The Invincible Iron Man 500 (March 2011)

Fraction sets up this issue in two parts–first the present, with Tony tracking down Peter Parker to talk about some designs Tony forgot about, and second the future. In the future, Tony’s kid is fighting the Mandarin, who has taken over the world thanks to Tony’s technology. Fraction plays the future as full action. There’s no time for a break–and he’s got two artists on it, Kano on some, Fox on the rest. Fox gets the most destruction, probably because his scenes of mass destruction look great. The present material, with Spidey showing up eventually, is played straight, but with some humor.…

The Invincible Iron Man 33 (February 2011)

Interesting, we never get the saboteur revealed. This issue is a lot of setup after the action stops—Fraction goes back to the old way of writing Invincible, where Tony is narrating it. It means we get a recap of the last few issues, but it’s nice to have the narration back so who cares if it starts superfluously. Fraction continues with his corrupt U.S. military guys here (going so far as to alienate rednecks… I love how Disney doesn’t seem to care). Rhodey gets his own little conclusion to the story arc, which would have been more affecting if he’d been around…

The Invincible Iron Man 32 (January 2011)

In what I can only describe as a Jeff Parker moment, Fraction reveals—in the backup, illustrated by McKelvie—Pepper’s suit, J.A.R.V.I.S., has the hots for her. It’s cute (and ties into that next big crossover event). The main story is Tony and Team Iron Man (I can’t imagine that name sticking) battling the drones of Hammer. Lots and lots of action, which is what Larroca does best. Fraction does these action issues so infrequently, I’d forgotten how well they read. Though he does forget about the saboteur, who’s got to be revealed next issue. But he doesn’t just forget about revealing the saboteur,…

The Invincible Iron Man 31 (December 2010)

And Fraction even takes it further… the Air Force guy agreeing to an attack endangering the American citizens he’s sworn to protect. Love it. The issue’s pacing is a little off though. It’s a lot of corporate sabotage, Iron Man style, and it seems more like Fraction is using it to set up for a big finish. The problem is how little actually gets established here. Fraction’s putting off dealing with lots of things (Pepper and Tony, for one), but he’s also forgotten a lot of things. Rhodey, so important a few issues ago, is absent here. So is any discussion of…

The Invincible Iron Man 30 (November 2010)

Okay, it’s not all Android users who are military industrial complex pawns, just some of them. Fraction gives the issue a great cliffhanger, just because he starts building to it about five pages before the end. But it’s a fast-paced lead-up, lending more and more to Invincible‘s movie ties. Though, I imagine basically introducing “Lady Whiplash” also ties it to the second movie (though this issue came out long after the movie). Fraction finally gets in an action scene, but it’s not quite a pay-off action scene. Pepper runs off to help Tony and doesn’t get to do anything once she arrives.…

The Invincible Iron Man 29 (October 2010)

I wish Larroca could draw Rhodey better. Especially this issue. He draws him without any personality–I guess he smiles a lot. But Rhodey is actually really important to this arc, because he’s kind of taking care of Tony as Tony hides all the stuff he can’t handle from everyone else. The issue ends with Tony being Tony–on the outside, callous and insensitive, but on the inside, calculating and thinking ahead. It’s kind of predictable (and I wish Fraction had Pepper realize it too). But there’s some other nice stuff here. When Pepper gets her Rescue armor back, Fraction recaptures that vibe from…

The Invincible Iron Man 28 (September 2010)

So this issue is—while technically well-written—kind of pointless. Fraction has a bunch of really good dialogue and talking heads scenes, but it’s about Tony hiring these guys for his new company to build an electric car. Very interesting stuff, if the series were about the company. It’s about Tony. And Tony’s best scene is with Maria Hill, where she (much like Pepper) is having problems due to their knocking boots and him not remembering it. Otherwise, the “action” part of the issue is spent on Iron Man and War Machine going over to Japan and looking bad to the media. Apparently, S.H.I.E.L.D.…

The Invincible Iron Man 27 (August 2010)

Here we get some promise of action (well, for next issue). Actually, the whole issue’s about promise. Fraction promises the return of Rescue—a fine move, because Pepper made a very interesting superhero—as well as some Stark business developments. The action stuff he promises, which Tony and Rhodey zoom off to deal with at the end, is kind of temporary. What Fraction’s doing with the comic, exploring the characters—this issue is Rhodey’s turn for a little examination—is very different for not just a mainstream book, but for a Fraction book. He’s turning Iron Man into a rather good dramatic serial. The character interactions…

