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Review Group Invincible Iron Man #21

Written by John Martin on Tuesday, December 15 2009 and posted in Reviews
Old Man had the pick for new comics shipping December 9th and he selected Invincible Iron Man #21 by Matt Fraction, Salvador Larroca and Frank D'Armata.


The Review Group is a collection of posters who get together and review a new comic each week that we each take turns selecting. Our threads can be found in The Outhouse’s News Stand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate in.

So what if Invincible Iron Man won an Eisner last year, can it hold up to the scrutiny of the Review Group?

Review by starlord

Well this is totally awkward. I have nothing but praise for Fraction’s run on this series. In fact, I would put it right up there with Demon in a Bottle at this point. On its own, this issue is probably a bit on the weak side. It's not like a lot doesn't happen here, it does... kind of. Still, if you haven't really been reading this book, it may not appeal to you at all.

Still, it's solid in delivery, and yes, I'm going to take a bit off for the appearance of Steve Rogers. Sure, we all know he's coming back, but I'd rather have seen his triumphant return in his own book first before seeing him guest starring in others.

All in all, a great continuation of a great run. Tony Stark has come a full three sixty from his pre Civil War days and Matt Fraction has a lot to do with that.

Story: 8
Art: 8
My Score: 8

Review by Old Man

I guess I should have chosen a different book. My apologies to all.

Starlord said:

"Still, if you haven't really been reading this book, it may not appeal to you at all."

Starlord was right. It doesn't appeal to me. In fact, it seems almost nothing chosen for the Review Group appeals to me these days. I praised the Hulk family versus Wolverine family book, but that's about it. The smut peddler at the LCS and I both thought it was the second best Wolverine story ever.

Maybe the problem is me. Maybe not.

I read this comic in the store. (I have privileges. I work for them 2 or 3 days a year.) I'm so glad I didn't have to spend money on it.

It's not that bad a comic, but I found it dull. Tony Stark is dead again. Cap is alive again. Poor Pepper Potts has been used as a mule. Her body harbors the drug that is Tony's Viagra. Perhaps Tony is a necrophiliac...Pepper dies and Tony gets a stiffy.

And the constant flashbacks without indications of being flashbacks...until you guess that the differently colored panels are flashbacks...or are they hallucinations. Can't anybody tell a linear story anymore? Well, I guess Image Untied was linear, but that wasn't a story, it was just a bunch of millionaires masturbating on a donut.

I'm giving this a 6. It's not crappy, but it's also not very good. I have no interest in reading the rest of the story.

Review by Chubbles

I've enjoyed IIM since issue one but it's not without its faults. I do feel like the arcs are a bit long and very drawn out. Specifically the Most Wanted arc felt like it's been going on forever with only a handful of big things happening. The art also can be hit or miss at times but overall it brings a unique feel to the book which is a good thing imo. I will also echo the sentiment that although seeing Steve back was awesome, it just felt weird. I had been hoping for some epic return before seeing him interact with everyone but I feel cheated on that.

Also, there was a lot of dialogue in this book that got a little boring at times. Fraction did this in last months issue as well with those panels with Tony speaking to the camera. It almost feels like Fractions using dialogue for the sake of using dialogue and not with the intent of moving things along.

Overall I felt this was a weaker issue when compared to the rest of the run but it was still good enough to keep me interested.

Story 6.5
Art 7
Overall 6.75

Review by guitarsmashley

That wasn't bad. Is the rest of IIM like this? Maybe Fraction has finally written something I'll check out further. I actually found this issue kind of touching. There was a real emotion to it between Pepper breaking down and Tony sort of calling on all his old friends to not just save him but also bring them together. I'm sure it would be nice if Marvel got their shit together so they wouldn't be spoiling books since last we checked on Rhodey he was mostly robot and well Steve was dead so there is that. The art was alright I didn't think it was anything special but it was also not a distraction from the story which like I said was sort of heartfelt. I liked this issue


Review by doombug

So I have a very big man crush on Matt Fraction. I just wanted to admit that right off the bat. Civil War hands down made me hate Tony Stark, Matt Fraction and Robert Downey Jr made me love him.

