Iron Man 2.0 #5 - 'Fear Itself Part 1' - Spencer and Olivetti
Story - I'm of two minds on issue 5 of Iron Man 2.0, on the one hand, I'm a huge fan of what Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and later Duane Swierczynski did with Iron Fist, and the creation of the Immortal Weapons, so therefore I was immensely please to see them return, and to see that return written by a writer who's work I am enjoying immensely in Nick Spencer. But on the other hand, this issue was not only an interruption of the ongoing plotline of 'Palmer Addley is dead', but barely features War Machine at all.
I think in the end, my opinion of this issue will be shaped by what comes next in this story arc. If Spencer can manage to fit in plenty of Iron Fist and Immortal Weapon action in alongside and not at the expense of War Machine's starring role, then this issue will be worth it as useful set-up. But if that set-up doesn't pay off... then I'll remember this issue as being bad. Does that make sense? It's a shame I have to provide a grading now, as I feel it's hard to judge what is only set-up.
But what set-up we do get is decent enough. We are introduced to a new character, Sun Wukong, or The Handsome Monkey King. A bad-ass kung-fu guy who lives in the mystical 8th city, and demonstrates how bad-ass he is by doing kung-fu. I think that these kung-fu ideas really let a writer let loose and you can see how much fun Spencer is having with lines like 'I stole the Royal Wine from the very lips of the Jade Emperor!'. They may be meaningless one-liners, but they were awesome one-liners. After Handsome Monkey King defeats some goons, we get the crossover invasion, as a Fear Itself Hammer smashes into a nearby mountain.
It's only then, after 10 pages, that War Machine actually shows up. He's also embroiled in Fear Itself, at the very epicentre of 'Blitzkrieg USA', fighting alongside some of the other Secret Avengers against Nazi Robots. He and John Aman (aka the Prince Of Orphans) are transported to someplace mystical, presumably the 8th city, where the Hammer fell. This all happens fairly quickly, and for no real reason. But thankfully Spencer is aware of that, and has Rhodey himself ask why the hell he is there alongside Fat Cobra and the rest of them. The fact that Spencer addresses this makes me feel he will have a good explanation and that this story will be good.
In the final scenes of the issue, Iron Fist shows up. I felt Spencer did really well here in having Danny Rand's inner monologue mirror Rhodey's early on, providing a useful link which makes the story feel more complete than it really is at the moment. Oh yeah, and Titania (already all Hammered-up) and Crusher Creel are there too.
This issue, as I said, is pretty much all set-up for what's to come in this arc, but it is juicy set-up. Spencer has a lot of characters in play here, we've got War Machine, we've got Iron Fist and the other Immortal Weapons, we've got Sun Wukong, and we've also got Absorbing Man and Titania. This issue promises something epic, and I really hope we get it. Of course I am a bit miffed that the main plot threads of Iron Man 2.0 have been dismissed after really only just getting started, but that's the nature of crossovers. I'm glad that Spencer is using Fear Itself as an opportunity to use some awesome characters, and not just tell deleted scenes from the main series. Let's just hope he sticks the landing.
Art - Ariel Olivetti is a bit of an acquired taste I find, some readers find his computer-generated backgrounds a bit hard to stomach, but I don't really mind them, especially when his figure work is so strong. I just find the way he draws people to be wonderfully idiosyncratic, and his take on War Machine's new suit is top-drawer. I doubt he can draw Immortal Weapon kung-fu fighting to the standards of David Aja, but we shall see. It's just good to have some artistic consistency on this book, the first 3 issues were a mish-mash.
Best Line - Choose any of Sun Wukong's smack-talk put-downs, choose all of them!