Comic Book Review: Invincible Iron Man #8

Invincible Iron Man continues to be resolutely average. Fraction continues to look to the Iron Man movie for his source material and also displays an alarming ignorance of the work by Ellis and the Knaufs that preceded Fraction’s arrival on this title. Let’s hope that Fraction can tighten up the basics in his writing and at least deliver a serviceable read. I am no longer expecting the same quality that we got with Ellis or the Knaufs. By adjusting my expectations I may be able to be fairer to what Fraction is capable of delivering on this title. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Invincible Iron Man #8.

Creative Team
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Salvador Larroca

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Maria Hill packing up her personal belongings from her SHIELD office. We get some random inner narration from Maria Hill that is neither interesting nor pertinent to anything. Maria Hill walks out of the SHIELD facility and can hear the snickering of the SHIELD agents who never liked her in the first place.

We cut to Iron Man arriving at the dry-dock where the SHIELD Helicarrier is being repaired. Iron Man lands in front of the foreman and says that he is here to help them make the repairs. For some reason, the construction workers all hate Iron Man and do not want him here. (Who knows, maybe they blame Tony Stark for the collapse in the real estate market and the bad mortgages that they have.)

Fraction goes on about how overwhelmed Tony is by the scale of the salvage site. (Again with Tony being overwhelmed by the sight of some damage. Last issue, Tony was overwhelmed by the sight of his damaged Stark facility. Tony is an original Avenger and has fought in numerous big event battles and seen horrific amounts of damage. After all this, I can’t believe he would continually be so “overwhelmed” by damage that is not even as big as some of the past events he has take part in.)

Fraction narrates how Tony takes in the scale of his failure. Tony thinks how this entire mess is his mess. (Again, why does Secret Invasion all come down on Tony’s shoulders and end up being his failure. I’m sorry. I am just not buying it.) Tony tries to help with clearing away some of the debris. Unfortunately, when the Stark technology was hacked by the Skrulls that the Extremis conduit that linked him to the suit also failed. So now Stark can barely pilot this suit of armor since it was designed to be run via his Extremis abilities.

Iron Man then loses control of some large piece of debris and crashes into the water. Iron Man’s armor goes into complete failure. A HAMMER agent throws a can at Iron Man’s helmet and yells at Iron Man to get the hell out of here before he kills someone. The HAMMER agent yells that he does not care who Iron Man used to be and that he should have Iron Man arrested. (Umm, for what? Oh right. For being Tony Stark. I forgot that that is a crime in the current 616 universe.)

Iron Man just sits in the water feeling sorry for himself. Tony thinks how all the people he used to protect now look at him with contempt, distrust and embarrassment. (What is going to happen next? Norman Osborn is going to kick Tony’s dog? Maybe a scene with Tony sitting in the rain all by himself lamenting that he has no friends?)

We cut to Tony’s lab where he is running tests on Pepper. Evidently, Pepper’s body is changing. She no longer needs to wear glasses. Tony asks Pepper if she is ready for an upgrade. We then get the reverse of the scene from the Iron Man movie where Pepper has to reach into Tony’s chest to swap his power source.

Tony states how when he had Extremis in him that it felt like he was living on the bleeding edge. (Woah, woah, woah. When he had Extremis in him? Does Fraction seriously still not know how the Extremis virus works? The virus itself has been dead since Ellis’ run. It is the changes that the virus wrought to Tony’s body that remained. And they are permanent. How the hell did he lose them?)

Tony states how Pepper’s metabolism, core strength and reflexes will be increased. Also that Pepper’s intelligence is leaping up 25 to 30 I.Q. points. Pepper asks if Tony is transforming her into his dream girl. Tony responds his dream girls at the moment are a set of triplets who are Icelandic flight attendants. A picture of the triplets appears on one of the screens of Tony’s computer.

Pepper responds that she finds it disturbing that during a complicated biotech procedure that Tony has his own “Girls Gone Wild” slideshow so readily available. Tony responds that Pepper knows that she has always been his dream girl. (Really, always? Like when she was married to Tony’s dead best friend, Happy Hogan? Gross.) Pepper is silent and looks at Tony.

Pepper changes the subject and asks Tony if he has met with Norman Osborn yet. We then cut to Tony meeting with Norman Osborn. As Osborn’s personal assistance, Ms. Hand, walks out the room; Tony takes the time to admire Ms. Hand’s assets, so to speak.

Tony comments that good help is hard to find. Norman tells Tony to not come near him. That if Tony gets any closer then Norman might be tempted to break Tony’s neck. Norman growls that Tony is traitorous scum. (What? Now Tony is a traitor? Why not.)

Norman asks if Tony has turned over all HAMMER property and has cleared out all of his personal effects. Tony says that he has and is ready for his departure scan. Norman says that Tony will take nothing that belongs to Norman. Tony corrects Norman saying that Norman must have meant that Tony will not take anything that belongs to HAMMER.

Norman asks about the Superhuman Registration Database. Tony says that the database is not Norman’s personal file that he can simply browse at his leisure. Tony continues that Norman would need to get a half dozen warrants, probably cause and a federal judge…Norman interrupts Tony and says for Tony to call him “Commander.”

Tony continues that Norman does not have the right to flip through the database anymore than he has a right to view someone’s cell phone records or call himself “Commander.” Tony turns to leave and tells Norman not to squeeze the world to tightly or else all the good stuff will dribble out between Norman’s fingers.

We see Tony and Maria undergoing their departure scans. Tony and Maria then hop into Tony’s flying car and take off. Maria comments how this was the most embarrassing moment of her life. Tony says that they should just put this entire nightmare behind them. Tony tells Maria to cheer up and that today is the first day of the rest of their careers. Maria asks what the hell does that mean. Tony responds that for the first time in his life he has no idea. (What? Dude, your career is running your multi-billion dollar corporation.)

We slide back to Norman’s office. Ms. Hand tells Norman that the data he requested should now be on his computer terminal. Norman sits down at his computer and begins to search through the Registration Database. Spider-Man is his first query. There is no result.

Norman then searches for Ms. Marvel, Ronin and Daredevil and gets no results for them either. Norman then searches for all results. Only one result comes back. That Iron Man is Tony Stark. Norman yells “Dammit!”

Ms. Hand then enters Norman’s office along with a HAMMER agent. The agent tells Norman that when the Superhuman Registration Database was initiated that it triggered a kill code virus. All HAMMER systems were hit from central control servers to intel mainframes. The agent continues that anything that ran on any kind of code is now toast. Norman laughs and states “Of course, you know that this means war.”

We shift to the abandoned Funtime, Inc. facility. We see Tony, Maria and Pepper meeting together. The three engage in some pseudo-intellectual discussion about Hannah Arendt’s “The Banality of Evil” theory. That theory basically says when power is abused it is rarely an evil moustache twirling villain doing it. It is just normal people “doing a job” and following other people’s orders.

However, with Norman Osborn in control of HAMMER that they actually do have an evil moustache twirling crazy in control and that they can only imagine what kind of evil Norman is up to.

Maria asks what happened is Norman gets his hands on the Superhuman Registration Database. Tony smiles and says that is why they are here. Tony says he has good news and bad news. The good is that there is only one copy of the database. The bad news is that Tony has to permanently erase it. And that Tony might have to screw with HAMMER’s computer system but since they weren’t Stark machines it is not like Tony was losing a client.

Maria asks why it is bad news that Tony has to erase the database. Tony continues that he needs to tell them a bit about the Extremis virus. That the Extremis process hacked Tony’s biological systems and that Tony was changed. Tony’s mind was upgraded so that he could pilot his suit. That Tony gained access to 72% of his brain.

