Editor's Note: Invincible Iron Man #3 arrives in stores Thursday, July 10.
Ezekiel Stane is a creepy son of a bitch. If his motives haven't chilled you to the bone in previous issues of Invincible Iron Man, let part three of "The Five Nightmares" drive the point home. Just the image of Stane being carted off on a stretcher with a shit-eating grin on his face, while covered in horrible burns, makes the hair stand up on my neck. This is a villain who is challenging Tony on all fronts. He has the powers of a super-villain, but the mind and drive of a young Tony, and it's truly scary. Fraction's choice of villain for his first arc on Invincible Iron Man is inspiring and makes the threat level seem genuine, and thusly, the plot seem larger than life, as well as the foundation of an epic battle of minds for Tony Stark.
When Invincible Iron Man first launched, it was instinctively compared to the recent Iron Man film. With the book hitting shelves a mere week or so after the film arrived in theaters, Invincible Iron Man seemed to be the spiritual sequel to the film, a way to carry on the plot through a monthly comic book. Well, Invincible Iron Man #3 is the nail in the coffin as it segues from the film in two ways. Firstly, it spends a number of pages recapping Stark's ties to Ezekiel's father, Obidiah (main villain of the Iron Man film), which was surprisingly drawn by Salvador Larocca (more on Larocca in a few). Secondly, the plot twist with Pepper Pots caters to both old fans, as well as those jumping onto title because of the Iron Man film. I donít think it's spoiling the book when I say she survives the bombing of Stark Dynamics Tower, but what happens next is a welcome addition to her mythos and nicely weaves her closer to Tony, making them "one and the same."
Again, Salvador Larocca's work on Invincible Iron Man #3 was also a surprise. As I mentioned before, there's a flashback sequence detailing the history between Tony Stark and Obidiah Stane. It took me flipping back to the title page of the issue to realize this section of the book was, in fact, drawn by Larocca. The style is so wildly different from what we have come to expect from Larocca on the title: no mannequin characters, disproportioned body parts, or muddy faces. Instead we are given a sequence drawn with a more cartoony flavor which still renders the entire cast of Invincible Iron Man perfectly. If it wasn't for how good Larocca rendered the Iron Man armor with his standard flashy art, I would almost want this flashback style to take over the entire book. But then again, it's nice to have a single artist making the visual distinction between time periods by using two different styles. And while it's on my mind, Larocca doesn't do a bad job with issue #3 when it comes to faces. They still seem overly shiny, but nothing is disproportioned to the extent that it pulls me out of the action.
So far Matt Fraction is three for three with his work on Invincible Iron Man. I have finally found a shell head book that I can enjoy, and look forward to, each month. The battle of wits between Stark and Stane has been great, but I hope Fraction continues to build the plot of his run from this starting foundation to create an epic run to rival what Brubaker and company are doing on Captain America. Tony Stark deserves it.
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