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Iron Man #28

Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2008
By: Paul Brian McCoy

Daniel and Charles Knauf
Roberto de la Torre, Dean White (colors)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Iron Man #28 arrives in stores tomorrow, April 16.

"Haunted" is finally wrapped up this month, and while it's pretty damn good, there are a couple of weak spots that keep it from being completely successful... although I'm tempted to up my rating just for the issue having the best use of Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan in years. Except he's a Skrull, right? How does this work? I'm really not sure. I mean, the title crossed-over with Civil War and World War Hulk, so why not Secret Invasion?

I'm hoping they just let this one slide, because there's really no way to reconcile Dugan's Skrullification over there and his ultimate bad-assery here.

But that aside, the Knaufs pull together a lot of narrative threads and construct a pretty convincing and satisfying finale (although there are a couple of problems that, like the Dugan/Skrull, can be overlooked if it is your wont). Stark is facing down both the UN and the CSA, threatened with being charged with terrorism and tried in the International Criminal Court, and with violating the Registration Act and being sent to the Negative Zone prison, 42. All of this, while the Mandarin prepares a self-replicating, airborne version of the Extremis virus that will be lethal to 97.5% of the planet's population.

So we've got a pretty high stakes game going on here, and the Knaufs wring every bit of drama and action from it that they can. However, in all the excitement there are a couple of things that get left out, like the ultimate fates of both Maya and the Mandarin. For Maya, it's just an example of seeming to forget about her, so as far as we know, by the end of this issue, she's still in China (walking home, perhaps?). And the mysterious fate of the Mandarin just doesn't make sense and is a horrible cliché at the same time. I also wasn't too thrilled with how Tony proves to Maya that he isn't another of the Mandarin's mindgames.

But, like I said, these aren't big enough problems to derail the whole story, and there are many more strong things about this issue than weak. We get to see another classic armor model, the aforementioned Dum Dum Dugan moment of absolute coolness, the final fate of Jack Kooning, an ultra-violent beat down between Stark and the Mandarin (maybe fusing the rings to his spine wasn't a great idea afterall), and Tony's quick thinking (and a bit of self-mutilation) saving the day.

All of this is beautifully illustrated by Roberto de la Torre, who is inking his own pencils this time. When accompanied by Dean White's use of color, this book becomes a work of art. The rotating art teams on this title were a brilliant idea, and the way the different artists maintain a consistent style is maybe the most impressive aspect. That and the regular shipping schedule.

Dugan isn't modeled on Tommy Lee Jones when de la Torre draws him, and Stark doesn't look like any Hollywood actor I recognize. They both just look like Dugan and Stark. Maybe there are models, but de la Torre does a good job of disguising the fact. The set designs are extremely realistic, providing a gritty, occasionally dirty, believability that adds to the more "real world" feel to which the title aspires.

The action sequences are nicely done, with a lot of weight and grace. The punches look like they hurt, and when there's real damage taken, we see it, rather than be shied away. And there are a couple of moments here that are truly cringe-worthy (in a good way). However, not every panel is gold, and there are occasional lapses in perspective and once or twice there are some extremely awkward poses, especially while Stark and the Mandarin grapple.

In the end, this is a good conclusion to a story that may have gone on a little too long. Or maybe it just seemed that way since it took a while for the actual threat to be revealed. Yeah, that's probably it. If the overall storyline had been trimmed back a little, this might have really knocked it out of the park, but as it is, my enjoyment was tempered by relief that it was finally over. That, coupled with a few narrative problems and a glitch or two in the art, keep this from being an exceptional comic. But it's still pretty damn good, and much better than a lot of the stuff on the shelves week in and out. You know, the stuff you're reading when you should be reading this.







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