Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Salvador Larrocca
Coloring by Frank D'Armata
Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
It's been a long road with Tony Stark, as he's ran himself ragged across the globe, wiping his cerebellum clean in a last-ditch attempt of heroism and redemption. With his intelligence degrading and the tension ratcheted past the breaking point, there's only one word to describe the conclusion of World's Most Wanted:
Make no mistake -- there have been issues in this run that have felt a little light, perhaps a little too disposable in watching the once-great weaponeer genius fall backwards through his own history. But you gotta give credit where it's due: Matt Fraction ties everything together with a powerful conclusion that's easily one of my favorite issues of any comic in recent memory.
In a lot of ways, this is surprising, as Tony Stark is almost overshadowed by the rest of his supporting cast. Pepper Potts finally completes her transition from secretary/love interest to a rock 'em, sock 'em superhero in her own right, as Fraction gives her a level of competence and power that exhibits itself in unexpected -- but totally organic -- ways. Yet the forces of H.A.M.M.E.R. really steal the show, whether it's Victoria Hand freaking out that "Osborn will kill us all," or Norman himself frothing in delight as he stomps on Tony Stark. "I don't care how retarded you've gone and gotten yourself," Norman shouts. "You're not going to ruin this for me."
Artwise, this is one of the strongest issues of Invincible Iron Man I've yet seen. To prepare myself for this review, I went back and read every single issue of this arc, and the difference in quality in Salvador Larocca's pencils are just astonishing. You can see that this journey has made Larocca grow as well, as his choreography with the Norman/Tony fistfight just hums with weight and power. Even when we get to see inside the masks, the emotions -- especially with Norman, who you can tell has been just itching to let loose, or a look of pure fear in Tony's eyes -- are rock solid. Meanwhile, colorist Frank D'Armata just lets loose with his palette -- his choices are simply fantastic, especially giving the sands of Dubai an epic, end-of-the-world feeling.
Of course, even as I rave about this issue, it's not perfect. While Tony, Pepper, and Norman all get some great moments, I will say that Maria Hill and the Black Widow's escape was a little too convenient -- a little more precious -- than I would like, and the differentiation between Pepper and Natasha's faces was occasionally a little difficult to make out. Additionally, one of the main subplots of the arc -- find Captain America -- gets short-shrifted big time. That said, it's difficult to call that last complaint a bait-and-switch, as Fraction reintroduces another character from Iron Man's past that comes completely out of the blue -- and is such a great emotional beat.
And that's how this issue succeeds -- yes, you may note a few dents and cracks in the armor, this story stands so strong that you won't begrudge anyone. In other words, it's a story that will make you forget your grudges, whether it's a stylistic misstep or frustration at Tony's characterization going all the way back to Civil War. Indeed, this issue of Invincible Iron Man makes the long, sometimes winding road of Tony Stark's redemption all worthwhile, as Matt Fraction proves himself to be a master at forging the most ironclad of stories.