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

The Story: After hiring a new chief of security, Tony Stark flies to Paris’ rescue, only to find a city of stone.

The Review: I know a lot of people ragged on Invincible Iron Man during the “building a car” arc.  I liked it, but seemed in the definite minority.  I hope issues like this turn the tide back in Matt Fraction’s favor.  Certainly, if all, or even most, of the Fear Itself tie-ins are this good, Marvel readers have a very good summer ahead of them.

As you might’ve heard in solicitations and such, Tony heads to Paris to find a city, and its inhabitants, turned to stone.  It’s here that Fraction does his best work this month, while also encapsulating much of what Fear Itself is in terms of tone and atmosphere.  The feeling of Tony in a city of statues is truly haunting, almost too desolate to carry tinges of horror genre that such a situation might otherwise give off.  When Tony is struck by the enormity of it all, so are we.  It’s hard to fathom just how many people are dead, turned to stone, and Fraction boggles the mind here with all that death and devastation.

More than that though, Fraction and Larroca do a good job of conveying a city that’s silent.  Better still is that the plot ends up turning into one of the Worthy tracking down and beating down Tony in this ghost town.  The result is almost a “minotaur in the labyrinth” scenario, with Tony being hunted in a city of the dead.  It’s chilling stuff, with the last page hammering that home.  Amidst so much death, Tony seems tiny and powerless, which is something that’s worked well in Fear Itself thus far.  Truly, the Worthy have wreaked a situation  whose scope is horrifying.   The sheer size of the situation, a Paris turned to stone, makes for a powerful comic.

Yet, despite all this, Fraction still manages to find a way for Tony and Pepper to have a conversation that once again touches on their unique dynamic and history.  The Pepper/Tony relationship has always been one of the strongest points of Fraction’s run on Invincible Iron Man, so seeing the two dance around one another is always an absolute pleasure.  Given that we get a shot of this amidst all the death and fighting and Fear Itself Worthy monstrosities, it almost feels like a bonus.

I also feel that Salvador Larroca’s art is perfect for this story.  While I’ve always liked his work, I know his critics have accused his stuff of looking too polished/glossy, lifeless at times.  Naturally, this also means that when it comes to drawing a city of statues, Larroca does an amazing job.   His facial expressions, often not his strongest point, are also solid, which is necessary given that Tony’s reactions to the city are so powerful in this issue.  Larroca’s always been great at drawing big machines and such, and while the Worthy aren’t robots, Larroca’s design for this Worthy in particular looks awesome.  He reminded me of an updated, hammer-wielding, high fantasy Doomsday, without the stupid green shorts.   That’s cool by me.

Conclusion: A really good, really powerful issue that stamps home how high the stakes are in Fear Itself and left me wanting more.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans