The events leading up to the birth of Iron Man are revealed for the first time...

(Panini Books)

PERHAPS one of the biggest retcons in the history of Marvel Comics starts here, a gamechanger of epic proportions which redefines not only the character of Tony (Iron Man) Stark but also Earth’s position in the wider Marvel Universe.

It’s easy to run with the “everything you thought you knew is wrong” angle to drum up interest in a series, but unless the story delivers on every level it will soon be dismissed as a cheap publicity stunt and itself written out of continuity at the first opportunity. That doesn’t seem likely based on the issues collected here.

What writer Kieron Gillen has introduced into Stark’s back story actually makes perfect sense in every capacity, and at the end of the day, that’s why it works.

Having resolved to broaden his horizons by joining the Guardians of the Galaxy in outer space, Stark is suddenly arrested and placed on trial for his role in the destruction of the Phoenix Force (in the epic Avengers Vs X-Men), the immensely powerful cosmic entity worshipped as a god by many cultures.

He is only saved from execution by the intervention of 451, a former Rigellan Recorder robot which has now gone rogue, and which reveals hitherto unexplored details surrounding Tony’s pre-natal existence.

It seems that his parents Howard and Maria had struggled to bring a child to full term, and the embryonic Tony seems destined to die in the womb despite his father’s efforts to save him, a mission which took him across the planet and into discussion with many of the prominent figures in science, the supernatural and beyond.

But hope lies in the memory banks of 451, at this point a prison of alien mobsters operating out of Las Vegas, and Stark puts together a team of specialist freelancers to rescue the robot and save his unborn son…

Mixing hardcore sci-fi with heist action sequences, and with Tony absent from the extensive flashbacks, this is far from your typical Iron Man story, but it definitely doesn’t suffer as a result.

It’s difficult to add something new to a character and it not come across as gratuitous, but Gillen is ably crafting a narrative which enriches and expands upon that which we already know about Tony Stark, while propelling him in a dramatic new direction for the future.