Comics Time: Invincible Iron Man #8

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Invincible Iron Man #8

Matt Fraction, writer

Salvador Larroca, artist

Marvel, December 2008

32 pages

$2.99

Here’s a good example of how event comics can hijack a perfectly good ongoing series. Matt Fraction’s take on Iron Man fortuitously jibes so neatly with Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr.’s that its opening arc read like an adaptation of a nonexistent movie sequel. It featured Iron Man/Tony Stark on top of the world but cognizant of his limitations and the danger of his war machines. Now, however, the events of Secret Invasion mandate that Stark be removed from his perch atop the S.H.I.E.L.D. defense/espionage agency, to be replaced by the publicly rehabilitated captain of industry and serial killer Norman “The Green Goblin” Osborn–instantly, Fraction must throw the character’s previous mien and milieu out the window. Indeed, everything that happens in the comic reminds us of the noxious ideas from other comics upon which they are contingent. For example, the presence of Osborn as Stark’s successor is due to a ludacris plot twist from Secret Invasion, best analogized by Newsarama commenter Old Doom as “…O J Simpson cuts off the head of Osama Bin Laden on tv, and they make him the head of the C I A.” Osborn and Stark tussle over the Superhero Registration Database, which owes its existence to a Civil War character turn in which Iron Man put his fellow heroes in black-site prisons, in service of implementing a superhero training and licensing program that would be perfectly reasonable if not for the event’s writers inability to grasp the basic contours of their central metaphor. Fraction does his best with what he’s been given, and his best is quite good. And as long as you can block out why everything that’s happening is happening, it’s fun to watch the superhero outthink the supervillain while surrounded by female characters who look like the movie stars they were photoreffed from. But it’s hard to stay invested in a character who works best as a confident, competent, self-aware genius when everything about his current situation is derived from him being a brutal, bumbling, oblivious asshole in other people’s comics.