Or – “All Jets Ablaze, He Fights And Fights With Repulsor Rays…”


The thing about Tony Stark that’s really interesting is that, while he’s a self-made man in many ways, he’s seldom fully in control.  Whether you consider his finances, his alcohol dependency or his habit of wrapping himself in aluminum foil and picking fights with various demi-gods, Stark tends to fly by the seat of his metal pants.  Now that his fortune is gone, his company disassembled, and his security clearance revoked, Tony needs to pull off a Hail Mary of epic proportions to keep his latest fresh start from going under before it’s even started.

Invincible Iron Man #26
COVER BY: Salvador Larroca
WRITER: Matt Fraction
PENCILS: Salvador Larroca
INKS: Salvador Larroca
COLORED BY: Frank D’Armata
LETTERED BY: VC – Joe Caramagna
PUBLISHED BY: Marvel Comics

Previously, on Invincible Iron Man:  Here’s the long and the short of it…  After realizing that Superhuman Registration was a likelihood, Iron Man made himself the public face of the Initiative.  Even as his oldest friends opposed him, Tony made the passage of the bill a little more tolerable, and had a run as head of SHIELD where he made mistakes, but worked overall to protect his superhuman comrades.  The problem came when he failed to ask what happened if he were ever to fail, a reality that hit hard during the Skrull Invasion of the Earth.  Cast out, Tony Stark found himself replaced by a corduroy-haired autocrat, hounded by the authorities, and forced to erase his mind to get rid of the only copy of the Superhuman Registration database.  In the light of the Brand New Day (no, wait, that’s the OTHER guy) Iron Man’s assets consist of a few good friends, a couple of wacky ideas, and the most powerful and advanced suit of armor ever made.  If only he had a Holocaust cloak, he might be able to pull this one off.

A Long And Winding Road

There’s a lot of different agendas at play in this issue, with Spymaster blackmailing an unscrupulous genius, Justine Hammer selling her Detroit Steel armor to the enemies of the guys she sold them to last issue, some old Stark Industries hardware ending up in the wrong hands, and Maria Hill confronting her old boss on behalf of her new boss.  Tony Stark spins a yarn about what happens when he’s wrong (he ends up covered in blood, with no passport, having caused thousands of dollars of property damage and damaging his closest relationships, as well as ticking off Hugh Hefner) and Maria Hill holds a grudge.  There’s a lot to take in this issue, even though not  alot happens in earth-shattering terms.  After his debrief, Stark looks up an ex-employee (one who rightfully holds a grudge for the way he was fired) and extends an offer of partnership.  “You were always a better engineer than me, Wyche,” says Tony.  “This is me trying to impress you.”  Although he’s dead broke, he can offer his technological advances in the form of the giant Iron Man armor that he created during the Disassembled arc.  Everyone is surprised, though, when a shipment arrives from the new head of HAMMER/SHIELD/SMERSH (We’re not sure what he’s calling it yet) containing nine more armors of various vintage.  The wronged employee accepts Tony’s backhanded apology, and they begin stripping the suits for parts…

This issue is a far cry from what I was afraid would happen after the reboot, as it steadfastly refuses to whitewash any of Stark’s obnoxious actions of the past.  Maria gets in her shots after saving his life, Tony’s own story is damning, and a flashback in which he fires Carson Wyche publicly using Wyche’s own invention (a handheld cellular phone/PDA years ahead of its time) makes him look like a complete jerk.  Salvador Larocca is really good at what he does, and this issue’s art is pretty phenomenal, notably the appearance of Wyche and Tony in their flashbacks as opposed to today, as both men are clearly the same character a few years later.  The Hammer Girls’ plan starts to come together, but I’m still troubled and concerned about what it is that the new company (Stark Resilient) is going to, y’know, DO.  The issue isn’t without it’s flaws, as parts of it are talkier than I would have liked, but little details won me over, like using the exact same video for the Detroit Steel presentation, and the appearance of Spymaster in his new glowy suit.  The fact that the armor delivery gives us recognizable suits (The Silver Centurion, the Hulkbuster armor, the original gray suit and the Extremis-era armor, among others) is a nice touch, and overall you find yourself rooting for Iron Man/Tony Stark as he tries to rebuild.  We’ve seen this sort of thing before, but it’s nice to get back to an Iron Man that we can root for.

Smash It Or Thrash It?

Fraction’s work on this book has been a breath of fresh air after years of a very overbearing Tony in the “Brainiac 5 genius/dick” mode, giving us a much more accessible character whose motivations are understandable.  Who doesn’t know what it’s like to have to rebuild after a major breakdown?  Add to that some spiffy Larocca art, and you’ve got a recipe for goodness on all fronts.  Even as part of my mind analyzes the changes and knows that they’re designed to make the Iron Man status quo closer to the movie version, it’s an interesting ride getting there.  Invincible Iron Man #26 is still a lot of fun, and earns 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  With classic villain Spymaster in play, I’m hoping this one just gets better and better…

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Is it a good thing or a bad thing, in your opinion, to see the comics emulating the movie versions of these characters?


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.

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