When people think of Marvel superheroes, usually the first ones that spring to mind are Spider-Man, Wolverine (or any of the high-profile X-Men), Captain America, the Incredible Hulk or the Punisher. Iron Man didn't get the same kind of high-profile position until he finally got his own movie, but since then even the casual viewer/reader knows who he is, even if their first visual image is of Robert Downey, Jr.
But with a book like Iron Man: Extremis, one has a chance to experience Iron Man on his home turf: the comics page. Not only that, but one has a chance to see how great an Iron Man comic can be.
The great Warren Ellis has put together a simple but well-crafted story about Tony Stark moving in a new direction, not just with Iron Man, but his entire life. With very natural-sounding dialogue and an intense but easy-to-follow plot, Ellis takes us into the damaged mind of Stark and lets us experience some very difficult decisions he must make about a new, dangerous sort of "super-soldier serum" called Extremis. A terrorist has a stolen dose and has used it to turn himself into a destructive powerhouse, and Iron Man's suit is just too slow to keep up with him. But Tony Stark being Tony Stark, the answer is not to call in the Avengers, but to make a change to himself to bring this psychopath in.
I don't want to imagine the sheer agony Extremis must put a person through. This is incredible stuff, sort of like the miraculous formula that made Captain America what he is, but harsher. It rewrites everything, making a person over from the inside-out and turning said person into a speed-busting battle machine with a healing factor to rival Wolverine's. And now that the man behind the stuff is gone, its other creator, Maya Hansen, has turned to Stark for help.
Using a nice balance of intelligent conversation and high-octane action alongside the excellent art of Adi Granov, Ellis gives an Iron Man yarn so good that the third movie took its inspiration from it. We see flashes of Iron Man's origin interwoven with his harrowing re-invention as Stark pushes himself towards the future by sort of reliving the past. This is a fast read and a real page turner, never slow and never dull. And there's one hell of a twist at the end.
Whether you're a fan of Iron Man or you're just curious about him, this is a book you want to have on your shelf -- or better still, in your hands where you can read it. The awesome Iron Man got a little more awesome.