned before this is more of a straightforward superhero story but one that very fun and a favourite with many fans.
You can find this story collected in Iron Man vs Doctor Doom: Doomquest, otherwise you can track down Iron Man #149-#150. Additionally Iron Man vs Doctor Doom: Doomquest also collects the sequel, Recurring Knightmare.
The Five Nightmares
The Five Nightmares is the first arc of Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca’s long running collaboration on the character and one that began around the same time as the Iron Man film. People who have seen the film will see things they recognise, like Pepper looking more like Gwyneth Paltrow and Tony Stark’s characterisation being closer to that of Robert Downey Jr, but at the same time this series is very much planted in the Marvel Universe.
The story takes inspiration from Armor Wars (which is discussed above) with international terrorist Ezekiel Stane using Stark technology to preform various terrorist attacks. Stane’s motivation for these attacks being to avenge the death of his father. As these attacks are happening Tony falls into the fear that his technology appears to be more commonplace than he anticipated and because of that he might be outdated.
The Five Nightmares is collected in Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares or track down Invincible Iron Man #1-#7. Alternatively you can pick up The Invincible Iron Man vol.1 which collects issues #1-#25 in a lovely hardcover.
If you have enjoyed any of these stories and would like to read even more Iron Man here a few suggestions to continue reading.
As mentioned before Extremis was a change to the status quo of Iron Man making it a great jumping on point. If you enjoyed it and want to read more I suggest this reading order.
- Iron Man: Executive Program (#7-#12)
- Civil War (A Marvel Event but Iron Man plays a big part)
- Iron Man: Civil War (#13-#14 and other material)
- Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (#15-#18)
- Iron Man: Haunted (#21-#28 and Annual #1)
- Iron Man: With Iron Hands (#29-#32)
Demon in a Bottle / Armor Wars / Doomquest
I’ve lumped these together as they all had the same writing duo of David Michelinie and Bob Layton. The pair wrote a large portion of Iron Man issues with issues #116-157, 216-250, Annual #9-10. While not all of the issues are collected in trade there is an omnibus that has recently come out that collects issues #115-#157. There is also a sequel to Armor Wars known as Armor Wars II by John Byrne and John Romita Jr.
The Five Nightmares
The Five Nightmares was the start of Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca’s 60 issue run on the character, so if you enjoyed the The Five Nightmare you can continue on with…
- Invincible Iron Man Volume 2: World’s Most Wanted, Book 1 (#8-#13)
- Invincible Iron Man Volume 3: World’s Most Wanted, Book 2 (#14-#19)
Invincible Iron Man Volume 4: Stark Disassembled (#20-#24)
Invincible Iron Man Volume 5: Stark Resilient, Book 1 (#25-#28)
Invincible Iron Man Volume 6: Stark Resilient, Book 2 (collects #29-#33)
Invincible Iron Man Volume 7: My Monsters (Annual #1, #500.1, #500, and material from #503)
Invincible Iron Man Volume 8: The Unfixable (#501-#502, Free Comic Book Day 2010: Iron Man/Thor, Rescue #1, and material from #503)
Invincible Iron Man Volume 9: Demon (#510-#515)
Invincible Iron Man Volume 10: Long Way Down (#516-#520)
Invincible Iron Man Volume 11: The Future (#521-#527)
Keep in mind that the series after issue #33 reverted back to its original number to coincide with issue #500. The series is also collected in larger hardcover editions which collect 25 issues at a time.
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Trevor Van As
Trevor Van As is the founder of How to Love Comics and has loved comics all his life. When he's not reading or talking about comics he can be found eating frozen yogurt and dancing like no one is watching.