Tony then reveals that he had the Superhuman Registration Database downloaded into his mind. Maria Hill asks what do they do once Osborn realizes that Tony ran away with the database. Tony replies “He’ll declare war. Then he will kill us all.” End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Invincible Iron Man #8 was a slightly better than average issue. This was certainly the best effort that Fraction has given us up to this point. Invincible Iron Man #8 was a breath of fresh air and the first step to taking Tony back to where he belongs. Personally, I am thrilled that Tony is out of SHIELD, out of the Initiative and out of the government in general. I hope that Fraction can begin to take Tony back to his proper station in life as a futurist and a brilliant inventor who runs the coolest tech company in the world.

While I have issue with how Fraction writes Tony’s character, there is no doubt that Fraction has succeeded in bring back the playboy aspect of Tony’s character. This aspect of Tony’s character has been lacking for a very long time. Tony should be a dog. That is a large part of what makes his character so much fun.

I love that Fraction is able to work Tony’s doggish impulses into various scenes. Tony is exactly the type of person who, no matter the situation, always appreciates a beautiful woman. Tony is an extremely sexual creature and those thoughts and urges constantly run in the back of his mind.

The scene between Norman and Tony where Tony comments commenting how good help is hard to find while watching Ms. Hand walk out the office was classic. This is a fine example of Fraction being able to insert the little moments and throw-away lines into a serious scene that remind the reader of Tony’s sexual appetite.

Also, the scene with Tony running a slideshow of the triplets running while he is performing a complex procedure on Pepper was classic Tony. It is these little touches that Fraction makes sure to insert throughout the issue that I appreciate so much.

I may find the budding romance between Pepper and Tony creepy, but the dialogue in the scene where Tony is performing the upgrade to Pepper was by far the best dialogue that Fraction gave us in this issue. The dialogue was casual and fitting for the personalities of both characters. Plus, Fraction delivered several rather funny lines that got me chuckling.
The dialogue between Norman and Tony was fairly well done. It was not spectacular, but it emphasized how power hungry and despicable Norman is. The dialogue also pointed out how, despite everything that has played out since Civil War, that Tony is a man of principle. Fraction effectively conveys to the reader how they probably took for granted Tony’s sacrifice and skill in running SHIELD and the Initiative.

Tony has been the object of much unfair scorn and ridicule during his tenure at SHIELD and with the Initiative. In this scene, Fraction is warning the reader to be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. Now that Tony has been removed, Fraction is showing the reader exactly why Tony sacrificed himself and shouldered the thankless job of running SHIELD and the Initiative and subjecting himself to such scorn from his peers. And the reason is because it is obvious that no one else could ethically be charged with such a great responsibility. Fraction effectively shows how radically different things are going to be with Norman Osborn in control of HAMMER and the Initiative.

The scene where Norman realizes that Tony has suckered him with a fake database where the only secret identity on it was Iron Man’s was excellent. This was a great first shot in the burgeoning war between Stark and Osborn. And this lead into a solid ending to this issue. Fraction eschewed a flashy or exciting ending in favor of a more subdued ending which made the beginning of this war between Osborn and Tony that much more powerful.

I absolutely loved the twist that Tony has downloaded the entire Superhuman Registration Database into his own mind. And that this is the only copy left in existence. This was completely consistent with how Tony has viewed the Superhuman Registration Act and the management of the Initiative ever since the end of Civil War.

Tony volunteered for the job of running SHIELD and the Initiative since he felt only he was capable of doing the job ethically and that he did not trust anyone else inside or outside of the government with the sensitive information in the Superhuman Registration Database. This was a fine job of Fraction actually taking a previously established theme on Iron Man: Director of SHIELD and taking it to its logical conclusion. I hope this is a sign of Fraction improving his research skills and ability to logically work off of plotlines and themes established by prior writers.

Salvador Larroca provides plenty of his usual nice artwork. This is a pleasant looking issue. My only minor complaint is that Tony’s porn moustache has got to go. Tony has been drawn with a goatee for decades and is currently drawn with one on every other single Marvel comic book.

