Comic Book Review: Invincible Iron Man #5

The Revolution continues to be summarily unimpressed with the insipid story that Fraction has given us on Invincible Iron Man. Thom reviewed the last issue of Invincible Iron Man so I figured I would review Invincible Iron Man #5 in order to prevent any unnecessary trauma on Thom by forcing him to have to review this title back-to-back. Thom’s assessment of the last issue was about the same as mine. Great art and unimpressive writing. Maybe Fraction can surprise me and crank out a great read with Invincible Iron Man #5. Let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Salvador Larroca

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with the four Stark facilities that Stane has targeted to blow up. They are in Tokyo, Valencia, Los Angeles and Long Island. We see civilians at the four facilities boarding trams and taking guiding tours of the facilities. The tour guides rattle off the impressive work that Stark Industries performs and how Stark is now on the leading edge of technology in every single possible field.

We see Stane among the civilians on the guided tour of the Stark facility in Long Island. Stane delivers some lame line that he almost missed the guided tour and if that happened then he would “have just died.” ( *Groan* I see that Fraction’s penchant for unoriginal and cheesy one liners is still going strong.)

The guided tour continues and the tour guide yammers on about how green the Stark Industry facility is and that it all runs off solar energy. (Jesus, Fraction. I get it. You are green. Way to go, Fraction. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.) The guide continues that Stark is researching every possible source of alternative energy. The guide also says that it might be surprising to learn, but that Stark facility is nearly six times as large underground as it is above ground. (Actually, I am not at all surprised to learn this since this entire scene read exactly like the narration describing the X-Men’s facility that Fraction yammered on about for two issues.)

We cut to Tony’s armor rocketing off to the Stark facility in Long Island. We see Tony in his extremis suit and on a conference call with Pepper and Maria Hill. (The way that Larocca is drawing Tony makes me believe that Tony is not actually inside of his suit of armor.)

Evidently, Pepper is the Director of Operations at Stark Industry in Tony’s absence. (Wow. That is one hell of a promotion for a character that has never been more than a secretary/personal assistant.) Tony talks about how he can track Stane up to about two hundred and fifty meters. Beyond that it is a game of cat-and-mouse.

Tony instructs Pepper to give the “Code-Black” evacuation orders at the four Stark facilities targeted by Stane. We then see Tony arriving at the Stark facility in Long Island. Tony instructs the head of security to initiate a Code Black for the facility. Pepper tells Tony that the other three Stark facilities have responded to the Code Black alert and have begun evacuating the facilities. Tony begins scanning the Long Island facility for any trace of Stane or a bomb.

We slide over to Stane’s girl telling him the location for the switch-junction corridor in the bowels of the Long Island Stark facility. She then tells Stane to send the other two men with him on north to their objective. We then see Stane putting on his suit of armor. (Which looks very similar to the design of Ultimate Iron Man’s armor.)

Stane’s girl then tells Stane that the team in Valencia is already in position so they are getting the first green light. We then see a reporter for a newspaper in Spain picking up the phone at his desk. We then see Pepper contacting Tony that she has picked up a cellular burst from the Stark facility in Valencia. We then see Stane’s bomber in the facility in Valencia light up and then explode and blow up the entire Stark facility in Valencia. (That page of panels was a total mess. That scene was not well laid out.)

We shift to Tony still searching the bowels of the Long Island facility (You know, because it is six times larger underground than above ground.) Pepper tells Tony that the facility in Valencia blew up and killed fifty-eight people. Tony thinks how he cannot find Stane since Stane’s technology cloaks him from Tony’s scanners.

Suddenly, Stane attacks Tony from behind. Tony says “Stane?” Stane answers “Damn straight.” (Seriously, where does Fraction get such snappy dialogue?) The two begin brawling. Unfortunately for Tony, he did not get Fraction’s memo that Stane is Iron Man 2.0 because Stane proceeds to kick Tony’s ass. (You know, like a new version of a computer program. It is faster, better, stronger, quicker and evidently rarely gets the blue screen of death. I know, it is pretty damn creative, huh? Oh, that crafty Matt Fraction.)

Stane yammers on about how Tony is an old relic. That Stane is the future. That Tony should have been dead long ago. That Tony should have gotten at least one sexually transmitted disease over the years. (Okay, I actually made up that last one.) Every attack Tony tries is useless against Stane. Even a gas attack made up of nanospirites to shut down Stane’s lungs fail since Stane no longer breathes.

