by Matt Fraction (writer), Salvador Larroca (art), Frank D’Armata (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Tony takes the Resilient on a test drive as he tries to escape Detroit Steel and his horde of drones.

What’s Good: I realize that a lot of people have complained regarding the pace of this arc.  While I can’t say that they’ll be entirely relieved by this issue, this was an exciting installment and one that had a big, big development in the story that was a real shocker.  It’s a major development that adds a whole new depth to this arc as a whole.  Not only is a big jump in terms of story progression, but it also may give unsatisfied readers the scope that they want.  Basically, we see the interesting return of one old Iron Man villain and the absolutely shocking return of another.  It’s good stuff that has me excited.

Oh, and there’s a big, Iron Man-powered car chase that’s a heck of a lot of fun.  There’s not much more to it than that.  Watching Tony drive his car with Detroit Steel and co. in tow is a blast to read and full of cinematic flair.  All of this is buoyed by Matt Fraction’s confidence; his comfort and consequent ease with Tony makes the book flow all the better and make everything feel natural.

Beyond that, the issue, and the back-up story in particular, once again highlight Fraction’s obsession with near-future/present-day technology.  From the Detroit Steel cell-phone app to the smartphone based back-up, the issue feels incredibly modern, sleek, and relevant.  It’s a comic that could only come in 2010.

On art, this is an action-based comic featuring tons of machines, robots, cars, etc blowing the crap out of Seattle.  In other words, it’s Salvador Larroca in his element and doing what he does best.  The end result is a very pretty looking issue.

What’s Not So Good: I’m not really buying Detroit Steel as a villain.  The Hammer girls yes, but Detroit Steel is just so… bland.  Worse still, I’m not buying the fact that no one knows he and Tony are at odds, or that they were attacking each other.  The control of information seems unrealistic.  I have a hard time believing that no one knew Detroit Steel and Iron Man were fighting and that the public so easily bought into a team-up between the two against “terrorists.”  It feels lame and far, far too easy on Fraction’s part, and colored Detroit Steel overall.  There’s no way that the media is that stupid or that no one in all of Seattle saw a thing.  Come on now.

The conversation scene between Rhodey, Hill, and Babbage was also kind of lame.  It felt like a commercial for the upcoming Iron Man 2.0, as Fraction was basically writing “War Machine comic coming soon!”  I expect better from a book like this, or at least something a little less blatant.

I also admit that I feel a little cheated that not only did this issue not resolve the battle between Detroit Steel and Iron Man, but that it wasn’t even the battle between the two.  It’s a little misleading and frustrating given that this is already part 9 of the arc.

Conclusion: Detroit Steel may be boring, but the rest of the cast isn’t.  This issue promises big things to come.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans