Friday, March 5, 2010

Chronic Review: Invincible Iron Man # 24

Invincible Iron Man # 24
Marvel Comics

Script: Matt Fraction
Pencils: Salvador Larocca
26 pages for $2.99

So this is it - the big finale of "Stark: Disassembled!" Before I get into whether or not the arc paid off or not, I thought I'd spew a few words about modern storytelling.

Back in the day, it would have taken anywhere from two panels to four pages to disassemble Mr. Stark. In the Golden Age, it was not uncommon and in quite good taste frankly to make major character moments happen before the reader had to turn the page. On one panel, Capt. Meritorious would see his lab partner incinerated by Russian robots and on the next panel decree something completely improbable like "I will now use my technological powers to forever battle evil wherever it may appear!"

That's how crap got done in the 1950s. One panel you had a wussy little scientist, the next panel you had a justice seeking hero with a raised fist standing next to the smoking remains of his pal Bob. And you know what? It got shit DONE. You could tell a whole story inside of an issue, and it felt like something happened.

And in 2010, it takes five full issues for Tony Stark to walk through his own mindscape and find a way to continue into a new age with new resolve. And I'm not saying it's a horrible thing, but you stop and consider that this process is going to take half a year out of our lives to sift through, and in Stark time...a few scant moments, really.

Just to quickly recap, at the beginning of Dark Reign, Remington (shit) I mean Norman Osborne justly decided Tony Stark was a threat to him and tried to have him wiped out for not giving up his fairly comprehensive data on all superheroes. Tony steered Osborne into creating a PR nightmare for himself, but at what deadly cost??? The epic battle left him in a quasi-coma with no mind left to recover.

Disassembled is the gambit in which Stark has a few of his friends band together and use his directions to "re-upload" his brain that he had backed up on floppy, of course. But it never quite works out like you hope, and while Tony struggles inwardly to find a reason to live, Donald Blake calls in Doctor Strange to try and help matters. And it's a good thing they called in the cavalry, because Pepper's hurt, Maria Hill has no powers, and this Ghost assassin guy just showed up to ice Tony!

So...what to make of all this? To be honest, the internal soul searching felt a little played and a little drawn out. It's a valid trope, and it makes sense in the story, so I don't want to take too much of a giant dump on it. But those scenes don't really feel compelling to me. The mommy and daddy issues, the friends he let down, the regrets...they feel stock.

There are so many pieces in play here that DO pop for me, though. Part of the high magic for Invincible Iron Man is how things simply make sense. Iron Man pretty much had to be involved in Dark Reign, and will be involved in the next "Age of Heroes" nonsense.

The story that Fraction concocted was logically consistent, though. It makes perfect sense that Tony would have more data than anyone on The Initiative given the events of Civil War, and it makes sense that Osborne would want that data at all costs. It makes sense (granted in a comic booky kinda way) that Tony would have a "back up brain" given what happened with the Extremis arc. It makes sense that Doctor Strange would get involved to help out a fellow member of the Illuminatus given what Bendis has done with that group.

Are you starting to feel me? In a comic book landscape where everything feels forced, shoe-horned, contrived, and sterile, Matt Fraction has found a way to take those existing pieces and make them WORK.

And I don't honestly know where the comic book relationship with Pepper and Tony was before the film came out, but Fraction appears to have taken the best elements of that and amalgamated it in as well.

While I wasn't overwhelmed with everything that was happening inside of Tony, most everything that was happening outside was entertaining and just felt right. It's a little hokey that Ghost seemed to take forever to "seal the deal" as it were, but hey, this is a comic book. The story was better served by his friends pulling together while getting their assess royally kicked out of love for the man. That played very well, thank you.

I don't want to ruin the best plot elements of the story, it reads better if you can maintain a little surprise at the end. I can tell you, though, that the arc would have been better named "Stark: Un-Douched."

And once again, Fraction writes this story so that he can usher the character into the "Age of Heroes" sensibly. It's like Brand New Day, only without the blind rage that makes a reader want to kick kittens and punch Joe Quesada in the balls.

There's a reason why this book won the Eisner for Best New Series. This is the way adventure, big-ticket superhero comics should be written.

- Ryan

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