With that said, issue #21 is second part of the Disassembled storyline where Tony is being rebuilt and his mind has retreated to a safe place. The safe place seems to be an analogue for his origins as the iron man.

Meanwhile on the outside we view Tony's plan which he seems to have fully mapped out knowing this would happen. Pepper does her best to grasp what she has to do with the help of a very old friend of Tony's showing up. It seems that with only 1 page Fraction completely understands Steve Rogers as a character who is able to forgive his old friend for the crap he pulled 3 years ago.

The art is as beautiful as ever and the character moments which their are many is great. Not to mention just how much Fraction packs into each issue.

Story: 9
Art: 9
Overall: 9

Review by Punchy

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 Maggot. 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, and 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 each other 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 phone call 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!


Review by 48THRiLLS

This was probably an odd book to review if you have not been reading the current run, it was not a standout issue but in context of Fraction's current stint on this book it was enjoyable. I will say that I still do not care for Larocca's pencils but I admire the fact that he is a machine and this book is always on time. My only problem with this book is the showing up of Steve Rogers. As excited as I am to see him, I was hoping to see this in Reborn. You see him and Bucky together but what is the context? Is there gonna be 2 Caps? I know there is nothing that could have been done so save the 'but it's called Reborn you should have known he was coming back, blah fucking blah' ...yes, I know. I know they can't delay the books also (and I would not want them too). It is just a bummer that's all. Seeing Thor bring the hammer down on Cap's shield was pretty freaking cool and redeemed some of this issue.

In the end this was a good but not great issue, they can't all be hits ya know...

ART - 5

Review by amlah6

Having just dropped IIM the issue before last, this was kind of a weird time for me to be reading an issue. I went ahead and picked up the issue that I had missed when I got this book. #20 encapsulated why I dropped the book in the first place so it's probably a good thing we weren't reviewing it. Very Happy

Over the course of Most Wanted I simply grew bored with this series. The arc drew out too long and my distaste for anything Osborne related made it hard for me to enjoy the book. At the end of the arc, sure Tony was brain dead, but really it seemed like there were a lot of moving pieces in place that ultimately hadn't come together... until this issue.

I gotta say as someone who has been a vocal detractor of his work in the past (with the exception of the brilliant Immortal Iron Fist of course), bravo Matt Fraction! From Pepper's repulsor battery, to the Rescue suit, to the hard drive Maria Hill recovered, it all came together in this issue exceptionally well. This was exactly the kind of story that I like in my Iron Man comics and reminded me why I liked the first arc of this series so much as a successor to Extremis.

Some people like the Larroca/D'Armata art team on this series, some don't. I'm in the camp that likes it. For me it has a very cool, modern aesthetic to it that I think fits the character perfectly. The photo referencing does look a bit funky at times but it does feel a bit more natural now that Larroca has gone back to using Josh Holloway for Tony.

I guess this means I'm adding Invincible Iron Man back to my pull list now. Confused

Story: 9
Art: 7
Overall: 8

Review by thefourthman

It's no big secret that I hate, hate, hate needless decompression. I've rethought my stance on the practice after falling in love with Vagabond which is a book that may go multiple volumes for a fight. There is an attention to detail there that makes the practice work.

Being that what it is, I have softened my stance on making stories longer. I am not as quick to cry foul when I see it and Fraction is not doing too bad of a job here. The issue is accessible on its own, which is one of my major problems with say, JMS's Thor run, it is so strung out that an issue is such a small piece that you can't figure it out with out reading the rest of the book. When the story is strong enough to warrant it, you can find enjoyment in that level of detail. "World's Most Wanted" was not such a story. It dragged on way too long and two issues into Dissasembled, we have not seen much happen. That being the case, it is not boring.

Sure there is an awful lot of talking, but this is a pure second act kind of like The Empire Strikes Back... there are still story strings being brought to the table, while others are being carried along and there is a certain string that is brought to rest by the end of this issue.

Fraction was always a high concept guy, and this story seems to fit him. I hate to see the true end of the Extremis era, that was one of the cooler things Ellis ever thought up in his for hire work, but the thought of Iron Man being all cranked up by Thor is pretty cool and the way that the Ghost finds out Tony's Location shows some ingenuity from the writer.

