Or – “A Conspiracy Of Nefarious Intentions…”

Justine Hammer, Ezekiel Stane and The Mandarin are working together to take down the one man they all hate above others:  Anthony Stark.  With War Machine fallen in the line of duty and the Iron Man armor expelled from Tony’s body, can anyone stop this alliance of evil?

How about the all-new, all-different Iron Man?  That do anything for ya?

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #518
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Invincible Iron Man:  Tony Stark’s actions during Fear Itself included getting plastered out of his gourd, a moment which has come back to haunt him.  With his greatest enemies assembled to destroy his reputation and publicly humiliate him, Tony has given up his Iron Man armor and retired from the super-hero bidness out of rage.  Of course, the loss of the pilot does NOT mean the end of the Iron Man…

WHO IS THIS SUPER-HERO?

Wheels within wheels in this run of Iron Man, as The Mandarin manipulates Stane, Hammer manipulates the Mandarin, the government manipulates Tony Stark and James Rhodes has faked his own death, the better to go into action in new armor.  The use of an army of old villains is both apropos and a reminder of the time that Justin Hammer united all of Iron Man’s minor goons back in the 70’s, but with a whole new (vicious) edge.  Tony Stark and Reed Richards hold a press conference to announce that Tony has given up being Iron Man to focus on his continued recovery from alcoholism, and there’s an assassin loose in Stark Resilient.  That’s a serious mouthful right there, and it only scratches the surface of what’s going on in the book.  Fraction’s writing is note-perfect, and it’s a testament to his skill that the reader is unsure whether Tony Stark is actually two steps ahead of the villains this issue, or so far behind that things are inevitably doomed.  There’s some serious badassery shown by Stark’s bodyguard Bethany Cabe and his secretary Mrs. Arbogast, as well, making things very satisfying from a character standpoint.

IT AIN’T WENDELL WILKIE!

The Mandarin’s villainous plot has multiple prongs, but this issue throws in a few curves as well.  Every single page is a new reveal, and the battle between Iron Man and Firepower is particularly awesome, with Rhodey taking great relish in his new armor and abilities.  I’m unsure whether he’s in a new War Machine phase or the new Iron Man or perhaps even neither, but the new armor is kinetic and interesting to look at, reminding me of the old-school stealth armor, and Salvador Larocca NAILS combat over land, sea and air duct with equal skill and brilliance.  The new Spymaster design has, frankly, never looked better, while Sasha Hammer and Ezekiel Stane are both working off the Mandarin’s program.  Most fun of all is the moment where the new Chemistro and Mauler are tasked with the murder of Tony Stark, and both villains stare blankly, as though asked to juggle unicorns…

THE VERDICT: INTRIGUING, COMPLEX FUN.

Fraction’s Iron Man has been a series of mysteries wrapped in intruiges dipped in tempura and fried golden brown, and this issue merely ups the ante.  Both sides of this fight are playing high-speed chess, and by the end of the issue, it’s unclear who is really ahead.  What is clear, however, is that Invincible Iron Man #518 is a good read, and even though the solicitations tried to make a game of the man in the iron mask, it’s clear and makes dramatic sense what happens, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.   This is an example of how to pull off a multi-issue arc well, with multiple plots and characters used to good effect throughout…

Rating: ★★★★½

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

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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