Now that Kieron Gillen's hit us with the big twist, it's time to see where he'll run with it. #18 marks the beginning of "Iron Metropolitan" and, as expected, it's mostly the writer planting seeds for what's to come. While it's clear who the imminent threat will be, Gillen is able to handle the connection between the Starks in a manner which honestly leaves us guessing what will happen between them. There's already disagreements, but is it enough to make Arno turn into the big bad? It's something we'd assume given Iron Man 2020, but again, it's being addressed in a way which leaves numerous doors wide open. This issue is barely scratching the surface of their relationship and it's obviously an intentional choice given all that's now occupying Tony's mind. The early twist is an obvious one, but it serves a greater purpose and propels the debate between how they want to approach fixing the world. There's another twist, however, you likely won't see coming. Not at all.
The art by Joe Bennett and Guru eFx excels in the first course of extravagant events. The science fiction-heavy scene allows the two to show off how they can tackle all of the high tech inventions Stark can bring to the table -- be ginormous creations or just another armor. This talented work on technology is visible yet again when 451's less-than-ideal status is revealed. The art isn't nearly as impressive in the following segment -- which takes up a fair chunk of the issue -- but eFx's coloring helps make the final moments shine.
Despite the commendable artwork in the opening scene, there are two panels where Tony and Arno are simply colored in and sporting bold outlines. Having the duo appear two dimensional in such a detailed setting was definitely an odd look.
Personally, I would have preferred if the opening scene was cut a bit shorter so Gillen could give us more panel time with Arno and Stark. Despite the bigger picture, it's obvious the relationship between Arno and Tony will be the heart and soul of this story. Yes, there's huge goals ahead of them and a looming threat, but this humanizing approach to Stark's life is refreshing and that will clearly be the driving force here. I understand Stark is trying to avoid discussing last issue's reveal and is aiming to keep himself occupied with the project ahead, but diving a bit deeper into that would have been really appreciated. It's a huge deal, after all.
I'll avoid jumping to conclusions with the cliffhanger, but it's virtually impossible not to draw strong parallels to something from DC. To say more could ruin it, so I'll just leave it at that.
Ultimately, IRON MAN #18 is pure build-up for Gillen's next big Stark story. It does a more than thorough job laying out the basics of what Arno and Stark hope to accomplish while still teasing us with a more immediate thereat. It's somewhat disappointing there isn't more bonding between the two, but that will likely change once the story gets moving. It's a promising start and will likely be a better read in a collected edition, but for now, it is absolutely an ideal jumping on spot for potential new readers.