The new Iron Man is pretty great — and no, I don't mean Ironheart (though she's pretty great, too). Newcomer Riri Williams understandably gets most of the top billing, but there's another character flying around the Marvel Comics universe in an effort to fill the void left by Tony Stark.
Victor Von Doom, aka Doctor Doom, aka the (now) Infamous Iron Man.
It's a new direction for a character who has been a part of Marvel Comics lore for decades, and though having a villain try his hand at being a hero isn't the most original story, Doom's arc has really evolved in a natural way that fits the trajectory of the past few years. Doom was basically God in the Secret Wars event, and eventually came to the stark (heh) realization that even he couldn't keep the world together by sheer force of will. Doom resurfaced after the events of Secret Wars with a freshly healed face and new lease on life, and writer Brian Michael Bendis started laying the groundwork for Doom's rebirth even before Stark woke up his post-Civil War II coma. Doom played a supporting role in Invincible Iron Man in the events leading up to Civil War II, popping up and trying to prove to Stark that he really doesn't want to rule the world anymore.
With Infamous Iron Man, we find a version of Doom who literally attained everything he'd been working for in Secret Wars and came to realize it still wasn’t enough. So, now he's looking for fulfillment in a new way. As crazy as it sounds, Doom's turn to the side of good really does feel like a story that's been earned ... but that's not to say the journey has (or will be) easy. Stark isn't the first person to doubt his motives, and Ben Grimm (now working for S.H.I.E.L.D.) spent the first few issues of Infamous Iron Man tracking Doom in an effort to bring him in. Maria Hill also has reservations, and a face-to-face did little to change that. Understandably, no one trusts him, and even the people who have given him a chance have seen dire consequences.
Doom's long legacy and the challenge it presents manifests in the way his interactions with supporting player Dr. Amara Perera pretty much ruin her life in just a few panels. Perera crossed paths with Doom after a brief stint dating Tony Stark, which tied her to Doom when he started popping around and led her to lose her job and land on a S.H.I.E.L.D. watchlist as a person of interest. Doom apologizes, for what it's worth, but it doesn't change the fact that simply by being in his orbit, her life was damaged. Not to mention the country he used to run is in shambles, and the people he left to run it are doing a piss-poor job, as the legacy from his old life continues to rot. Even with the best of intentions, Doom is still toxic.
The series has also opened the door to explore some of Doom's past in interesting ways, juxtaposed against his quest for redemption. This is exemplified by his mother's return. That's right: Cynthia Von Doom is back on the mortal plane to reconnect with her son, which raises all kinds of juicy story potential. Because Doom's relationship with his mother is far from simple. She's also working with the villainous Ultimate Universe version of Reed Richards, aka The Maker. Which sounds like a cheap, comic book-y twist, though it could pay off richly depending on where Bendis takes the story.
Five issues in and Infamous Iron Man is already shaping up to be a fascinating character study into one of Marvel's most interesting players. With each issue, Bendis slowly peels away the layers to see the challenge of what it really means to try and leave a legacy behind. After the past few years of seeing Stark zip around the skies, having Doom take up his own version of the armor has been a refreshing change of pace. This isn't the typical type of story you see with A-list villains at the house Tony Stark built, especially when the most logical move would've been (as Bendis himself admits) to just take Doom off the board for a while in the wake of Secret Wars.
This being comics, nothing is ever written in stone, and it stands to reason Doom will eventually find his way back to the side of evil at some point down the line. But launching the character on a hero's journey at this juncture is quietly setting up one of the most interesting stories in Marvel's entire line. Even stranger is the fact that it's happening in its own little corner of the universe. Doom hasn't even crossed paths with many of Earth's Mightiest Heroes as of yet, but that's probably for the best. There's still more than enough story to tell before the eventual crossovers kick in.
Considering he's often relegated to the pages of the (now-defunct) Fantastic Four line, it's easy to forget that Doom is one of the most powerful players in the universe. As he points out on occasion, he's probably as savvy as Doctor Strange when it comes to the mystic arts, and he's arguably as intelligent as Stark when it comes to technical wizardry. Doom switching sides is a seismic shift, and those reverberations are only starting to be felt across the Marvel universe.
And it's shaping up to be one heck of a journey.