Plot: After the events of Secret Invasion Tony Stark finds himself cast out by the world he strove to protect.
Review: Rebuilding and redemption is what it's all about here, folks. Secret Invasion has come and gone, producing disastrous consequences for Tony Stark. S.H.I.E.L.D is gone along with all facets of Stark technology around the world. On a wave of euphoria and victory Norman Osborn has now been given the reins of power in the Marvel universe.
The issue opens with former S.H.I.E.L.D operative Maria Hill. Like Tony she has been cast out by the new order, finding herself surplus to requirements. This feeling of helplessness echoes in a few scenes throughout the book. Tony now finds himself without the Extremis conduit which brings its own particular set of problems. With this connection gone, Tony finds it even harder to be the hero he wants to be, his good intentions only bringing destruction.
Something I found odd in the post Secret Invasion fallout was the blame put on Tony Stark. I mean, sure, he has made some mistakes, but can he really be blamed for the Skrull invasion or the virus that knocked out his tech? Are the negative feelings most comic book readers felt towards Tony post-Civil War being meted out here?
Forced as it seems though, it could make for some interesting stories. I think what we're starting to see with this issue is Tony Stark/Iron Man's redemption. Fraction and Marvel as a whole are stripping Stark bare. His company, the Extremis conduit, leadership of S.H.I.E.L.D and the Avengers, Avengers tower itself, the respect of the public are all gone. They're taking everything away from him. They're stripping him bare and knocking him down so they can rebuild him anew, reconfiguring his presence and role in the Marvel Universe.
This idea is mirrored nicely in a scene with Pepper Potts receiving an upgrade as the narration ponders the line between humans and technology.
Norman Osborn, the current designated "saviour" of the Marvel Universe features quite prominently in this issue as Tony begins the process of handing over the keys to the kingdom. Fraction gives us a great scene between the two, tension bubbling just beneath the surface, words and expressions masking both men's emotions. The scene demonstrates how badly Osborn wants one of Tony's most high profile inventions, the Superhuman Registration Database. Tony has the last laugh in this regard, but it seems things are about to get heated very quickly.
Fraction, as shown before, has a great handle on Tony and his supporting cast. The Tony/Pepper chemistry in particular is a joy to read. It looks like Osborn will be a heavily featured character from now on, so it's a comfort that Fraction writes the guy really well too. The issue also serves as a perfect jumping on point for a new reader. Invincible Iron Man as a book is incredibly easy to get into, launched as it was to coincide with the release of the film. With this issue Fraction lays out the new status quo, shows us the supporting cast and Tony's relationships to them, and lays the seeds of upcoming events.
I was a big fan of Larocca's art in the last arc, and it's just as impressive here. The two page shipyard spread is a wonderful example. This guy draws tech really well, so he couldn't be on a more perfect book. That said, the colours seemed different here than the last arc. (I don't have the credits for issue #7 at hand, so I'm unable to check whether the colourist remains the same.) The colours are slightly lighter in tone, pastel-like, which leads to some panels having a washed out look.
This is a minor gripe though in what is a solid and entertaining issue, and going on solicitations Tony's problems are about to get much bigger very quickly.
Final Word: A promising start to a new arc and a good jumping on point. Stark vs. Osborn begins. Recommended.
For the first time since the series launched earlier this year, I hadn't been looking forward to the new issue of Invincible Iron Man. The reason for this is that the book has (inevitably) been called on to incorporate current Marvel Universe happenings into its current status quo, after seven issues that have been fairly self-contained and disconnected from the rest of the Marvel Universe, thus allowing writer Matt Fraction to do his own thing without being too weighted down by the demands of larger MU continuity.
This is the first issue of the title to acknowledge Secret Invasion and its aftermath, making explicit reference to the Skrull invasion and to the fact that Stark has been deposed as head of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which is now being dismantled). It's also an issue that has heavy ties to the "Dark Reign" event running through many of Marvel's titles at the moment, meaning that the newly-promoted Norman Osborn plays a fairly prominent role. Finally, the issue also draws on controversial elements of Tony's character that were established in Civil War, making Stark's position as the figurehead of the pro-registration movement a major plot point for this new story arc.
Thankfully, readers can trust Fraction to take those elements and channel them into something that's far more enjoyable than any of the stories that came up with the ideas in the first place.
The first chapter of the "World's Most Wanted" storyline is entitled "Shipbreaking". Whilst that can be viewed as a literal title (the opening pages of the issue show the dismantling/rebuilding of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier), it carries a lot of meaning on a metaphorical level, too. The events of Secret Invasion have reduced Tony Stark to a shadow of his former self, removing his authority as director of S.H.I.E.L.D., destroying the reputation of his company, and compromising his Extremis-based abilities. Whilst some of those developments felt contrived in the context of Secret Invasion itself, they actually make for a pretty compelling starting point for an against-the-odds superhero story in Iron Man's own solo title, and one that allows Fraction to break down the core concepts of the book and reconstruct them into a new status quo and a new direction for his protagonist.
In addition to setting the stage for Stark's struggle against adversity, the issue features some decent character moments for the book's supporting cast members, too, showing how their lives have changed as a result of the upheaval of the Skrull invasion. There's a sweet moment between Tony and Pepper as he applies some final upgrades to her new enhancements, emphasising the mutual respect, friendship and affection between the two characters. There's a great scene between Tony and "Commander Osborn" that perfectly encapsulates the latter's unpleasantness. And it's testament to Fraction's skill as a writer that he even manages to turn Maria Hill into a sympathetic character, with a strong opening sequence that works to make the character more relatable and three-dimensional than she has seemed in the past.
There are a couple of flaws in the issue that prove a little distracting: the changing identities of the speakers in the issue's narrative boxes isn't always emphasised as strongly as it might be, meaning that it's not always clear who is narrating a given scene. There's also an odd bit of colouring for Norman Osborn's hair in one sequence that makes him look as though he's aged about 20 years–although it doesn't detract from an otherwise strong effort from the reliable art team of Salvador Larroca and Frank D'Armata, who turn in their usual great job here.
Although it's difficult to discuss the ending of the issue without spoiling things somewhat, the final pages work to set up a fantastic conflict between Stark and the main villain of the arc. Fraction pulls an inspired yet simple idea out of his hat in the closing moments of the book, and I can't wait to see where things go from here. Any readers who were worried that Secret Invasion was going to mess things up for this book can rest assured: this is still a highly enjoyable read.