Friday, June 18, 2010

Trade Waiting - Invincible Iron Man Omnibus, Vol. 1

Launching around the time of the first Iron Man movie, Invincible Iron Man has proven to be a polarizing title among readers. I started reading the title during it's launch, though I soon dropped it during it's first arc. During the Great Amazon Glitch Sale of 2010, I was able to nab the Omnibus I am reviewing today at an incredibly low price. I figured it would be a great way to get a whole lot of story and judge how the creative team of Matt Fraction, Salvador Larroca, and Frank D'Armata had been doing since I abandoned the title. Hit the jump to see more.


Collects Invincible Iron Man #1-19
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Salvador Larroca
Color by Frank D'Armata

This omnibus, despite collecting more than a year and half of comic books, only has two story arcs inside. The first one is "The Five Nightmares of Tony Stark", which deals with (as the name implies) several of Stark's nightmares becoming true. He must deal with his technology being used by third parties for nefarious purposes, such as acts of terrorism. Stark's nemesis in this story arc is Ezekiel Stane a young man in the warpath to destroy everything that Tony Stark has created, a quest first initiated by his father, Zebediah Stane. In the process, "Zeke", pretty much destroys all of Stark's companies, though in the end Tony and an army of Iron Men defeat him. Along the way, Tony's long time assistant Pepper Potts gets seriously injured, and must be outfitted with a chest plate/reactor just like the one he wears (this becomes important later). There is also a stand alone issue that teams up Iron Man and Spider-Man dealing with the fall out of this previous storyline.

The second story arc is a whopping twelve issues, and it is called World's Most Wanted (Eric reviewed the first TPB here). It deals with the aftermath of Secret Invasion, and the new status quo of Dark Reign, as Norman Osborn is in charge and Tony Stark is a man on the run from the law. Why is he on the run? Because before leaving his position as head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Tony deleted all copies of the Super Human Registration Act database, only keeping a copy in his brain. Throughout the whole storyline, Tony Stark is trying to keep ahead of Norman Osborn, and everything he throws at him, including Namor and Madame Masque. Tony must do this as he systematically attempts to erase his brain, which is literally making him stupider as he travels around the world trying to get rid of the database, and is forced to wear increasingly antiquated armors. Luckily for him, he has the aid of Black Widow, Maria Hill, and Pepper Potts, who was outfitted with a brand new armor called "Rescue". In the end, Norman Osborn does catch up with Tony, though he doesn't get what he was desiring all this time.

In the end, this book is a frustrating read, for several reasons.

I'm a pretty big fan of Fraction's writing, but this is not his best work by far. There is no doubt that writes some great villains: Zeke is completely psychotic, full of teenage rebellion and hormones, while Osborn is a more subdued although equally single minded in it's obsessions. One of my favorite scenes in this comic is when he first sits at the chair of H.A.M.M.E.R. and the first thing he does is attempt to check the database for Spider-Man's identity. Everything he does in his series, his hatred for Tony Stark, stems from the fact that Tony stopped him from the thing he wants the most. Osborn literally pulls all the strings he holds in order to regain this knowledge from Stark, but at the same time is smart enough to masquerade this lunacy under a veil of righteousness and patriotism that allow him to operate mostly unhindered.

Fraction writes an equally compelling Tony Stark, a character who is resourceful, intelligent, clever, and is still kind of a jerk to everyone around him. He's a resourceful man in a bad situation but he knows how to make the most out of it. One of the cleverest moments from Stark is when he devices a way for the members of his resistance to communicate with each other using email in a creative way. Of course, by the end of the book, Stark has forgotten how this was supposed to work, and accidentally gives away his plan. The trip down the evolution ladder is great to see, and leads to some emotional moments as Tony struggles with even the simplest of tasks.

The problem stems from the fact that the "Iron Man" parts of the story are not as good as the "Tony" parts of the stories. I can't say that I've read too many Iron Man stories, mostly this series, assorted stories from the past, and the volume before it, which started with Extremis. Even with my limited reading, a lot of the story beats are predictable and feel rehashed from previous stories. I was a big fan of what Charles and Daniel Knauf were doing in the previous series, which included Iron Man's technology being taken over by a young tech head, and Iron Man having to use older armors.

Of course, at the same time, these are stories that can also easily be compared with even older stories. The point is that, Fraction did not bring a whole lot of new Iron Man material to the table, nothing with huge repercussions, outside of removing Extremis from the picture (which was a great story, but for all intents and purposes "broke" the character by making him too powerful, although that's a whole other discussion). Maybe I was expecting too much from Fraction on this series? I was expecting to be blown away with new ideas, while all I got was hints of brilliance, moments of greatness, but never fully reaching that potential it in any consistent manner.

In a way, it reads like a "Greatest Hits" of Iron Man stories, something that is perfect for new readers that are not familiar with the character, but seasoned readers will probably find it repetitive and unnecessary. Considering that this was scheduled to come out alongside the "Iron Mania" that swept the nation as the first movie became a hit, I guess it's not entirely surprising.

