Monday, December 26, 2011

GN Review -- The Invincible Iron Man, volume 2: Worlds Most Wanted, Book 1 / Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca

When Marvel's Civil War came out a few years ago, I thought it was one of the most exciting and high-stakes storytelling event Marvel had done in some time.  There were so many noteworthy events going on within its pages, from the pro- vs. anti- registration camps of superheroes, to Spider-Man's public unmasking as Peter Parker, to even the X-Men's maddening neutrality on the issue.  I became completely involved, if not in the specifics, then in the overall outcome of the tale.  

And I could tell I was involved, because the conclusion of Civil War ended with two events that left me snarling with outrage.  First, Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, aka the leader of the Pro-Registration heroes, won the Civil War and was elected to head up S.H.I.E.L.D. in Nick Fury's absence.  And second, to add insult to injury, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, aka the leader of the Anti-Registration heroes, was gunned down and killed while on the way to court to stand trial for leading the heroes who dared to stand against Tony Stark and the U.S. government.

Now, I know Captain America eventually comes back from the dead.  And I know Tony Stark endures more than a few of his own planet-sized headaches as a result of being He Who Is In Charge Of All Superheroes Everywhere In The United States.  But at the time, I was furious at Marvel for this story--though furious in a good way.  Furious in a, "That was a great story, but you ended it the way I totally didn't want it to end!" and not in a "Oh, my god, Quesada, WHY did you give us One More Day, WHY?!" kind of way.

I didn't really follow the aftermath of Civil War for very long after it ended, but when I came across this volume of Iron Man stories, I will admit that it brought a smile to my face.  As much as I may grumble about the ending of Civil War, it definitely was necessary to make this collection possible.  And this collection did something that, up until I read it, thought wouldn't be possible.

It got me to like Tony Stark again.

Tony has lost a lot at this point.  He's no longer King of the World.  S.H.I.E.L.D. has been disbanded, and replaced by H.A.M.M.E.R., an organization conceived and run by Norman Osborn, the former Green Goblin who now somehow has the world convinced that he's not an insane sleazeball and is capable of policing the entire world's security.  And the story begins on Tony's last day on the job, where he is to hand the keys of the world off to Osborn and go back to being a civilian.

Knowing Osborn is a lunatic, and that giving access to all the secret identities of all superheroes to him would be cataclysmic, Tony plants a virus that wipes out all but one copy of the Superhuman Registration Database, which resides in his own cybernetically enhanced brain.  Osborn is enraged, and demands that Tony be found, along with his associates, Pepper Potts and Maria Hill.  The trio split up after initiating a memory wipe of Tony's brain, and must now work separately to orchestrate their own counter-offensive to Osborn's manhunt.

Reluctant as I initially was to pick up this volume, I quickly became engrossed in the story.  Matt Fraction does a good job telling a tale of Iron Man on the run from the rest of the world, keeping things well paced, funny, and even chilling in places.  The characters ring true--Tony's brilliance, wit, and even flirtatious nature are as well crafted as the subtleties of Osborn's megalomania, insanity, and desire for control.  There's even a tale where Tony goes at it with Namor, the Sub-Mariner, whose royal arrogance and disdain are spot-on for the character.

My biggest complaint is that things are not resolved in this volume. Still, cliffhangers aren't all bad, and I think I'll be picking up the next part to this story in the very near future.

I also really enjoyed Salvador Larroca's artwork in this volume.  It's detailed and realistic, and very beautiful in places.  I'm not exactly sure what method he's using, but his work with shading and textures gives the story an organic look that you don't often see in comics, and I think it works exceptionally well with the story that Fraction tells.

Overall, an enjoyable read.  It's good to see Tony Stark dealing with things from a position of vulnerability, particularly after the high horse he was on during and directly after Civil War.  If you like superhero stories, definitely check this out.  Recommended.

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