Invincible Iron Man #1-4

Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Salvador Larroca
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

It took me almost a month to get around to seeing the Iron Man movie. The character’s just never been that terribly interesting to me; there just was never quite that hook that grabbed my attention and imagination for more than a few minutes. So when I finally did see the film (due to all the positive word-of-mouth), I was very pleasantly surprised by the amount of fun I had seeing it. That’s actually also how I feel about Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca’s take on the character with their new series The Invincible Iron Man. It’s only taken me four months, but I finally sat down and read them—and I’m actually really looking forward to the fifth issue.

Tony Stark has a lot of personal nightmares, things he dreads ever coming true. One of the most powerful nightmares is the idea that someone else will be able to cheaply and easily replicate the Iron Man technology and start using it all over the world as a weapon, and that’s exactly what’s happened. From Tanzania to Taiwan, a series of terrorist strikes have gotten Stark’s attention. That’s a good thing. The bad thing is that the creator of these weapons is planning on Stark being its next target.

I will be the first to admit that I was really dubious about the need for a second monthly Iron Man comic, film or no film. The thing is, once I finally read it I could see why Marvel greenlit the title. The Invincible Iron Man manages to capture the same ideas and emotional punches that the film did, making it the perfect book to have on the stands in its wake. There’s the idea of a social agenda for having all of these technologies and money at one’s fingertips, and how so many other people in the same situation would be less than scrupulous. There’s the sheer wonder of the creations on display here, not only in terms of weaponry but how the technology can be used in less-than-lethal ways. The scene where Pepper discovers the good things that can be done with Stark’s mag-field generator works on so many levels, exciting and envious and even a little romantic all wrapped up into one. And last but not least, there’s a lot of good old fashioned action to keep one’s attention.

Fraction’s script certainly has some of his to-be-expected hallmarks; snappy dialogue with a sharp wit about it, just the right touch of humor, and a punchy pace that never lingers for too long. What I also really liked here, though, was how in many ways The Invincible Iron Man lets Fraction play a game we all probably have done ourselves sometime in the past: "What would I do if I had billions of dollars?" Seeing Stark’s applications of his fortunes not only on the Iron Man suit, but also in terms of technologies expanded around the world in a myriad of options, is smart and engaging. It doesn’t ever become too overt or in your face, but it’s a nice counterpoint to the fighting-bad-guys side of Stark that normally dominates stories about him.

The one thing I’m not 100% sold on is the art. The absolute basics of it I enjoy very much; Larroca’s very good with the human form, and he’s also able to draw every intricate piece of machinery and idea that Fraction comes up with. The one thing that jumps out at me, though, is the strange soft-focus finish on so many of the panels. I can’t decide if this has to do with how Larroca creates his art or how Frank D’Armata colors it, but it ends up looking a little odd. It’s almost as if at times we aren’t actually getting drawings, but photos that have been put through a strange filter in Photoshop. I’d love to see a slightly crisper look to the figures; I can’t help but think that doing so would fix a lot of my objections. Instead they often look a little unnerving, like store mannequins come to life. It’s a shame, because whatever is causing this to happen seems to be in the final stages of the art creation; so much else about it works well that it’s an unfortunate final stumbling block.

Clearly I’m not the only one who enjoys The Invincible Iron Man, with Marvel recently announcing that the other Iron Man comic will be transformed into a War Machine title starring James Rhodes instead. I have to say, making The Invincible Iron Man the company’s sole Iron book is a smart thing; this is a book I can really get behind and want to see more of every month. So often after a huge comic-based movie you wonder why the company hasn’t positioned itself with a title to get potential new readers. The Invincible Iron Man is perfect for people who loved the film or the character in the comics; there’s something for everyone here.

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