The Invincible Iron Man 26 (July 2010)

Fraction kind of skips over the craziest part of his Iron Man revamp–the liquid metal to the suit is stored in Tony’s bones. It’s a trippy, sort of non-Iron Man idea. Iron Man used to be a guy in a suit; Fraction’s turned him into something else entirely. It’s a great move. This issue introduces the costumed villain of the storyline–Spymaster–and ties him to the Hammer girls. Or one of them, anyway. There’s also a subplot with them selling Stark weapons to terrorists. Fraction packs the issue, getting in some great Tony stuff. There’s a lengthy monologue about Tony at the Playboy…

The Invincible Iron Man 25 (June 2010)

I was going to complement Fraction on having the greatest pacing of a comic book ever this issue… then realized it was oversized. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed with how much Fraction does this issue. Since it’s Invincible Iron Man and it has some relation to the movies, whether it’s acknowledged or not, here Fraction gets Tony out of the weapons business (like in the first movie). But he’s also got time to introduce Tony’s adversaries… Justin Hammer’s daughter and granddaughter. It’s an industrial conflict. Very nice. Fraction gives Maria Hill and Rhodey some kind of send-off from the series.…

The Invincible Iron Man 24 (May 2010)

Larroca’s inspiration for illustrating Captain America appears to be Chris Bachalo. Yuck. Here’s where Tony comes back and saves everyone from the Ghost. Should have happened two issues ago. Anyway, some big problems–the injuries. The Ghost attacks Rhodey and Dr. Strange. It looks like, from the amount of blood, he does real damage. Apparently not. More problems–Tony’s adventures in slumberland come to a conclusion, with all the people whose deaths he feels responsible for (Happy Hogan gets a cameo, no Steve Rogers). More inexplicably, it turns out Tony’s hard drive is pre-Civil War. Guess he found a way not to make a…

The Invincible Iron Man 23 (April 2010)

What’s that smell? Oh, it’s Fraction inserting the Ghost into this narrative and messing it up. This issue features Pepper and Maria finding out Tony slept with both of them. It features little Tony’s adventures in slumberland finally paying off narratively–oh, I think Howard is supposed to be Howard Stark, not Howard Hughes. It was a lot more interesting my way. Anyway, then the Ghost shows up and it’s bad. It’s almost indescribable how pedestrian the whole issue becomes. Because before, it was also Pepper dealing with no longer being amped up on the repulsor technology, which was a really good scene.…

The Invincible Iron Man 22 (March 2010)

Yeah, this issue sort of realizes all my issues with a supervillain threatening Tony’s recovery. After Pepper finds out Tony’s not back–which is an effective scene, but it also depresses (Pepper certainly seemed like she would have made an interesting superhero only to have it plucked out of her as it were). Then Maria finds out the Ghost is around so she has to get everybody to hide out, since Captain America, Steve Rogers, Rhodey and Thor are all gone. Because that scurrying makes sense. I mean, if Norman Osborn found out Tony could be rebooted, it’s not like he’d be upset.…

The Invincible Iron Man 21 (February 2010)

This issue might be one of Fraction’s best. Well, it’s one of his best in being this really big, but really thoughtful superhero issue. Rhodey brings in Steve Rogers to convince Pepper to bring Tony back–nice how it all fits, timeline wise (was Reborn even done at this point though?). It then proceeds to have Tony–via recording–tell them how to resurrect him. To tug on the heartstrings, it requires Thor and Captain America (well, the shield) to do it–thank goodness there’s no real technology in the world as good as going MacGyver with the Avengers’ gadgets. Unfortunately, there’s Madame Masque. I’m giving…

The Invincible Iron Man 20 (December 2009)

I think it would have been a lot bolder if Fraction hadn’t included Tony Stark on the ethereal plane with Howard Hughes. Especially given the big development of Pepper Potts not being sure Tony gets to come back from the dead (thanks to the hard drive backup Fraction made obvious last story arc). Pepper was just getting busy with Tony the last twelve issues and she’s not sure he should get to come back from the dead? Fraction writes a great Tony monologue for the beginning, gets in the drama with Madame Masque deciding she’s going to kill Tony against Norman Osborn’s…

The Invincible Iron Man 19 (December 2009)

