Or – “A Smackdown Of A Cerebral Nature…”

There are a lot of geniuses in the Marvel Universe, from Abner Jenkins all the way up to Reed Richards, and there’s one thing they all have in common:  They all invent forcefields, regardless of their field of study. They’re all social idiots. They’re too stupid to see the big picture. They all tend to have a bit of an ego about their big brains.  So, what to do when Tony Stark gets a challenge from one of the oldest smart guys around? 

Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Salvador LaRocca
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Alejandro Arbona
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, on Invincible Iron Man: Back from the dead, metaphorically speaking, Anthony Stark has rebuilt his company from the ground up yet again.  Naming the new venture Stark Resilient, Tony has (with the help of executive assistant Pepper Potts and majordomo Jim Rhodes and their respective armors, mind you) created a new power source based on his repulsor technology and used it to power the car of the future.  This has brought him into conflict with Justine & Sasha Hammer, who want to see him personally taken down as well as professionally ruined.  With their first project successful (aside from a prolonged battle with an armored schmuck), Tony has settled into the task of making Stark Resilient into a powerhouse that will change the world for good…

Old Scores To Settle…

We open with a flashback to several years ago, prior to Marvel’s age of heroes, as a young Tony Stark ponders a Rubik’s Cube at a technology symposium.  He is approached by another attendee, one Otto Octavius, and they share a few unpleasant moments before Octavius walks away in disgust.  In literally one page, Fraction and LaRocca have effortlessly told us everything we need to know about both Stark and Octavius and set up a future conflict between two characters who have been around forever but haven’t shared a lot of screen time.  It’s really amazing to see the economy with which the storytelling is handled here, and the first page alone is a successful story.  We cut to the present, where Tony is preparing to show Thor his plans for a rebuilt city of Asgard/Broxton, Oklahoma with his young protege Tim.  Tony spends his day doing press junkets before he is unceremoniously attacked in his hotel room by an automaton…  An automaton that looks like an Octopus.

Harsh Words To Share…

Tony is quickly brought into the presence of the new, improved, incurably diseased Doctor Octopus, whom Tony describes as “a colossal waste of time.”  Ock makes Tony power down, and informs him that if he powers up his repulsor generators, it will set off a 21 kiloton nuclear weapon and destroy Manhattan.  “I hated you from day one,” sneers Octopus, before presenting Tony with his challenge:  Fix Octavius fatal, irreversible condition, or be humbled by admitting it’s too big a problem to solve.  Tony defies Octopus, but the not-so-good Doctor has acquired his own insurance policy.  Back in Broxton, Electro and Sandman take sidekick Tim into custody, holding him hostage on Ock’s orders.  Tony agrees, but reminds Octopus that the failures of his life are his own, and that humbling Stark isn’t going to make them any better.  Even the giant octopus robots are stolen from Stark’s own designs, and ends the tirade with the harshest rebuke of all:  “You want to know why you’ve been stuck all these years…  fighting a teenager all these years instead of pinging my radar?  You’re not worth my TIME.”  As Tony sets out to fix Ock, we find Pepper Potts checking in on young Tim in his hotel, which cannot be good…

The Verdict: Fascinating

This is a very good issue in a series of very good issues, setting up a natural conflict between characters who have been around forever, with similar backgrounds and motifs, without feeling forced.  There are half a dozen clever touches in the issue, from the redesign of Asgard to the flashbacks to Tony’s skipping out on news outlets while refusing to neglect the comedy programs.  (And if you’ve seen The Daily Show and Colbert lately, it’s clear why…)  Tony’s interactions with Octopus are wonderfully written, with every line from both hero and villain brimming with contempt for the other.  These days, everyone seems to want to see the heroes fighting their iconic villains, claiming it’s not a Spider-Man story without the Green Goblin or that Batman isn’t fun unless he faces the Joker.  In these pages, Fraction builds a brand-new rivalry out of existing pieces of history and makes Doctor Octopus seem like Iron Man’s ultimate nemesis in just a few pages.  It’s an example of the kind of good stories that are possible when we all (creators and readers) get our heads out of our collective asses about history, tradition and continuity, and let them write something new and different.  Invincible Iron Man #501 sets our hero out on a new quest without damaging or destroying what has gone before, and gives us something we haven’t seen a million times before, earning a well-deserved 5 out of 5 stars overall. The only thing that can ruin this for me is when the next creator brings Octopus back and turns his fights with Iron Man into a cliche…

Rating: ★★★★★

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: What hero/villain combinations that we don’t see very often do you think have the most potential?  (I’m wondering about Daredevil vs. Apocalypse, myself…)


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. I thought that one John Byrne comic where Reed Richards just fights Doc Ock’s arms to try and save Sue and the unborn baby was great. He even comments on ‘fighting an unliving analogue of his own powers’.
    I’ve always wanted to see Batman vs Galactus. Just to see what Batman would pull out of his backside to beat him. Because OBVIOUSLY he’d beat him, he’s Batman!

  2. What I want to see is a Flash in Gotham city. I meant… the most powerful superheroes in the world are in what seems to be the nicest cities in the world. Man, the whole Justice League should move to Gotham for a bit for some major street cleaning.
    And if stuff DOES happen back home… well, that’s what superspeed is for.

    Ooh. And more Loki/Spiderman. I don’t care if they fight(because THAT would be extremely short) but I want that… Trickster side of spiderman played up more.

  3. Speedball (from before happy characters were in the crosshairs) vs. Sebastian Shaw…

    It’d be like Valentine’s Day in the old folks’ home–some movement and something may or may not happen…..

  4. Matt, you have me flashing back to Acts of Vengence over here!

    My vote? Captain America and the Falcon fight The Red Ghost and his Super Apes. Patriotism vs. Communism. 70’s Marvel Staff? Y’all dropped the ball on that one!

    Runner up? Darkhawk vs. Sleepwalker. They could fight to see who deserves to have a series again!

  5. I think I’d like to see Ragman vs. Rag Doll. And, The Toxic Avenger vs. Swamp Thing (pre-earth elemental).

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