'Invincible Iron Man #7' Gives Readers New Dynamics With a Familiar Face

Tony Stark is a hot mess with a hot new ally.

Mike Deodato

Invincible Iron Man

Publisher: Marvel
Price: $3.99
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Publication date: 2016-03-02

From a purely pragmatic standpoint, creating a compelling Iron Man story creates a unique set of challenges. A writer has to make a rich, good-looking, genius playboy likeable without turning him into a Charlie Sheen archetype. Needless to say, this is not as easy as Robert Downey Jr. makes it out to be.

Tony Stark does a lot of things that would earn plenty of scorn, criticism, and negative hashtags in the real world. He's profited from the sale of deadly weapons, he's chased beautiful women to an extent that even Hugh Hefner would find excessive, and he's carried himself with an ego that is almost on par with that of Kanye West.

Despite these challenges, Brian Michael Bendis has succeeded in rising to the occasion throughout the course of Invincible Iron Man. He doesn't just put Tony Stark in a position for him to show off his unparalleled tech-savvy or his Robert Downey Jr. type charisma. He puts him in situations that reveal his insecurities.

As hard as it may be for anyone outside the top tax bracket to contemplate, even billionaires have insecurities. Even a billionaire that hangs out with Captain America and full-blooded Asgardians struggles with it. Bendis even makes the case that billionaires in that position struggle more than most. It certainly doesn't help when demons, vindictive women, and Dr. Doom enter the mix as well. There's a limit to how much his obscene wealth can mask such vulnerabilities.

Regardless of how well they're masked, these vulnerabilities have helped create a narrative in Invincible Iron Man that makes Tony Stark a genuinely intriguing character by doing something that isn't easy to do with someone of his wealth and resources. It humanizes him. As this series has unfolded, Tony has humbled himself in ways he doesn't usually show unless Thanos has him under his boot.

His battles against Madam Masque and his uneasy team-ups with Dr. Doom add plenty of spectacle around that humility. Invincible Iron Man #7 attempts to add new dimensions to this spectacle. Unlike previous spectacles, this one involves Mary Jane Watson. As Spider-Man fans can attest, she's a spectacle unto herself and one that might seem out of place in Iron Man's world. However, Bendis makes the case that Mary Jane isn't just qualified to navigate this world; her ability to handle this world and look good while doing it might as well be a superpower.

It might not sit well with Spider-Man fans. It might not sit well with Iron Man fans, either. This is because Mary Jane has been built around a certain set of assumptions. She existed for many years as a love interest and someone who attracts pumpkin bombs almost as much as she attracts men. She only ever seemed to exist as Peter Parker's wife / girlfriend / love interest. Her growing beyond that role is a very recent concept. In fact, there are terrible reality shows that have existed longer than this concept.

It's because of this concept, building Mary Jane up as someone other than a love interest for Spider-Man, that she fits into Tony Stark's world. A good chunk of Invincible Iron Man #7 is spent establishing just how comfortable Mary Jane is in a world where bombs, be they shaped like pumpkins or something else, are likely to go off at any given moment. At no point is she overwhelmed, intimidated, or even anxious. She survived dating Spider-Man. That makes her more qualified than most women to handle this world. Gwen Stacy can attest to this.

Beyond Mary Jane's ability to handle the pressure, she's never bedazzled by Tony Stark's wealth, charm, or brand. She never carries herself as a rich man's groupie whose primary job is to exist as arm candy. She certainly could if she wanted to, but she doesn't. If this kind of relationship had happened 20 years ago, it would've been shocking. Since it's 2016, it just feels overdue.

Indeed, instead of being arm candy, Mary Jane relies on her wit and personality, which make her immune to Tony Stark's charms while making him vulnerable to hers. Even for a man in an iron suit, it's another vulnerability that Tony isn't used to dealing with. For the narrative that Invincible Iron Man has established, it's perfectly in line with the Tony Stark that Bendis has been developing. It's still hard to feel sorry for a man who can fly to Tokyo without dealing with the TSA, but he's still painfully human in a way that's easy to respect.

With Tony and Mary Jane, l Bendis dedicates significant, albeit excessive, time and energy establishing a unique dynamic. It's a dynamic that is the very antithesis of 50 Shades of Grey in that the handsome rich man interacts with a beautiful woman in a way that never becomes romantic, sexual, or abusive. It might come off as unusual that a man like Tony Stark can exercise such restraint, but it feels like it shouldn't, in an era when movies like Mad Max: Fury Road are an unmitigated success.

As well-developed as this dynamic is, it doesn't do much to move the narrative forward. So much time is spent bringing Mary Jane into Tony's world that it's easy to forget that there's another ongoing story where bombs that are definitely not pumpkin shaped started exploding. War Machine doesn't get to fire a shot in return. Iron Man doesn't even get a chance to make it up to him. It almost feels like there was an extended commercial break that makes the story feel choppy.

While the ongoing plot with War Machine slowed, it didn't stall. Mary Jane's introduction to Invincible Iron Man did help move this plot forward, albeit indirectly. Invincible Iron Man #7 as a whole succeeds in introducing an important new dynamic into Tony's life, but does little to explore the latest challenges within that life.

At the very least, Tony Stark can say he has another beautiful woman helping him organize the growing list of vulnerabilities in his life and as Peter Parker can attest, this can be a very good thing. He just needs to stay away from Mephisto.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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