Fraction finally gets himself a great cliffhanger… too bad it’s in the “last” issue of the arc. Apparently, Fraction learned a lot when he was working with Brubaker, including how to make one arc lead directly into the next, to the point the only reason it’s an arc is because you’re calling it an arc. In some ways, if it weren’t for the… ahem… gradual pacing, these Marvel books would be just regular seventies and eighties comics. One leads to the next. Only, they make a big deal out of the trade branding. Anyway, it’s an amusing issue. Tony’s real smart–knowing Pepper…

The Invincible Iron Man 18 (November 2009)

Okay, I was off… Pepper hid Madame Masque in the Crimson Dynamo armor, which means she wasn’t exactly worried about her dying in the explosion. I think Fraction was trying to make Black Widow funny in her appearances this issue–she disappears while at H.A.M.M.E.R. (don’t hurt ‘em) but I imagine she’ll be okay. Incidentally, the humor fails. He doesn’t explain enough to make it funny. Tony ends up in Afghanistan again this issue–for his completely modified origin (I would have thought first Gulf War made more sense as a place for him to create the Iron Man armor, but I guess they’re…

The Invincible Iron Man 17 (November 2009)

Tony gets real stupid this issue. Maybe too stupid. I’m not sure how Fraction’s going to bring this off at the end and keep the character. He might just have Tony restore a backup or something. Anyway, the issue opens with Pepper Potts in Madame Masque’s outfit. Fraction is apparently saving that reveal for next issue, but it’s pretty obvious. It’s also implied Pepper managed to lock Madame Masque in the Rescue armor. Some more lazy Larroca faces–this time, as usual, Norman Osborn. Larroca’s back to relying on the colorist for shading. It doesn’t work well. Maria Hill and Black Widow get…

The Invincible Iron Man 16 (October 2009)

If the Marvel movie guys are reading Fraction’s Iron Man and liking it, I hope they’re telling Gwyneth Paltrow to start working out. Besides turning Maria Hill into a really boring character who PTSD (over the Controller incident, which Fraction resolved in maybe two pages so he’s just filling with her) and making Tony forgetful, he’s also turning Pepper Potts into this really thoughtfully written female superhero. There’s some silly stuff this issue–Madame Masque babbles sweet nothings to Tony for like three pages (and then just babbles in general) and I’m wondering if Fraction’s trying to bring in Iron Man’s rogue’s gallery…

The Invincible Iron Man 15 (September 2009)

There’s the Larroca I know and love–getting Tony’s face inconsistent from panel to panel in the climax. Fraction wastes maybe a third of the issue on Maria and Black Widow this issue. Black Widow’s getting and relying on intel Norman Osborn is planting, which suggests Bucky ought to find himself a better girlfriend. Fraction introduced the idea of a Captain America cameo like five issues ago… so far it’s an empty promise. I’m also not sure any cameo is going to make up for all the wasted Maria time. Luckily, there are these wonderful scenes with Tony and Pepper. Apparently they get…

The Invincible Iron Man 14 (August 2009)

Okay, I finally understand what’s going on with Tony and the hard drive brain erasing. He needs to go from suit to suit to use their power sources to power the deletion. He can’t just use the stockpile of suits he had in the first or second issue of the arc because Norman Osborn found them. Somehow. Maybe. Fraction’s never explained it clearly, but here he does, when he has Tony explain it all to the Crimson Dynamo. I thought the Crimson Dynamo was bad, but it turns out he’s not anymore. In fact, he mouths off to Norman in a really…

The Invincible Iron Man 13 (July 2009)

Whew, lucky timing. The issue ends with Tony having a stroke as he’s erasing his brain and making himself dumber–Fraction did a terrible job explaining the brain as a hard drive thing, I didn’t think it’d started actually erasing yet but apparently it has. He’s on the floor, whimpering for Pepper. Luckily, she’s decided to throw caution to the wind, piss off Norman Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R. (don’t hurt ’em) and go find Tony. Maria Hill finishes her adventure this issue. It’s really anticlimactic and turns out her whole story thread was a waste of time. But at least Fraction didn’t skip it…

The Invincible Iron Man 12 (June 2009)

I can’t help but wonder if Fraction is plotting out this story line based on The Empire Strikes Back. He splits up his triumvirate, gives each their own challenges–this issue being the Han Solo in carbonite issue (Pepper gets arrested, Maria gets captured by the Controller). Fraction once again fails to give the reader necessary information. Namor’s the big guest star this issue (Pepper’s dealing with an out of control plane à la Superman Returns and Maria has the Controller’s drones). Namor’s fighting Iron Man like it’s 1962. Fraction doesn’t give any explanation for why Namor’s buddies with Norman Osborn, why he’s…