The Bad: Invincible Iron Man #8 was a slow paced issue that was a bit of boring at certain points. Fraction is still delivering too much extraneous and dull narration. This pointless narration also serves to cause the story to lose its focus and have the pacing bog down. This unnecessary narration was found mostly in the first part of this issue during the scene with Maria Hill as well as the scene with Iron Man “helping” the workers on the Helicarrier.

Fraction is either in love with his own voice or he is insecure in his own writing abilities to refrain from talking the reader to death and letting the artwork carry some of the story. It is not necessary for a writer to cram every panel with narration boxes. Sometimes it seems that some writers think that they are getting paid by the word and not by the overall quality of their writing. Of course, it is possible that Fraction thinks from a novelist’s standpoint when it comes to writing rather than from a screenplay writer’s standpoint.

The scene where Iron Man arrives to help repair the Helicarrier was tiring. Fraction went a bit over the op with the “woe is me” theme in this scene. Fraction totally oversells it with Tony being “overwhelmed” with the damage as well as Tony blaming himself for literally everything under the sun.

It is time to get over the “blame Tony Stark for everything” game. And a mopey guilt ridden Tony Stark is a dull and uninteresting Tony Stark. It is time for Fraction to move on and give us our regular always confident, cocky and in control Tony Stark.

And this leads me to my next point. Fraction’s Tony Stark continues to be summarily unimpressive. It is obvious that Fraction has never been a fan of Iron Man and has no real love or connection to Tony’s character. And it certainly seems that Fraction has read very few back issues of Iron Man. It continues to seem that Fraction is looking straight at the Tony Stark from the Iron Man movie for his inspiration on how to write Tony’s character in this title.

What Fraction is doing with Pepper Potts holds zero interest for me. I find the prospect of an Iron Pepper completely dull. I guess that Fraction feels that Pepper needs to get a power upgrade in order for Fraction to use her as an ally to help Tony in his war with Osborn. I am confident that at some point Fraction will have Pepper get her very own suit of armor as well. I would much rather see Fraction bring Rhodey back into this title and have him provide the support that Tony is going to need when he goes against Osborn.

Also, this weird romantic relationship between Tony and Pepper, which is clearly ripped straight from the Iron Man movie, needs to end. Happy Hogan died not that long ago. Yet, it seems like Fraction is just conveniently ignoring that fact so he can continue the Tony/Pepper romance theme from the Iron Man movie. It is unbelievably creepy that Tony would be lusting over the wife of his dead best friend.

If Fraction feels compelled to place Tony in a monogamous relationship then I would much rather that he choose Bethany Cabe as the object of Tony’s desires. Oh right, I forgot, Fraction probably has no idea who Bethany Cabe is.

I am a bit confused as to how Fraction is handling Tony’s Extremis abilities. Does Tony still have them or not? Is it that the Skrull virus destroyed the armor’s Extermis conduit or did the Skrull virus somehow wipe out Tony’s Extremis abilities. Fraction alludes to Tony no longer having his Extremis abilities but then states that Tony used the Extremis abilities to download the entire Registration Database.

Fraction is unclear about this topic since he muddles and fumbles through every scene where he has to deal with the Extremis virus. This is because it seems that Fraction himself does not understand the Extremis virus and how it works.

The Skrull virus should not have caused Tony to lose his Extremis abilities. The reason that Tony cannot lose his Extremis abilities is because they are permanent changes wrought on his body once the virus finished running its course. The Extremis virus itself has been long gone. Maybe Fraction should give Ellis a call and do a little research because how Fraction has handled Tony’s Extremis abilities during his run on this title has been scatterbrained.

Overall: Fraction uses Invincible Iron Man #8 to clearly lay out the future for this title. This issue was largely set-up which by nature tends to be a bit slow and boring. However, it is a necessary evil and now Fraction should be able to hit the ground running with the next issue and deliver a much faster paced and more exciting read.

