Writer: Robin Laws
Artists: Michael Ryan (p), Sean Parsons with Rich Perrotta (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Tony Stark in a desperate fight against an assassin who has already injected a dose of poison into his IV bag, and is rather surprised that Tony isn't already dead let alone able to defend himself. However, defend himself he does, and we see he's also able to keep her from killing herself when she realizes she's lost. We then learn that Tony's artificial heart acts to screen out various poisons, and this is what kept him alive, and when the assassin is questioned she claims that she was hired by the Koreans, who are looking to keep Tony from implicating them in the attack on the Chinese embassy. As the proof continues to build that Tony did sell weapon technology to the Koreans, we see Tony agrees to be taken into protective custody, but as he's being transported to a secret infirmary, his transport in set upon by an attack helicopter. As Tony suits up in his armor, we see that his poor health does make his fight against the helicopter a little more dicey than it would've been, but Iron Man is able to emerge as the victor. He then takes matters into his own hands as he follows up on a lead and manages to secure a potential witness who might be able to let him know who has organized this frame-up job against him.
The main problem I have with this arc is how quickly the tide has turned against Tony. I mean, I'll buy Joe & Jane Public of the Marvel Universe expressing doubts about Tony's innocence, as if nothing else there's nothing the public like more than a scandal involving a celebrity. However where this book loses its credibility is when we see members of S.H.I.E.L.D. questioning Tony's guilt & innocence. I mean these are suppose to be the most capable intelligence officers in the entire Marvel Universe, and yet they seem to be completely unable to even consider that this is a setup. I realize their role in the story is to turn the screws as the best stories involving the pursuit of an innocent man require the people chasing him to have tunnel vision when it comes to the person's guilt. However, when the villains use a weapon that can instantly be traced back to Tony Stark, and there are several attempts made to kill Tony, asking the readers to accept the idea that these intelligent agents are sticking to the idea that Tony is guilty is downright goofy. Even the paper trail that establishes Tony's motive for the sale is only halfway finished before the lead investigator jumps to his conclusion about Tony's guilt, as an effort needs to be made to establish this payoff was the new line of financing that Tony mentioned.
Still I will give the book credit for creating an overwhelming sense of excitement, as it opens with a fairly intense little battle where a poisoned Tony is involved in a fight with an assassin. It's always fun to see Tony endangered when he's not wearing his armor, as more than any other character in the Marvel Universe, I always find myself questioning Tony's ability to hold his own when he doesn't have access to his armor. If nothing else this fight earns marks for the way it plays up the sheer determination of Tony's assassin, as she keeps on coming & coming. I also have to say that there is a certain appeal to having Iron Man being hunted by S.H.I.E.L.D. as if there is any group in the Marvel Universe that could give Iron Man a real run for his money when it comes to technological hardware I would have to say S.H.I.E.L.D. is front & center. There's also a fairly impressive battle in this issue between Iron Man & an attack helicopter, and the fact that Tony is in pretty sad shape medically makes this fight a little more exciting than it might've been. The last page of this issue also delivers a fairly big surprise, as we see S.H.I.E.L.D. gains itself a very powerful ally in their bid to take down Iron Man, and I expect the fallout from this betrayal is going to make some waves in future issues.
When this book is delivering its action sequences, I'm fully convinced that Michael Ryan is the ideal artist for this title, as he delivers a very intense battle between Tony & an assassin in the opening pages of this issue, where one can't help but be impressed by how clearly the fight is detailed. The action during this fight carries over from one panel to the next perfectly, and for six pages I was absolutely enthralled by the sense of urgency the art managed to convey. The same goes for the scene later in the issue where Iron Man does battle with an attack helicopter, with the double page sequence where Tony has to absorb the full brunt of a missile attack being the highlight of this exchange. I also have to make mention of this month's cover, as that's a absolutely gorgeous shot of Iron Man's armor. However where the art isn't quite so impressive is when we receive the talking heads sections of the issue, as it is during these scenes that I can't help but notice the rather limited range of emotions that the art is able to convey. I mean take the final page of this issue, where a supporting cast member decides to give into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s demands, and the art fails to convey the emotional conflict that needed to accompany this rather momentous decision.
This story isn't able to make the leap it needs to, as while there are elements that I find highly entertaining, the underlying idea that Tony would instantly become public enemy number one thanks to some dubious information, is simply too large a hurdle that this story hasn't done enough to overcome. I mean when the lead investigator comes out and states that if a person looks guilty, he likely is guilty one can't help but feel the writer is going for the easy plot device. One has to wonder why Nick Fury isn't pushing this agent to look beyond the obvious interpretations of the information. I mean the way it stands now S.H.I.E.L.D. is coming across like a bunch of neophytes who would fall for anything. Now there's some excitement to be found in these pages as Tony's fight in the opening pages is quite exciting, as is his run-in with the attack helicopter, but Robin Laws does need to make more of an effort to explain why Tony has automatically been cast as the bad guy.
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