Invincible Iron Man #21 - 'Stark: Disassembled Part 2, Digging In The Dirt' - Fraction, Larroca and D'Armata
Story - Iron Man in a Coma I know, oh, it's really serious. Heh, anyway, for a book that didn't really have Iron Man in it, this was very good issue of Iron Man. I've long been a big fan of Tony Stark, he was my 2nd favourite Marvel hero after Spider-Man when I was a kid, and I was kind of disheartened when suddenly 90% of the fanbase hated him with a passion previously only reserved for Vibe and Maggott. He was still a hero! Director Of SHIELD was a good book! Cap was wrong! This is why I was kind of perturbed when people seemed to jump back on Tony's side when Fraction and Larroca launched IIM, saying it was redeeming him, I didn't think Tony needed to be redeemed at all, he was still a hero, he was the hero.
But nevertheless, Fraction impressed me, he really gets Tony Stark, and managed to incorporate quite a few of the best elements of the Iron Man movie. World's Most Wanted was one of the best 12-issue stories I have ever read, it never let up, and built into a fantastic climax. And it's here where we pick up in Stark: Disassembled, Tony is in 'a persistent vegetative state' and it's up to an assortment of his friends and colleagues to bring him back. This is an Iron Man story that's light on action (which is fine, we've just had 12 issues of straight chase scenes) but big on character, and big on the science, and it's developing nicely.
This issue has 2 concurrent threads, firstly, there's some quite odd scenes inside Tony's mind, he's in a Desert with his Mother and Father, digging for his old armour, but being attacked by nighmarish Starktech designs. These scenes are odd, deliberately so, and contain a few Fraction tics and cliches that grate me a little, but I like them, the metaphor seems to be a bit heavy handed in how Tony deals with his demons, but still, I'm intrigued as to what it all precisely means and how it dovetails with things in 'the real world'.
Because in the real world, it's a Mighty Marvel Team-Up as many characters come together in an attempt to revive Tony. Thor, Bucky Cap, Black Widow, Maria Hill, War Machine and even Steve Rogers. Yes, it's a little annoying that Steve is showing up before Reborn is over, but we all knew it was happening, and his involvement here is very well done. It just brought a smile to my face to see him up and alive again, the Marvel Universe lost something when he died, and with Steve around... it seems a lot more positive, Steve's there... and we know Tony is definitely coming back. And it seems Pepper Potts knows that too. Pepper is the emotional heart of this issue, and in many ways this book as a whole. In #20 she expressed anger that Tony gets to come back but her husband, Happy Hogan doesn't, and that's developed here, as she writes a letter to Tony. Who would have known that Pepper Potts would be one of the most interesting, most human characters in the Marvel Universe in 2009?
Tony does show up, in a way, in a pre-recorded 'Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope' message, telling the assorted heroes what the hell to do, it's a lot of complicated pseudo-science (although knowing Fraction, it might be actual science), about Extremis, and repulsor tech. What it basically boils down to is Thor smashing Mjolnir into Cap's shield and channeling the lightning into Tony. The double page spread where Don Blake becomes Thor and does the deed is a thing to behold, but I actually preferred the quieter moment when both Steve and Bucky assure us the shield can take it. Fraction doesn't spoil what Brubaker is doing with the 2 Caps post Reborn, but it seems things are all cool. The upcoming Siege event has been marketed as being the first team-up between Iron Man, Captain America and Thor in like 7 years, but really it's in Invincible Iron Man that's the first one, even though one is in a Coma.
But this isn't all happy-clappy heroes getting along and helping eachother out, there is a threat here, Madam Masque, one of Tony's ex-girlfriends and currently ensconced in Osborn's regime and boinking the Hood, still wants Tony dead, and has hired The Ghost, an old Iron Man villain and current Thunderbolt to do the deed. I love how Ghost has been developed in Tbolts, firstly by Andy Diggle and now by Jeff Parker, he's a truly creepy character with a unique motivation (Corporate terrorist) who has no loyalties to anyone, I'm glad to see him showing up here and posing a serious thread. Madame Masque's role is still interesting, the issue where she fights Tony was probably the most powerful chapter of World's Most Wanted, and I love how Fraction is building his own little corner of Iron Man's world. And who would have thought a phonecall could be a decent cliffhanger?
When it comes down to it, this may not be the Iron Man comic you're expecting, it's light on action, but it's still full of ideas, and that's what Iron Man has always been, a book about ideas. The Coma Dream sequences may be a bit pretentious and elliptical, but that's more than made up for by the fun of seeing so many classic heroes work together, the emotional centre of Pepper, and the revived threat of Ghost. I can see why some people may not like Fraction's take on Tony, but I love it, and hope it can keep up the pace.
Art - Salvador Larroca has come in for quite a lot of criticism for his art on this book, his new style is accused of being tracing, but I think more accurately it's just him basing the characters on actors, he draws them fully. I still really like his style, it may not be as strong as when he first came on the scene or the lovely painted style he used on X-Treme X-Men, but it's strong, and has provided a consistent look for the book since #1. My only problem is some of the computer generated backgrounds look a little off, the scene with Masque and Ghost in New York have obvious photos in the background. But that's Frank D'Armata's colours rather than Larroca. Oh yeah, and Larroca and Rian Hughes' covers for this arc are fucking amazing. Sleek, modern and oh so very Iron Man.
Best Line - 'Because Iron Man is in trouble, And we're all going to bring him back' That's why we needed Steve Rogers back!