It’s important to realize going in, the Manual, with text by Daniel Wallace, stays firmly within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While that may disappointed Iron Man comic book aficionados, it keeps the book highly accessible for the far-reaching throngs of movie fans. The photos of various heroes, villains, and locations are taken from the films, as is the tech explored throughout (included all the various phases of the Iron Man armor’s evolution). The cool thing about Insight’s work here, in addition to the heavy-duty paper stock and strong binding, is the inclusion of surprise documents, “handwritten” Post-It notes, and other tidbits that turn up throughout. It makes for an interesting hybrid of sleek, shiny, pictorial history and lived-in, dogged-eared, real-world document.
Right off the bat we get a file folder with Agent Romanoff’s “recruitment assessment” of Tony Stark, declaring him “not recommended” for the Avengers Initiative (as discussed in the films). We get an excerpt of journalist Christine Everhart’s profile piece, “Who is Tony Stark?” In a section devoted to Tony’s father, Howard Stark, we find a little booklet full of handwritten mathematical equations. Many of the documents are firmly secured to the pages, not intended for removal. Other items, like a Ticketmaster-style ticket to Stark Expo, are easily removable. Same goes for folded blueprints of Tony’s arc reactor and workshop layout. I would still advise using caution when lifting these things, no reason to damage them.
A fair amount of space is given over to the various Iron Man suits, including the Iron Legion (34 different armors), in chapter five, for those who seek “technical specs.” The sixth chapter, “Global Threats,” is likely to be a favorite as it deals with various enemies of Stark Industries. All the films’ heavies make an appearance, from Obadiah Stane’s Iron Monger, to Ivan Vanko’s Whiplash, to the ill-fated Hammer drones of Iron Man 2. Loki gets a nod here as well, referencing the “New York incident” as depicted in the climax of The Avengers. The Mandarin and Aldrich Killian are included from the recent Iron Man 3, along with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s report on the Extremis project. Stark’s allies fill up chapter seven, with photos and biographical details about Pepper Potts, Rhodey and his War Machine/Iron Patriot suits, and Agent Coulson (with an ID badge attached to the page).
All in all, Iron Man Manual is a fun book to explore for fans of the franchise. It’s not quite as elaborate of a package as The Dark Knight Manual, which was loaded with far more cool, multi-layered items. Perhaps Insight Editions received complaints from people who damaged their books by trying to rip all these things out. Also, I’m guessing that by reducing the amount of inserts and add-ons, production costs were kept down. Whatever the case, I would’ve liked a few pockets in Iron Man Manual to hold the removable items. Once you peel the little adhesive spot off, those documents are much more likely to get lost. That aside, Iron Man fans, Avengers fans, and Marvel movie fans will find a lot to like here.