In an age of company-wide reboots and crossovers leading into crossovers leading into half a year’s worth of tie-ins, superhero comics can be a chore to follow. All it takes, however, is an ambitious, self-contained mini-series to rejuvenate that rush of fandom—enter The Iron Age.
Plucked from present-day continuity woes, Iron Man stars in this excellent trip through Marvel Universe nostalgia, as he escapes a mad scientist’s world-ending plot (what else?), by stealing away in time. While searching for the various pieces he needs to return home, Tony Stark encounters his past self and must relive key moments in his life, including the Demon in a Bottle days, where he battles alcoholism. The plot also allows him to cross paths with teammates who are no longer alive in present day Marvel continuity, and Tony struggles between altering the past and staying the course to right present-day extinction-level events. Underused and unsung B and C-list heroes like Captain Britain and Luke Cage each have chapters devoted to them in this oversized hardcover, illustrated and written by a variety of talents, including Christos N. Gage, Louise Simonson, Lee Weeks, and Ben Oliver.
Yet, it’s not all about Tony Stark, no matter what his ego would like to believe, as he makes a stop during a pivotal moment in X-Men history: The Dark Phoenix Saga. There he enlists the aid of Dazzler of all characters, who has not yet graduated to full X-Man status. She proudly sports her classic disco look: plunging neckline, a disco ball for a necklace, and yes, those roller-skates. Together, they infiltrate the Hellfire Club just as the X-Men come crashing in. It’s a fun, unexpected team-up, capable only thanks to the outlandish (but often used) time-travel plot device.
The allure of superhero comics is escapism, and The Iron Age makes it only too easy to slip into the world of capes and tights, dialogue riddled with exclamation points, and SHRZZAK! sound effects. It’s a welcome diversion, over too quickly but with a finish successful enough to remind readers of the inherent escape when reading about a man flying in a suit of armor.