Another problem is the art. I already mentioned my problem with photo referencing, but there are also other things that troubled my reading experience. There isn't a whole lot of backgrounds, mostly consisting of gradient walls that were probably added by colorist Frank D'Armata (and what looks like to be photos put through several filters). This is actually confirmed by some of the bonus material in the back of this trade, which show some pencil-only pages by Salvador Larroca. This also brought in another revelation: the art looks better without the colors. Before seeing these pages, I thought the problem was that Larroca is inking himself: the ink lines tend to very thin, but at the same time uneven, which gives everything a washed and unfocused look. Upon seeing these pages though, it seems that the problem all along has been the colors. I realize this will probably not win me any fans, but I would probably have rather read the whole book without D'Armata's colors. Which is not to say that I am not a fan of him, his colors in Captain America were amazingly consistent and providential in maintaining a unified look between the different artists in the book. He just does not seem to properly mix with Larroca's style for one reason or the other.

If Fraction did a great Tony but a lackluster Iron Man, it is the diametric opposite for Larroca. All the Iron Man scenes, and basically anything that involves an armor looks absolutely stunning. On the other hand, he struggles with faces a lot, which look uneven and sometimes downright inhuman. I remember his old style, and it was much more consistent than his new one. I'm all for experimentation, but with an artist with this much experience behind him, Larroca could have definitely done better. A personal nit pick of mine was that Larroca gave Tony a pencil mustache, when most other contemporary interpretations give him also a goatee. It makes Tony look like a 70's cop, or in my personal reading experience, like my in-law. I was very glad when the story called for Tony to get a shave.

There are many more topics to tackle in this book such as the role of the women in Tony's life, particularly Pepper's new identity as Rescue, some technology and continuity snafus but this review has gone on long enough. I think it's a rich book, and the fact that there are things to interpret and discuss means that this book is not completely bad, and puts it ahead of other series. It also has a pretty good ratio of content for the value, even at retail price of 39.99, this book has almost 20 issues worth of material. It's a good chunk of story, and if you can find it at a discounted price, it makes for a great sampler.

Verdict - Check It. If there was one word to describe this omnibus, it would be uneven. Questionable art, inconsistent writing means that this book never quite reaches the potential it could have achieved. Still, if this is your first excursion into the world of Iron Man, you might find this enjoyable, though I wouldn't recommend it to seasoned fans.

Interested in the Invincible Iron Man Omnibus, VOL. 1? Purchase it through Amazon and help support The Weekly Crisis!

Related Posts


Chris said...

Personally I think Fraction does a great job writing this series. The art however, has been inconsistent at best, and often has been downright bad. But I read comics more for the story than for the art so I've still really enjoyed this title.

Lucho said...

I´ve bought all 3 TPB of Fraction´s run and I loved it.

Too bad it´s frustrating for you. For me, it´s a great comic!

Matt Duarte said...

It's not that I hate this comic, it's just that I felt it could have been so much more. And yeah, I usually follow writers not artists, and I can put up with a lot in terms of mediocre art, but when it is actually hurting the story, that's when I take issue with it.

As for Fraction, I think it's probably my fault, I hold him to the ridiculously high standard of his work with Casanova.

Rich said...

For accuracy's sake, you might want to drop the word "omnibus" throughout this post. It doesn't appear anywhere on the book, and was not included in Marvel's solicitation for it. It's just THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, VOL. 1. Amazon had the word "omnibus" in its initial listing, but later dropped it.

See for Marvel's listing.

Thanks for the thoughtful review. I personally find the art to be "off" but like the general tone of the book even if I don't think it fires on all cylinders.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I only picked up the first arc and one-shot and they were good but not what I would say Must Read. I want to pick up the World's Most Wanted storyline, eventually, but there's other stuff I want to read first. I am with Matt in that I want Casanova quality, and that is ridiculous to ask for, especially in a Marvel comic.So rarely can a creator stretch their own legs in a Marvel U book, it happens, but more often than not they are kind of stuck with the characters and genre to a degree.

I just wish the link we provided took us to the omnibus at the price Matt bought it for...

Steven said...

The extremis was only turned off from Secret Invasion until post-Siege. It's back on now. As per Iron Man 25.

It was called an upgrade to Extremis by Mr. Fantastic, Tony Stark corrected this comment by saying, "Nah, this is just what comes next." As such the new armor is a part of Tony Stark's now-posthuman biology - it is stored inside Tony's body in its entirety, "manifesting" itself when mentally commanded.

Matt Duarte said...

@Rich: Yeah you are right, they must have changed the name somewhere along the line, because Amazon still has it listed as an Omnibus. I looked through my copy and it doesn't say Omnibus anywhere (as opposed to, for example, my Cap Omnibus)

@Ryan: Well, Amazon charged me an arm and a leg for the shipping (these books weight a ton), so I ended up paying pretty much the same prize it's for now.

Post a Comment

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Crisis - Comic Book Review Blog. Comments are always appreciated. You can sign in and comment with any Google, Wordpress, Live Journal, AIM, OpenID or TypePad account.