Last issue I thought the inner workings of Tony worked well, here, I am not so sure, especially given that the scenes seem to be behind the recording that Tony has walking his friends through his revival. There is also the curious title of the storyline... Tony has been disassembled, this should be the reforming of his mind and body, it makes me wonder what exactly Fraction has in store with us, especially given a reinstated Rhodey.

A solid book all in all. It has its high points and its low points like every mainstream superhero book. This one is no different.

On a side note, I really dig Larroca, could they please for the love of god get him a better colorist. D'Armata can't decide to color the book like Granov, Isanove, more run of the mill colorists or like Keith on Newuniversal, it gives Larroca's art the feeling that it is all over the place. I am guessing that he thinks he is defining the different atmospheres or settings of the comic, but all he is doing is making the penciller look bad. Let him stick to the Finchs and Quesadas that his coloring style works with, Larroca needs a more talented colorist.

Story 7
Art 6
Overall 6.5


Review by SuperginraiX

We discussed this on the podcast on sunday and the only bone I had to pick over this issue was that Cap's shield somehow can carry an electric charge. Yes, even a mystical electric charge doesn't make sense for me (but, apparently, I'm fine with the capes and masks and other crazy stuff I put up with on a weekly basis). You can't tell me Cap hasn't deflected some sort of mystic lightning before. I'm certain someone on here could give you an issue and panel if given enough motivation.

But other than that, this issue is pretty damn awesome. World's Most Wanted was a fun story to play with during the Darkest of Reigns and now that we're getting ready for Marvel's version of Brightest Day (or whatever they call the reunion of the Avengers Trinity), jumpstarting Tony back into the driver's seat of his own title is fun to watch.

Salvador is hitting a stride on this book. I love long term creative teams so I'm digging the fact that the writer and artist have not missed an issue yet. Hell, have they missed a month yet? I seem to recall some issues coming two weeks apart at times. Here's hoping that Larroca at least makes it to issue 25 before they pull him to do other work (I'm guessing an Avengers title is in his future).

Storywise, this issue continues the symbolism from the previous issues. Thor and Cap are both integral in bringing Tony back to the land of the living. Old friends show up looking much less cyborg-like (thanks War Machine #12!). Long standing plot points show up but are explained so that new readers won't have too many question marks over their heads. Pepper loses the glowy ring. Tony gets it. In a surprising twist, Tony doesn't even need it for his four thousandth heart condition, either. This time it's there to help his body heal and do what any other person (who didn't erase his brain) could automatically do.

Oh yeah, there was one last gripe that had little to do with the story itself and is more about timing. As happy as I am about Iron Man coming out regularly (us Iron Man fans suffered the most post Disassembled with the crawling release of Extremis), would it have KILLED them to release this book THIS week and not given yet another spoiler for Cap Reborn? I mean, sure, we could all have guessed this ending but it's the principle of the matter. Maybe I wanted to suspend my belief and think that Red Skull had a chance of keeping Steve's body (if it turns out that that's actually the Red Skull still, I will be... intrigued, actually... they should do that). Third book in two weeks to spoil the ending to Cap Reborn. Bad Marvel, BAD.

But, all in all, The Invincible Iron Man #21, I give you a solid 9. What can I say. I'm an Iron Man fan.

That gives Invincible Iron Man #21 a group score of 7.60.  For a superhero book mid-arc, that's actually not bad.  Maybe I'll have to take back my claim that IIM's win over Echo for the Best New Series Eisner was an epic crime against humanity... nope, sorry, just can't do it.  Echo totally should have won.

For further discussion of this book or to witness the latest fourthman/Punchy nerd fight, join us in this week's thread ( found in the News Stand forum where you are also invited to post your own review.

thefourthman has the pick for December 16th and he has selected Walt Disney Comics and Stories #701 from Boom! Kids.  Look for the new thread after it becomes available Wednesday morning to post your own review. 

Walt Disney Comics and Stories #701

Writer(s): Riccardo Secchi
Artist(s): Stefano Turconi

Featuring a brand new team of super-heroes culled from Disney's Mickey and Donald universe! Come adventure with The Duck Avenger, Super Goofy, and the main man Mickey himself, as they take on the Phantom Blot and his nefarious group of ne'r do wells! At stake…nothing less than the riches in Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin!


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