When I reviewed the last issue of Invincible Iron Man, I talked about how little of Iron Man himself we seem to get in the series. Which is true, but the guy behind the armor does way more than the armor itself, anyway. Thing is, I forgot something: when Fraction and Larroca finally get to the PEW PEW PEW KRAKA-BOOM-THOOM they really deliver. Remember that amazing fight scene with Detroit Steel at the conclusion of “Stark Resilient?” The current story arc, “Fix Me,” is starting to reach that point.
This might be the first story arc in the series where Tony Stark is immediately faced with a threat head-on; usually, the big bad brews in the background while Stark’s preoccupied with inventing things and having businesses. “Fix Me,” conversely, begins with Doctor Octopus attacking Tony Stark and being presented with a difficult scenario: fix the dying Doc Ock like he would any other malfunctioning machine or admit that he can’t do it. To do anything else will result in a nuclear bomb exploding over Midtown, NYC.
Pairing Stark with Doctor Octopus was a masterstroke on Fraction’s part. While importing other heroes’ villains is a decidedly old school novelty, the writer executes it in a way that’s sensical (they’re both scientists!) and also makes for some great tension between the two characters. Octopus has a grudge against Stark and wants him to realize the limits of his genius. Stark just wants to deal with this lunatic and save the city, but he can’t stop being a dick to a guy whose face he’s punched repeatedly.
While Stark verbally battles Doctor Octopus, Pepper Potts physically fights Electro and Sandman in Broxton, OK, fulfilling the book’s need for superhero tussling. It’s always swell to see Pepper Potts do stuff besides getting into trouble, but does anyone else miss Electro’s ridiculous old mask? His face was lightning bolts! I prefer my comic book costumes physically impractical. Leave it to the movies to make sense of ‘em.
It’s hard not to imagine Invincible Iron Man as being in dialogue with the films (and it’s no secret that the two have informed one another), so it’s refreshing to see a villain that isn’t a giant armored villain. While the standard superhero trope is for the hero to fight some perverse mirror version of himself (which is the real reason why characters like Venom endure), this doesn’t have to be so literal. Fraction posits Doctor Octopus as a perversion of Tony Stark, but he’s physically different enough to make him an exciting foe.