The Invincible Iron Man 11 (May 2009)

Okay, here’s Fraction’s problem–he’s doing too much at once. He’s got Maria doing something, Pepper doing something and Tony doing something. Tony gets the most attention, leaving Pepper and Maria stuck without a lot of space. Fraction follows this formula every issue–it’s like having two backup stories injected into the main narrative. The scenes resonate because they’re compelling (more compelling than what Tony’s doing actually) but there’s never any payoff. They don’t get the big dramatic cliffhanger. Take this issue for example, Fraction spends maybe a third of the issue on a staged fight between Tony and Rhodey (what’s up with his…

The Invincible Iron Man 10 (April 2009)

Not sure I like Fraction’s pacing here. There’s something deceptive about it to convince the reader there’s more content. A lot of montages. Not bad montages–Larroca doesn’t have to stay consistent if he’s drawing different people around the globe–but montages. It’s also pretty convenient. If Pepper didn’t throw a temper tantrum and throw stuff around the office, she wouldn’t have found her Iron Girl armor and escaped H.A.M.M.E.R. (don’t hurt ’em). Given how Tony was rambling about not being the greatest futurist anymore, it makes sense… he relies on temper tantrums to save lives. Oh, and it turns out his brain hard…

The Invincible Iron Man 9 (March 2009)

Technically speaking, it’s a decent comic book. Larroca is no worse than last issue, maybe even a little better since he’s drawing less faces. Fraction’s writing is strong as usual. Except the majority of what he’s writing is expository dialogue from Tony. Lots and lots of it. He’s got Tony talking for pages recapping current events, explaining what Pepper and Maria have to help him do (wiping his brain, which proves to be a totally lame sequence) and probably something I’ve forgotten. It goes on forever. Then there’s the issue with plotting. The events in the issue read like they take a…

The Invincible Iron Man 8 (February 2009)

I do love Matt Fraction. I started this issue ready to pounce because I’m just a negative kind of guy, but also because he opens with three separate narrators–Tony, Maria Hill and Pepper. None of them narrator for very long and Fraction’s omniscient third person narrator doesn’t stick around the whole issue. It’s just setup and the issue needs setup because it’s not clear what it’s going to be about until the end. Tony decides to mess with the newly all-powerful Norman Osborn. Fraction ends the issue with Pepper, Tony and Maria hanging out at a toy factory with Tony revealing his…

The Invincible Iron Man 7 (January 2009)

This issue starts off terrible. Fraction uses three narrators–Ben Urich, Tony Stark and Peter Parker–and it’s a rough fit. Well, maybe not with Tony and Peter, that transition is actually, pretty smooth. But the Ben Urich narration? With Fraction capitalizing every proper noun to show EMPHASIS? It’s horrific. But the story isn’t bad. There’s a lot of content, with a lot of action scenes. Well, there’s some silly stuff about the story–Iron Man and Spidey team up to hunt down black market super-arms dealers… and Fraction skirts over why such a hunt makes any sense following the last arc. It doesn’t. The…

The Invincible Iron Man 6 (December 2008)

Aww, the Iron Man helmet on the last page looks so sad. It’s a bad issue, to be sure, and a terrible way to end this story arc–it’s way too compressed–but it’s only the third worst issue so far in the series (and, I’m hoping, the last bad one in the series). I think there’s some big fight. I don’t really remember. The comic reads in three minutes. At the beginning, we quickly discover how Tony Stark outsmarted Zeke Stane. Fraction pulled off the trick by also tricking the reader, which is sort of dishonest given he’s using Tony as a narrator…

The Invincible Iron Man 5 (November 2008)

Well, this issue’s pretty lousy. Not much in the way of people in it–mostly just Iron Man versus Iron Monger Jr.–so Larroca does all right. The fight scene isn’t exactly exciting or engaging, but it’s a competent action scene. But the writing–not even the entire issue, just the end–is awful. See, if Tony Stark’s supposed to be a genius and is supposed to know what Zeke Stane is doing… he should be better prepared. And all Tony Stark’s prepared for in this issue is to get his butt kicked and set Zeke up for one of the lamest cliffhanger lines I’ve ever…