Best Shots Extra: INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #16

The Invincible Iron Man #16

Written by Matt Fraction

Art by Salvador Larocca

Colors by Frank D'Armata

Letters by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Seeing an ex can always be awkward. But when you're billionaire-industrialist-fugitive Tony Stark, running into a former girlfriend can be murder.

Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca make a surprisingly low-key but exceedingly emotional standoff between Iron Man, Rescue, and Masque in this issue of Invincible Iron Man. In these 22 pages, Fraction really allows Pepper Potts to shine, as it becomes clearer and clearer that the end is near for Tony Stark.

Fraction probably is at his most impressive with his characterization of Masque, as she comes off to be a refreshingly crazy villain that has real motivation to take down Tony and Pepper. Hell hath no fury like the deformed daughter of a criminal mastermind, but at the same time, her obsession cleverly sums where the series has gone, as Masque suggests she and Tony run away: "Doomed lovers, doomed and in love, scrambling from one corner of the world to the next – you in your condition, me in mine – both of us hoping the other will fix us... won't that be insane?" It is, and she is, too – and that makes some great unpredictability.

Yet Pepper is the real hero of this issue, as she and her suit Rescue save the day for the increasingly degraded Iron Man. Throughout the issue, Pepper's suit begins to assemble itself, until it finally sneaks up on the distracted Masque. When a ruptured oil tank explodes, however, Fraction and Larocca make some work that leaps off the page, as the Rescue suit itself takes a stand on behalf of its owner: "Ms. Frost," it says, grabbing the supervillainess by the neck, "I believe Ms. Potts gave you a direct order." Combine that with a fantastic exit that really helps cement Tony's degrading intellectual functions as well as Pepper's role as a true hero, and it's an elegantly crafted issue that leaves you wanting more.

Art wise, Salvador Larocca is hitting all cylinders with this issue, giving some great facial expressions and body language that really do a lot of heavy lifting: whether it be Pepper Potts activating her suit psionically, despite a nasty shiner and being tied to a chair, or Masque straddling Tony as she starts to ramble, he knows how to make this thing sing. But his action also works great, with Rescue really stealing the show with its design and composition. There's a little bit of the cheesecake factor in some of the other scenes – such as Maria Hill showering, or a jarring shot directed at the Black Widow's crotch – but Larocca makes up for it with the ginger caress Tony gives Pepper before he flees, as well as her defiant last stand against Masque.

It's perhaps no surprise that this book won an Eisner last week, as Fraction and Larocca are really putting together a thrilling, tense, and altogether tragic story with Invincible Iron Man. With a great villain and the rise of a new hero, Fraction barely even had to touch on the more compelling part of this high concept: the degrading of Tony Stark's greatest superpower – his intelligence. When you can tell a story this good with one hand tied behind your back, you've got yourself a comic that shouldn't be missed.

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