Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewed by: Joe Mossman
“Americans are a superstitious and cowardly lot,” misquotes Al Stark, a lavishly-bearded engineering student of Iraqi descent. “I shall become a Muslim.” An Iron Muslim, that is.
Part Bruce Wayne, part Tony Stark, part…uh…Osama bin Laden, we first meet Al just as he’s putting the finishing touches on the weapon he plans to use to exact revenge on American troops for killing his family: a suit of red-and-gold power armour that looks slightly…familiar.
At the outset, Rich Johnston’s Iron Muslim doesn’t seem to offer much beyond that odd little bit of role-reversal, with the wild-eyed Al strapping himself into the Iron Muslim armour (most of himself, anyway; his beard won’t fit in the helmet) and milking the premise for all it’s worth with a lot of the usual yelling about infidels and the Great Satan. Johnston’s reputation is that of a sharp satirist; his well-received Watchmen parody, Watchmensch, did a great job (apparently) of skewering the comics industry and its treatment of its own artists. So it seemed a little disappointing to me when Iron Muslim started off playing like an unfunny Robot Chicken sketch.
Fortunately, it gets wittier after the first six pages or so. Al’s character is more complex than he seems initially; he isn’t really a Muslim, but a self-confessed atheist who’s only using the "Iron Muslim" label because he knows that Americans (a “superstitious, cowardly lot,” remember) are knee-jerk paranoid about all things Islam. A playboy, philanthropist and former seller of porcelain kittens, Al recruits a slick Hollywood agent to re-package and sell his war on America to an easily-influenced public. Themes of propaganda, the ever-growing absurdity of Hollywood culture, media bias and the gullibility of the public start to manifest themselves at about the halfway point of what is, in fact, just a part of Johnston’s larger Avengfuls saga. Future episodes will see appearances by Captain American Idol and ScienTHORlogy. Substituting for Nick Fury? A certain washed-up actor known mostly for running along beaches in slow motion.
It might be a little bit of an acquired taste for some (myself, for example), but give it a chance. Iron Muslim could be the start of something memorably funny, and hopefully nicely incisive as well.