Tony calls Stane a monster. (Yeah, the dialogue in this fight scene really is classic.) Stane retorts that he is a business man. Stane then tells Tony to “die.” (Maybe Fraction was influenced by Superman-Prime’s witty banter over on Countdown?) Stane unleashes a massive energy blast on Tony that Tony’s armor barely survives.

Stane continues to pour on the attack and proceeds to break down Tony’s armor and beats Tony into the ground. Stane takes off his helmet and tells Tony that he is going to kill Tony the same way Tony killed Stane’s father. Tony replies that Obadiah Stane killed himself.

Stane 2.0 cries like a bitch telling Tony to shut up. Stane 2.0 says that Tony does not get to say his father’s name. Stane then blasts Tony’s head off.
We see Stane 2.0 standing over Iron Man with Iron Man’s head blasted off. Stane 2.0 strikes a pose like Darth Vader at the end of Episode III and screams “He’s dead! Tony Stark is dead!” Stane then looks at the reader and asks “Who’s next?” (Scintillating.)

The Good: Well, Invincible Iron Man #5 certainly lived up to my low expectations. However, there were a couple of positive aspects to this issue that will allow me to satisfy The Revolution’s Rule of Positivity. If nothing else, Fraction serves up gobs of action as the entire second half of this issue is nothing but one big brawl between Stane and Tony.

Readers who enjoy tons of mindless action and big explosions will probably get a kick out of the majority of this issue. If a reader is looking for some popcorn for the brain and just wants to tune out their mind for about ten minutes then Invincible Iron Man #5 fills that need admirably.

Salvador Larroca serves up plenty of his beautiful artwork. Some of Larroca’s panels are simply gorgeous. I am a huge fan of Larroca’s painted style of art. Larroca’s attention to detail and his rich and sumptuous style of art makes even Fraction’s wafer thin story seem more substantial than it really is. It is a shame that Larroca is getting saddled with such a shallow story. Imagine what a meaty substantial story would read like accompanied by Larroca’s wonderful artwork.

The Bad: Honestly, I do not have that much to say about Invincible Iron Man #5. The reason is because practically nothing happens in this issue at all. Fraction delivers up a very shallow and simple issue.

Stane 2.0 attacks four Stark facilities. They get evacuated. One blows up. Stane 2.0 and Tony engage in a huge fight where Tony gets his butt kicked. End of issue. That is about it. And this is one of the biggest weaknesses of Fraction’s writing on this title. This current story arc is completely vapid. There is a lack of substance to this story arc.

Fraction has failed to cultivate a single plotline other than the one involving Stane 2.0 plotting and then executing his attack on Stark. That is it. Normally, professional comic book writers manage to weave various sub-plots into the main storyline. Most writers will create short-range, mid-range and long-range plotlines and then juggle several plotlines at once while rotating out which plotline takes center stage.

Compare Fraction’s one note story on Invincible Iron Man to what DnA has done over on Guardians of the Galaxy. In just three issues, DnA managed to set in motion around five different plotlines ranging from the short-term to the long-term.

And what is even more alarming is that despite the fact that Fraction has “dumbed” down Invincible Iron Man to just one single plotline, he could not even make that one single plotline anything original or intriguing. Instead, Fraction has given us a plotline that basically regurgitates an old plotline that we got twenty years ago. This story arc is incredibly formulaic as the reader gets the feeling that we have seen all of this before and done so in a better fashion.

The dialogue in Invincible Iron Man #5 ranges from stiff and generic at best to cheesy and hackneyed at worst. Fraction’s dialogue is actually cringe inducing at certain points. There are comic books from the 1960’s that do not have dialogue as goofy as what Fraction gives us at certain moments.

Fraction’s dialogue reads like a rough draft that he quickly dashed down in order to get the scenes properly plotted out. And instead of going back and trying to give each character their own unique voice and personality, Fraction just left the rough draft dialogue in for the final copy. At some points during the battle Fraction’s dialogue reads like stock dialogue that would be generated by a professional screenplay writing program.

The character work on Invincible Iron Man #5 is non-existent. Stane 2.0 is as generic and one-dimensional a villain as you will find in any comic book. This character lacks any depth at all. Stane 2.0’s motivation and personality are that of a standard issue comic book villain. It feels like Fraction formulated Stane 2.0’s character after taking a basic Comic Book Super Villains 101 class.

