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

The Story: Stane goes poking around his own body, Spymaster wreaks office havoc, Tony removes the Extremis Armour, and “Detroit Steel” gets creepy.

The Review: Matt Fraction gets a lot of slack for the decompression present in a lot of his comics.  In other words, arcs go on forever and not much happens in each individual issue.  Between his work on the Defenders and the last few issues of Invincible Iron Man, it seems like he’s making a conscious effort to fight against that bad habit.  Nowhere is this clearer than this issue of Invincible Iron Man.

Put simply, a LOT happens in this issue, which makes it feel well-worth the $3.99.  Every major character gets a significant moment and there are lots of scenes that either come close to resolving a plot thread or leave you hungering for more.  For instance, Spymaster fights Bethany Cabe, we find out who the new Iron Man is, a very insane “Detroit Steel” goes all creeper on Sasha Hammer, Stane performs cringe-worthy surgery on himself, and somehow Fraction even finds time for a couple of flashbacks to Tony and Stane’s respective childhoods to juxtapose the two and their fathers.  Many of these threads end on cliffhangers, guaranteeing that you’ll want the next issue.  It’s really crazy though how many story beats and how much entertainment Fraction crams into this standard-sized issue.  Yet, despite this, nothing feels rushed or glossed over, with each element being satisfying in its own right.

However, not only does Fraction cover a lot of ground plot and character-wise, but he also subtly plays around with genre influences as well.  The Spymaster sequence is pure action, the Detroit Steel/Hammer scene has a distinct, “slasher-flick” horror vibe to it, while Tony’s acceding to Babbage carries a hint of intrigue.

Perhaps most impressive is that Fraction, somehow, never spreads himself to thinly.  The issue doesn’t feel at all scattered despite how wide-ranging it is.

Art-wise, Larroca does the thing he does month in and month out.  It must be said that Larroca must not sleep.  He churns out the exact same, solid, polished artwork issue after issue, without any dip in quality.  Double-shipping?  No problem for Larroca and no fill-in artists needed.  It’s ridiculous how consistent he is, even in the face of Marvel’s recent aggressive shipping of its titles.  He even gets a little creative here, deviating from his usual style for the flashback pages, which have a more “European,” detailed feel to them.  It’s a trick he’s done in the past and it continues to provide a nice contrast to the rest of the book.

Conclusion: Jam-packed with content, big moments, and tons of excitement, Invincible Iron Man continues the roll it’s been on lately, double-shipping be damned.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans