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

The Story: After five issues of very decompressed storytelling, we finally get to the point where we learn the Hammer ladies’ ultimate plan against Tony Stark.

What’s Good: Okay, I finally feel like this series has its feet under it again.  Honestly I was getting a little worried because in the space of a few months, Invincible Iron Man had gone from top-of-the-pile to flirting with being dropped, but Matt Fraction has gotten to the point just in the nick of time.  I should perhaps cut him some slack because he has created some interesting story elements…I’m just not sure it needed five issues to lay this foundation.

One of the groan-worthy aspects of this story arc has been the Hammer ladies and their new armor suit, Detroit Steel.  For five issues I’ve really wondered, “Really??  We have to watch Iron Man fight and somehow prevail against an armor suit that is bigger and more extreme than his own?  We have to watch him win again because he’s smarter than the man in the other suit?”  But, it turns out that Fraction was really just waving a Detroit Steel around like a red flag so we would look in that direction and not notice where the real threat was coming from.  I won’t spoil it, but the reveal (which has been teased in past issues) is nicely handled and brings back a good villain from Tony’s recent past and serves as a way to get Pepper and her new armor suit into the action.  Heck yeah!

I also thought that Larroca’s art was pretty good in this issue.  I can be very harsh on his phot0-tracing style, but it is mostly good in this issue.  The strength of his style is drawing the armor.  Compared to John Romita, Jr.’s current Iron Man that looks cartoony, Larroca’s looks like a shiny man of metal who is just jumping off the page.  Now, where Larroca gets into trouble is with the faces, but it looks like after 30 issues, he has finally figured out how to draw Tony Stark and the other main characters consistently.  And, that is a key because his style is SO realistic.  With the comics I grew up with in the 80’s, most characters had a visual cue: Cyclops is wearing red glasses, Logan has weird hair, Nightcrawler is blue, Rogue has a white streak in her hair, Storm is black…  Those cues were enough that I would sometimes gloss over the fact that their hair looked different from panel-to-panel.  But Larroca’s style looks like real people and the human brain notices when they look different because he is NOT relying on the crutch of Tony Stark having a Grizzly Adams beard or anything like that.

What’s Not So Good: Good God am I bored by the Tony Stark businessman stuff.  Is there really a segment of comicdom that is on pins and needles to see if Stark can really make a good electric car?  Every month I feel like this story is stealing a few pages of content from me.  The only way the Stark business stuff has ever been interesting is because it is a vehicle for the Tony-Pepper forbidden romance story and that is missing here.

Also, as I have thrown a bone to Larroca, he still has a few screwed up panels including on the third page where a lady looks exactly the same in two different panels except that her hair has blow around.  I guess she could have held very still, but if she is riding in a car at night, wouldn’t the lighting on her face at least change from the street-lights?

Conclusion: Back on track.  I was worried for a few issues, but Fraction has righted the ship and is once again telling a fun Tony Stark story.

Grade: B

– Dean Stell