The rest of the characters on Invincible Iron Man come across as colorless mannequins who lifelessly deliver their dialogue. All the characters outside of Stane 2.0 have the exact same external voice and personality. And the reason for that is because Fraction writes too much of himself into the dialogue of each character. And that is an amateurish and juvenile writing mistake. Talented writers are able to create fully developed characters that take on a life of their own and develop their own unique voices and personalities.

Under Fraction’s guidance, Tony is slowly morphing back into his generic and bland personality that we got before the Knaufs arrived on the scene. I was thrilled that the Knaufs managed to take a character in Tony, who has often been more of a caricature than a character, and mold him into his own individual with his own unique and intriguing personality.

Fraction’s Tony is resembling more of the cardboard cut-out character that we have gotten in the past. Part of that problem is the fact that Fraction writes all of heroes patterned after himself. Therefore, whether it is Cyclops, Beast or Angel on the X-Men or Tony Stark on Invincible Iron Man, they all have the same external voices with the same thoughts and beliefs.

It is becoming apparent that at times Fraction is more obsessed with getting across his own personal crusades and beliefs rather than just writing a good story. Fraction is guilty of repeating the same themes over and over ad nauseam on every single title he writes. If you have read one Matt Fraction issue then you have read them all. This makes Fraction’s issues predictable and gives you the feeling that they are all recycled material. Fraction is beginning to expose himself as a predictable one-trick pony.

This is evident in Invincible Iron Man #5 as we have to sit through yet another boring narrative about how green the Stark facilities are. And about how Stark is trying to harness and utilize all sorts of alternative sources of energy. Wow, did I not just read that exact same spiel over on Uncanny X-Men #500 and #501? And Fraction even makes a point of constructing Stark’s facilities the same as the X-Men’s facility in how it is run and how it is six times larger underground than it is above ground.

The ending to Invincible Iron Man #5 was predictable and unimpressive. We all knew that Fraction was going to have to have Stane 2.0 win big over Tony in a convincing fashion. And we all knew that Tony is not really in the suit of armor and was piloting the armor remotely. Either that or the Extremis virus allows Tony to re-grow his head.

Overall: Invincible Iron Man #4 was another unimpressive read. I do not even think that the shallow story that Fraction delivers even qualifies for fun and entertaining mind candy like other action and adventure themed comic books on the market. Still, I would imagine that if you enjoy action packed issues and do not care about getting much in the terms of a quality story then you will probably enjoy this issue. Obviously, if you like Fraction’s style of writing then you will also probably enjoy this issue.

For everyone else out there do not bother wasting your money on Invincible Iron Man #5. This is a generic action themed comic book that has little interesting or unique to offer the reader. There are so many other titles from Marvel and DC that are much more deserving of your hard earned money than Invincible Iron Man.

3 thoughts on “Comic Book Review: Invincible Iron Man #5

  1. Great review. And wow, this title is truly a disappointment compared to the Knaufs’ run.

    Too bad it’s likely to continue for very long, since most Marvel readers seem to approve of the Comics mimicking the Movies, with which I disagree. I think the original source material should never be modified to work with the derivative media, even if the derivative media is very good. You don’t rewrite Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, to adjust to Peter Jackson’s trilogy, afterall.

    Oh as a side note, in this review you wrote your comments in light green, which makes them a bit hard to read on white background. I suggest you go back to dark green like the oneyou used in previous reviews. Of course it’s up to you.

  2. “(Jesus, Fraction. I get it. You are green. Way to go, Fraction. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.”

    He is actully pretty serious about it. His house is heated souly by his own hot air.

    “You know, like a new version of a computer program. It is faster, better, stronger, quicker and evidently rarely gets the blue screen of death.”

    But does it have that old “ski free” game that used to be standered?

    “That Tony should have gotten at least one sexually transmitted disease over the years.”

    What can I say, every part of him has armor.

    I think the basic attempt of this is to streamline the comic and bring out the best elements in the movie, and give it a clear plot that new readers can relate to. Then again, sometimes a pile of poo is just a pile of poo.

  3. I don’t know. I consistently enjoy Invincible. I read the points that you make, but I don’t see why they are so awful. Matt Fraction, while not a great writer, is, in my honest opinion, certainly not a terrible writer.

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