Invincible Iron Man #8 and this new direction should have mass appeal. Fraction is keeping this title simple by using the Iron Man movie for his inspiration. This will make this title very new reader friendly and quite accessible to your average comic book reader who has never read Iron Man until they saw the movie. This title is easy to consume popcorn for the brain. Fans of the Iron Man movie will probably enjoy Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man.

8 Comments

  1. I believe the issue with Extremis is this: the Skrull virus totally destroyed any trace of Extremis that was left in Tony’s body.

    Extremis no longer exists. I believe that is correct.

  2. The real reason, of course, is that now that everyone is familiar with the classic setup thanks to the movie, Marvel wants to go back to that; it’s a more minor Parallax.

    The whole “Everyone Hates Tony” bit is aimed at making all the readers who’ve been annoyed/angry with him since Civil War feel sorry for him and root for him.

    On a writer level, Bendis said in an interview a week or somesuch time ago that he sees Tony getting the blame at the official level in-universe as basically the government needing someone convenient to blame, since readers know there wasn’t much he could have done differently in the situation.

  3. Some interesting twists, but I still think dumping all of the blame for the Skrull invasion on Tony is a weak plot device. He could have very easily been blamed for the Civil War mess, but he seemed to get a free pass on that. I mean, couldn’t Secret Invasion have been as much Reed Richards’, Dr. Strange’s, or Black Bolt’s fault? I don’t see them getting hacked on. I agree with IslandLiberal; they’re just using this to make us feel sorry for Tony. It’s just weak storytelling, in my opinion.

  4. I really hope that Extremis stuff is over with. It changes the simple idea of a normal man in an armored suit into a man (who has some kind of powers or connection or virus or something nobody really understands except Warren Ellis) in an armored suit. War Machine being a cyborg now bugs me, too.

  5. I agree with the other Adam that Extremis was a bad idea; it changed the core concept of the character, which is a no-no. It’s frustrating when a writer cheats with continuity to hit the reset, though.

    I’m glad the IRON MAN movie is having so much influence on the comic, too. Iron Man’s always been a cool character who a bunch of bleeding-heart-liberal writers could never bring themselves to play straight as an arms-manufacturing capitalist playboy. Millar’s Ultimate Iron Man took him there, creating the characterization that was always there underneath the liberal angst. And it heavily influenced the IRON MAN movie, which brings us here…

    “Here” being “a step in the right direction”.

    So, jolly good, really.

    But I take issue with you on Salvador Larocca’s art. Tony Stark’s not the only one off-model. Is that really supposed to be Norman Osborn?

  6. There was one panel where I thought Osborn looked like George Bush!

    Why not blame some of Tony’s more extreme personality changes on Extremis as well? Sounds like an excellent opportunity to reset everything back to what it should be with the character; if he no longer has Extremis.

    Yup this is just Marvel trying to make the character more like the movie version.

    The biggest problem I have with this whole setup is the notion of a nutcase like Norman Osborn being left in charge of SHIELD– oops! sorry, HAMMER.

  7. Fraction narrates how Tony takes in the scale of his failure. Tony thinks how this entire mess is his mess. (Again, why does Secret Invasion all come down on Tony’s shoulders and end up being his failure. I’m sorry. I am just not buying it.)

    This is from Tony’s point of view, and it actually seems honest if you look back to the start of Civil War.

    Tony went into things because he could predict future trends. Reed went into it because he was stealing maths from Asimov. These are both smart guys who know they are smart, and that kind of person woill always believe they should have seen it coming and should have been able to prevent ‘it’. The 100 ideas to prefent Stanford is more along the same path.

    So for things to go horribly askew and Tony to blame himself whether he was responsible or not is totally consistant with who he is and what he believes.

    The dockworkers and everyone else is back in teh inexcusable though, unless we missed the public relations disaster where the whitehouse et al blamed Tony

  8. I’m sorry,but Tony is the one of the heros I cant see being so beat down and defeated. This is the guy who went through his own hells and came out stronger from them. He beat his addaction and demons and Think that in some sense, he is more invinible as Tony Stark than as Iron man.

Comments are closed.