Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Invincible Iron Man #2

Last month, ol' Shell-head's new series jumped straight into action. When a horrific suicide bombing massacred hundreds in eastern Africa and forensic evidence seems to finger some of Tony Stark's Iron Man-exclusive technology, it's naturally of great concern to the current director of SHIELD. After some research indicates that the culprit is a splinter group known as AGM, (Advanced Genocide Mechanics, naturally) Stark pinpoints their HQ, dons the gold and crimson armor and fires headlong into battle.

Writer Matt Fraction's take on Stark is a good one, in line with the character's more recent, patent-happy persona elsewhere in the Marvel Universe. The best part of the character lately has been the peeks we're given into his psyche, into his tendency to analyze the flaws and shortcomings of his inventions right in the middle of a firefight. Fraction has a firm handle on that aspect of the character, and even manages to slip in a good-sized dose of dry humor and self-deprecation along the way. It's easy to see that Stark is his own worst critic, and while he's talking to himself about the problems with his designs, the readers are granted a first-hand example of why those mistakes could lead to death out on the battlefield. In this issue, as Tony announces that he needs "to not have giant rockets strapped to my feet anymore," heat-seeking rockets lock onto their targets and chase him into the atmosphere. Easy to see why that would be a problem...

Fraction has a flair for good action scenes and impressive freeze frames, which he gladly carries over to each character he touches. Sure, the concept of Iron Man blasting through the sky to grab MODOG by the hair is plenty dramatic, but the added emphasis of a sonic boom that strikes at precisely the moment of impact makes it that much more impressive. Sure, it doesn't exactly make perfect sense (why wouldn't the power of that impact just tear his enemy's hair out by the roots?) but if you're already willing to accept the existence of a giant floating head bent on world domination, why not make a few exceptions for dramatic effect as well? Besides, Matt is gifted enough as a writer to capture his audience's attention with a good action scene, distracting them from such real-world questions through sheer ingenuity. While the story slows down near the midway point, the abundance of fresh ideas and high concepts keep it an entertaining, intriguing read.

Salvador Larroca's accompanying artwork, however, is much harder to get a handle on. Everything is so shiny and unblemished that it gives the entire issue a fake, plasticky flavor that's not entirely welcome. Tony's moustache is trimmed so neatly that he's either got a robot dedicated to maintaining a perfect arc from nose to mouth or he's straight-up glued the thing to his upper lip. Larroca's take on MODOG early in the issue is inconsistent and spotty, not to mention totally out of line with the excessively clean environment he's thrust into. It doesn't look like he and Iron Man should be occupying the same universe, let alone the same panel. On a few occasions, specifically during the more pronounced action scenes, the artist really brings his "A" game and delivers a great panel or two, but for the most part this is a forgettable contribution. It's a pity, because I've enjoyed Larroca's work when I've seen it elsewhere, but this just isn't his finest hour.

It's still early in this book's life, so I'll give it some leeway, but it doesn't seem like it's really found an identity or deliberate direction yet. Matt Fraction is trying a few things, and most of them are working, but it's lacking a distinct course, the feeling that we're doing more than treading water from month to month. Pair that with a sub-par appearance from Salvador Larroca, and you've got an issue that isn't necessarily a bad read, but is worlds away from being anything more. It's worth a flip through and maybe a bit more, but I'm not exactly frothing at the mouth in anticipation of what's going to happen next month.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4.5

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