By Matt Fraction (writer), Salvador Larroca (artist), Frank D’Armata & Stephane Peru (colorists)

To understand the future of Marvel Comics, pay close attention to its B list titles because it’s there that the next generation of writers are quietly honing their craft and building huge excitement on books that aren’t otherwise getting a lot of attention right now. At the forefront of this movement is Matt Fraction, whose delightfully mad imagination and talent for dialogue have improved nearly every title he’s worked on, from Punisher to Iron Fist and Uncanny X-Men to Thor.  As good as these titles have been, even they pale in comparison to what I would argue is Fraction’s finest Marvel work to date: The Invincible Iron Man.

In this first collecton, “The Five Nightmares” establishes Tony Stark’s role in the world following the events of Civil War and redefines his character in a way I was genuinely surprised to sympathize with and root for. Here, Stark is seemingly the pinnacle of human achievement.  Hyper-intelligent, unimaginably wealthy, a captain of industry, director of S.H.I.E.L.D, and a superhero, he is a man who in all areas of life works hard to do the right thing and leave the world in better shape than he found it.  Tony is also a man plagued with doubts and insecurities, fearing that despite his advantage in life, he will still be inadequate to tackle the threats of the 21st Century. His fears are made manifest in Ezekiel Stane, the son of Stark’s old enemy Obadiah.  Younger, smarter, and infinitely more dangerous, Ezekiel has found a way to integrate Iron Man technology into his body and use it against Tony to pursue his vendetta.

To accompany Fraction’s stories, the talents of Larroca, D’Armata, and Peru suitably fit the project.  Their combination of art and color is sleek, polished, and streamlined, perfectly capturing Stark’s technology-driven world of espionage and sci-fi villainy. I was greatly impressed with this collection and hope it’s the first in a long and successful run for the character.  Not to be missed!

Grade: A

-Tony Rakittke