Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Comics: The Invincible Iron Man Volume 7 - My Monsters
This collection of issues 500, 500.1, part of 503 and Annual 1 are a decidedly mixed bag, moving away from the very enjoyable Stark Resilient storyline of Volumes 5 and 6 to tell four unrelated tales. 'Mandarin: The Story Of My Life' focuses on Iron Man's oriental foe. The Mandarin kidnaps a great movie director to make the story of his life. While the Mandarin spins all manner of lies about his noble origins and acts, the director secretly researches and films his own truthful version. For those unfamilar with the origins of this villain (such as I), this acts as a useful introduction to the title's next Big Bad but the tale is fairly pedestrian by Matt Fraction's standards and the art by Carmine di Giandomenico, though interesting, is not a patch on regular artist Salvador Larroca. The Mandarin also comes across as a bit of a joke, a pantomime villain and a vain egomaniac which deosn't bode well for the future.
'What It Was Like, What Happened, And What It's Like Now' from 500.1 is better but also narratively slight. Tony attends an AA meeting and shares his story in broad terms (so the audience don't know he's Tony Stark) while we see the events he is alluding to. It's good that Fraction has not ignored all the great work writer David Micheline put into the title in the 1970s and 80s when Stark became an alcoholic and lost everything and it's a useful catch up for new readers jumping on board (which was the purpose of the .1 titles). Tony also finds out here that he has in fact slept with long term friend Pepper Potts, an event his recent problems have erased from his memory.
The mini tale 'How I Met Your Mother' reveals how Stark's mother and father first got together. It's most notable for some artwork by the great Howard Chaykin and has a decidedly Indiana Jones meet James Bond feel. Once again it's fine but nothing special.
Finally, 'The New Iron Age' celebrates Iron Man's 500 issue (if you count all the various runs put together) with an ambitious but uninvolving tale that lacks the originality we've come to expect from Fraction. Riffing on the sort of future world scenarios that the X-Men have been doing for decades we meet a possible future where the Mandarin rules the Earth, Tony is his slave and Tony's son and granddaughter are leading the resistance. These events seem to be related to the present day where Tony and Peter Parker (who Stark no longer knows is Spider-Man) attempt to track down some Stark made plans for a doomsday weapon which might be being built by a terrorist cell. The two tales never really fit together and we never really get to know the future Starks (granddaughter Ginny has red hair which suggests Tony and Pepper got it together). Larroca is joined on art chores by Di Giandomenico again, Kano and Nathan Fox but the four have such different styles that the whole thing jars. Fox's art in particular is below par and difficult to follow.
While experiments and one offs are fine, this is the weakest of these collected volumes so far and could be easily missed out if you're following Iron Man's adventures but fancy saving a tenner. Let's hope Volume 8 gets this excellent title back on track.
GK Rating: **