By: Matt Fraction (writer), Salvador Larroca (art), Frank D’Armata (colors) & Joe Caramanga (letters)

The Story: Laying low by the erasure of his last several years of memories AND the complete destruction of his company and fortune, Tony Stark starts to rebuild his life and his business.

What’s Good: A lot of bang for the buck here.  Although this is a $3.99 comic, it weighs in at a hefty 38 pages.  This is also a great jumping on point for new readers.  So, if you’ve been lurking in the weeds, hearing good things about Matt Fraction’s work on Invincible Iron Man OR if you’re just excited about Iron Man 2 coming out this week, now is the time to hop on.  The story here gives enough of a recap so that you completely know what is going on, but Fraction does this in a way that doesn’t bore us to tears.  The history is simply nicely interwoven with the new material.

I’m not a huge “armor-nut” who can describe in detail the nuances of every Iron Man and what issue it first appeared in, but the new armor is pretty cool.  It is basically the Extremis armor on steroids.  I don’t want to spoil its appearance because Fraction gives it a nice build-up throughout the issue and it is pretty neat.

What’s Not So Good: I’ve always felt like Salvador Larroca’s art holds this title back a little, and that is the case here.  I feel a little bad criticizing him, because he has cranked this title out at least 12 times a year for 2 years (with a few double shipping months) and lots of artists cannot pull that off.  This is also an almost double-sized issue and he didn’t take an extra month to get it ready.  Unfortunately, it looks rushed.  There are some really nice panels, but there are also others that are just a mess. Such as the fact that Maria Hill looks nothing like the Maria Hill that Larroca drew a few months ago (beyond both having short blackish hair).  Or, the fact that one panel seems to feature a Thor that looks chubby-cheeked and slightly Asian looking.  Or, the Hammer Industries exec with the appearing/disappearing broach on her suit jacket.  Or, the General who changes his look about 5 times in the issue (including looking just like Robert Loggia in Independence Day at first).  My issue also had some pretty severe printing problems.  Maybe the whole issue got way behind schedule and they had to rush like crazy?

I also gave the new story a bit of a yawn.  We’ve heard Tony Stark say that he’s getting out of the weapons business before.  And we’ve seen his aggressive business competitors try to take advantage.  I do trust Fraction enough to know that he’ll have a clever twist on this, but I wish I could have seen part of that twist in this issue.

Conclusion: A great jumping on point, but not a great issue.

Grade: C+

– Dean Stell