Irish author Eoin Colfer is known for his jaunty, humorous style, as utilised in the likes of the Artemis Fowl series and the sixth Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy novel (taking over from the late, great Douglas Adams). Given that, he is a natural choice to translate the most quip-happy superhero out there to the novel format – the invincible Iron Man, as made famous by Robert Downey Jr. on the big screen.
Fans of both the author and the character will not be disappointed, then, as The Gauntlet wastes no opportunity for squeezing in a jokey aside or comedic tangent. In the style of the aforementioned Adams, Colfer roves from viewpoint to viewpoint and takes on the role of wry omniscient narrator. It’s a fitting technique as it somewhat recalls Stan Lee’s captions and editor’s commentary in the classic Marvel comics.
Plotwise, The Gauntlet is content to play with familiar story beats and as such doesn’t really offer anything we haven’t seen before. While attending an international eco-summit in Dublin, Stark is captured by a bunch of terrorists (wouldn’t you know it!) who want to use his own technology for more warlike purposes. It’s a plot that recalls just about every Iron Man movie but that doesn’t matter too much, though, as it moves along at enough of a break-neck speed to keep you involved. There is a subplot about Tony coming to terms with his distant relationship with his father (again, reminiscent of Iron Man 2) but mostly this is a full-on action adventure that doesn’t pause for breath.
Also, if you want to get nerdy about it, the novel is definitely set in the continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – with references to events and characters from the movies scattered throughout. Fans of Iron Man lore will likewise be pleased with the choice of villain, which we won’t spoil here even though it becomes clear very quickly. That said, don’t expect the kind of more fleshed-out villain we get in the films but rather a cackling, Saturday morning cartoon type of baddie. That’s not so much a criticism, as it is clear that this is a deliberate self-aware move from Colfer.
On the whole, as long as you don’t expect The Gauntlet to explore new dimensions of the hero, it is an enjoyable light read. Younger superhero lovers will no doubt be enthralled and adult Iron Man fans will likely get a kick out of it as well.