Or – “”The Mask In The Iron Man…”


The aftermath of the superhuman civil war left Tony Stark in a precarious position, one where he single-handedly shouldered the burden of superhuman affairs in the Marvel Universe all by himself.  SHIELD came apart a bit at a time, and the Skrull invasion revealed the weaknesses in Iron Man’s facade, leaving Norman Osborn in a perfect position to seize the unprecedented position of power Tony had created.  On the run from nearly the entire government, Stark has forcibly erased his own mind to keep sensitive information out of the hands of Norman and others, and now lies comatose.  But, he has a contingency plan, presuming that his best friends (the recently returned Thunder God and the time-lost super-soldier) haven’t given up on him completely…

Invincible Iron Man #21

IM2.jpgWRITER: Matt Fraction
COVER AND PENCILS: Salvador Larroca

Previously, in Invincible Iron Man:  Back during the reign of Herr Gruppenfuhrer Stark, Anthony Stark created a database containined the real names and personal information of all the registered superhumans in the United States, from Aegis to Yellowjacket (since no heros’ names start with z, and Simon Garth never registered.)  When Norman Osborn took over SHIELD and transformed it into the truly fascist organization called HAMMER, Tony wasn’t about to let that information fall into the hands of the Green @$#$ing Goblin, and downloaded it into his own Extremis-enhanced brain.  Taking it on the run, Tony then implanted a virus in his brain that would slowly wipe out the information in the database, but would have the secondary effect of erasing his own personality and memories.  The effect was successful, but being ever-resourceful, Stark put together a secondary plan to save his life, with a little help from Pepper Potts, and Doctor Donald Blake (known to us as Thor.)  As with any plan, though, it has some slight flaws, not the least of which comes from his ex-girlfriend Whitny Frost, aka Madama Masque.  Of course, Tony is in a coma, and has no idea what’s going on, trapped as he is in a recursive dream of some strange significance…

That dream  continues now, as Tony once again finds himself digging in the sand to find something very important, something that he can’t identify…  With help from the spectres of his deceased parents, he finds an Iron Man chestplate (old-school version, not the current hideous thing from the movies) buried in the sand.  “Careful,” he warns, as they unearth it, “It’s so heavy only I can lift it.”  HIs father chides him that weight is weight, and that kind of thinking will get Tony killed.  In the real world, Madame Masque has enlisted the help of another who hates Iron Man, the former corporate espionage agent known as The Ghost, late of Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts.  Ghost and Masque come up with a plan, using a phone that will allow him to transport himself through a phone line.  In Broxton, Oklahoma, a frustrated Pepper Potts writes a letter to Tony raging about her current situation, tearfully reminiscing about the loss of her husband, her career, and the “flaming wreckage that was my life.”  Before she finishes her letter, though, the arrival of an old friend gives her an upturn as Steve Rogers arrives in full Captain America garb.  “Iron Man is in trouble,” says Steve.  “And we’re all going to bring him back.”

The plan (narrated by a recording of Tony himself) involves invasive surgery, taking the repulsor generator from Pepper’s chest (apparently something that Tony did to save her life some time ago, allowing her to be an armored superhero called Rescue.)  The “electronic repulsor battery” is implanted in Tony’s chest (something that everyone who has seen the Iron Man movie can clearly identify, as it is the same device from the movie, visually) but without a power source, it’s useless.  (Tony has destroyed all existing repulsor generators to keep Norman and Obadiah Stane from getting their hands on ’em.)  In his dream state, Tony’s mind dreams that he puts on the unearthed armor, but he won’t be able to turn on all the switches without help.  Once again, Howard reminds his son of an unpleasant truth: “Knowing you need it and ASKING for help are two different things.”  Tony accepts his help, but the armor doesn’t power up, and monstrous robots again come to kill them all.  While Pepper gets her heart torn out again (literally) Rhodey disassembles her new armor to help rebuild Tony’s heart.  Once implanted, the only way to get sufficient power is for theem to hook Captain America’s indestructible shield up to cables and have Thor STRIKE IT WITH LIGHTNING.  This doesn’t seem like a good idea to me…  As his body is struck by unimaginable energies, dream-Tony’s armor does something, and he collapses.  Not far away, at a low-rent Oklahoma motel, a woman answers her phone to find that no one is on the other end.  As she hangs up, we hear the quiet laugh of the Ghost…

I have been quietly impressed with Matt Fraction’s take on the Marvel Universe for a while now, as he has made Emma Frost relatable, Wolverine likable, and Cyclops badass, but his Iron Man is a revelation.  He manages to maintain the hubris that created the entire Civil War mess, while adding a human touch and even a sense of humor to make Stark much more likable.  Salvador Larocca delivers a wonderful art job (although I was of the belief that Rhodey was now a half-human cyborg thing over in the War Machine title?)  Pepper Potts Hogan’s desperation is perfectly rendered, and her palpable relief at seeing Captain America is beautifully rendered.  It’s a very nice issue, proving that Tony really is a futurist, and not just when it makes him look like a jerk or allows him to beat up Spider-Man after forcing him to reveal his secret identity to the world.  Invincible Iron Man #21 does wonders for my dislike of Iron Man over the last couple years, earning a very impressive 4 out of 5 stars overall…  If Fraction keeps this up, Iron Man may actually become one of my favorite heroes again.  (Still miss the Silver Centurion armor, though.)


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. Hector Bustnuts on

    As much as I liked the “Iron Man” film, I never felt compelled to add any of the comics to my pull-list. The cover design on this story-arc though are mind-blowingly awesome! I’d love a high-quality print print (or litho) to whack up on the wall. They’re almost convincing me to start picking up Invincible Iron Man!

  2. Ghost is an anti-capitalist/corporatist. Pepper had the battery installed when she was was hurt in an explosion all masterminded by Obadiah Stane Junior (Awesome character…not his real name) and Rhodey uploaded his brain into a clone and then punched Osborne.

    And yes Fraction is becoming my favorite writer to.

  3. Seems like Matt Fraction and Geoff Johns are the respective “saving graces” of their companies.

    Too bad their polar opposites (Quesada/Didio) are the ones running the show. ;p

  4. @Hector

    part of what makes this book so great is the fact that it’s so accessible. From the beginning Invincible iron man has been one of the few books that both longtime iron man fans and new comers can enjoy equally. I whole heatedly recommend starting at the beginning of the series and making your way through it.

  5. Wait. I’ve readReborn. As far as I know, nobody has seen Stev alive yet. Why isn’t anybody making a big deal about this? They all just accept it.

    • Wait. I’ve read Reborn. As far as I know, nobody has seen Steve alive yet. Why isn’t anybody making a big deal about this? They all just accept it.

      Because Reborn is a foregone conclusion. Steve will be back… It’s always been obvious that he would. Reborn is about how that happens, whereas this story is about something interesting…

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