Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Critical Commentary: Invincible Iron Man #7

As you can probably judge from the title of this post, I received my copy of Invincible Iron Man #7 from Marvel yesterday, a couple of days later than I normally receive my subscription copies.  But that's alright, at least I have it in my possession.  I'd heard good things about this issue online, and a team-up with Spider-Man is usually fun, right?

Oh Sweet Christmas how wrong I was.

When the last issue of Iron Man v.4 (AKA Iron Man: Director of SHIELD) ships later this month, Shellhead will be back down again to one monthly ongoing.  And if we can expect more like this out of Fraction and (to a much lesser degree) Larroca, then it's about to a lean period for Iron Fans.

The plot for the issue is straight-forward enough.  Ben Urich wants to get a big scoop on the "superterror" attacks at Stark International by speaking to the people on the ground: the techs, the janitors, the administrators.  He brings along Peter Parker to get the shot which will accompany the article, since Urich thinks that since Pete used to work for Stark, he can get some favor with him.  From there it moves into Tony's mission to shut down the black market super-weapons ring he used to flush out Ezekial Stane in the opening arc.  Spidey, of course, tags along and helps out, despite Tony's protestations.

It's the details which unravel the whole thing.  First off, as Ben and Pete drive to Stark's facility on Long Island, we see a news van with it's station call numbers starting with a "K."  In Long Island.  I suppose they drove cross-country to get the story instead of picking up the national feed?  Later we see Iron Man moving debris in the attack site, only to have it topple and threaten some other workers, and Tony is paralyzed with indecision before Spidey saves the day.  Last week in Iron Man: The End, when faced with a similar but more complex situation, Tony managed to think it out and make the save.  But not here.  
After the ensuing argument, Spider-Man tags Shellhead with a Spider-tracer.  Nevermind that the armor didn't negate it outright, but where was Extremis to detect it?  When Iron Man tracks down the Terrible Tinkerer to a derelict motel in Jersey City, he simply walks up to the front door and knocks, which gives the Tinkerer time to activate his rocket-powered wheelchair (I can't believe I am typing this).  Of course, the wheelchair flies out of control and out the window, dumping the Tinkerer off.  And, wouldn't you know it, but Iron Man is just too slow to save the Tinkerer and stop the wheelchair from causing damage, so it's a good thing Spidey is there to save his butt.  Again.

When it's all said and done and the ring is broken, Tony and Spidey (who has not unmasked, remember, since he is unregistered, as Fraction has Tony harp on endlessly) discuss the night's activity, wherein Stark puts over Parker's Spider-tracer, calling more advanced than anything he has ever seen.  Spidey takes the opportunity to run down Stark in his head, saying how before the Civil War, Tony always was confident and cool, but now he's just a sad sack.  The story ends with Spidey getting a picture of Tony in his armor silhouetted against the rubble of SI.

I have to think pretty hard to remember an issue of an Iron Man ongoing that was not a tie-in to a major event storyline that is as bad as this mess.  Probably something back during the Grell run.  Which, I suppose, is appropriate, as one of the main complaints about Grell's run was how he depowered and devalued both Tony Stark and Iron Man, same as Fraction does here.  Stark comes off as a petty jerk, constantly reminded the "real" hero Spider-Man about how he is a criminal and he needs to register.  In times of crisis, he doesn't act but damns the situation that forces him to act.  Meanwhile, Spider-Man swings about having a jolly old time.  It's almost as if Fraction is audtioning for getting on the ASM writing team.

I can't say much about Sal Larroca that I haven't said before.  His human work, such as faces, can be a little weird to look at, but it's not bad, and his action work is quite nice.  I will give credit where credit is due and say that the art is perfectly fine on this title, even if it is a little different from what one might expect.

Much like the Thor cameo in "The Five Nightmares," this entire issue serves only one purpose: to remind readers who are new to Iron Man's adventures that he is a jackass, a snob, and an egotist who needs to be redeemed in order to be a hero again.  I'm not sure why exactly Marvel feels the need to mandate this, as we all saw in Iron Man that Tony Stark can and is a fun character who is not "broken" or "inhuman."  I can only hope that coming out of Secret Invasion and into Dark Reign or whatever the heck is next, that someone gets a lightbulb over their head and says, "Hey, maybe we should portray Iron Man as a hero again, ya know?"  Unfortunately I am not holding my breath.


Nas Hoosen said...

I'm not sure it's worth berating Fraction for what was quite obviously his intent for the issue; Tony is now finally doubting his path - something he hasn't been shown to do for years now. It's not so much that he doubts his own heroism (self doubt is probably a crucial feature of heroism), but he's in doubt about his decisions. I think this is part of a path towards redeeming the character after the way Millar, Bendis et al. have been portraying him.

Luke said...

Considering the inane and ineffective manner in which Bendis ("I know, let's lay him out flat on his back by a random employee of SI for his Civil War tie-in issue of New Avengers!") and Millar have portrayed Tony Stark since "Avengers Disassembled," I was much happier with the Knaufs work in presenting him as the character I have been reading about since high school. The Iron Man from CW is damn near unrecognizable to me in the context of how he was portrayed before that point.

Fraction's Iron Man is for new readers, and those who are on board with the direction of the character as an analogue for everything that is wrong with America. "The Five Nightmares" was good but not spectacular. Unlike the Mandarin story over in the Knaufs book, which was really something, but got no press at all since Marvel gave the book no hype.