Invincible Iron Man #25
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Salvador Larroca and Frank D'Armata
Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
It's impossible to read this issue without being reminded of the nearly-arrived Iron Man 2 film. With Hollywood's attention captured, Tony Stark's Q Rating is riding particularly high, even for him. With that spotlight shining bright, the hope is that the product made available can capitalize on the cross-promitional extra visibility; something that is familiar to casual film-goers, while also challenging enough to show the vitality of the character's inspirational origins. In doing that, the thinking goes, new readers can find the very potential of superhero comics. Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca deliver with a story for the masses, that pushes Iron Man into a new era, and pushes him towards the horizon.
When this volume of Invincible Iron Man launched, the character was in a particularly dark place. Iron Man had arisen to the post of World's Top Cop, and all it had cost him was almost every friendship he had. Though resolute in his decision-making, Tony Stark was haunted by the choices he'd been forced to make. The burden weighed heavily. He soon lost that lofty job, and was forced on the run by the man who'd taken his throne. In the end, the only way to escape his pursuer was to wipe his mind clean, trusting that he would be restored by backup. Well, his genius has since been restored, and in that restoration came an unexpected blessing; the follies of Civil War have finally been expunged from Stark's base characteristics. No history has been changed, no gross retcons employed, but Tony Stark and readers alike can finally move beyond the ramifications of that story, and focus on the future. And the future is now.
In many ways, Invincible Iron Man is to Iron Man: Extremis what Astonishing X-Men was to New X-Men. Both stories corralled the broad, ambitious intellectual goals of prior series, and tempered them with magnetic characterizations for greater mainstream success. Extremis was a very smart story, so much so that it was nearly prohibitive. Fraction's Iron Man is no less intelligent than was Ellis', but it somewhat diffuses that pure emphasis with a balance of charisma and interpersonal relationships within the story. Fraction's Tony Stark is not satisfied being the most intelligent man in the room. He also has to be the most well-liked.
Much like Beyonce, Invincible Iron Man #25 is all about the upgrade. The most obvious upgrade is to the Iron Man armor, the science of which is explained in a conversation between geniuses, because hey, that's what they're there for. Also upgraded is the threat levels of Stark's world. The concept of “asymmetrical warfare,” assures that no matter how much Tony tricks out his suit, it will still be his mind that he relies on most heavily. Luckily, his mind has had some pretty major upgrades, too.
This property has a unique opportunity to coalesce film and comics synergetically (not a word, but Tony Stark would use it). The broad theme of de-weaponizing Stark's corporate interests is likely to be present in both mediums. But the real unifier will be Tony Stark himself. Robert Downey Jr.'s charismatic portrayal of the man behind the mask was the key factor to the first film's success. Fraction and Larroca's commitment to rebuilding Tony from the ground up has been the key to theirs.
Either way, he is Iron Man. And you know where to find him.