by Matt Fraction (writer), Salvador Larroca (artist), Frank D’Armata (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer)

The Story: Rhodey takes the new suit out on a villain-bashing test-drive; Cabe defends Stark Resilient from the homicidal Spymaster.

The Review: This is basically a continuation of a lot of the more thrilling elements of last month’s issue.  Case in point is Spymaster’s rampage in the Stark Resilient offices.  It was fun last issue and it’s just as fun this issue.  Fraction and Larroca make this plot an edge of your seat read, action-packed but with a tinge of horror, as Cabe and an injured Wyche are prey to Spymaster’s predator.  There’s something chilling watching Spymaster’s acrobatics and seeing him stalk the offices implacably, undeterred by security measures or lockdown.  The red hazard lights also make for a really intense, nail-biting environment.  Fraction also imbues Cabe with a lot of charisma, as usual, making her an easy character to root for.  The ending of this plot, and the ultimate fate of Spymaster, was also pure perfection; a definitive conclusion, but also great surprise that’ll get a laugh and have you cheer for these innately likable characters.

There are some shorter scenes that standout as well.  The manner in which Fraction and Larroca depict the fight between Detroit Steel and Sasha Hammer was brilliant, alternating panels between the fight itself (at night) and the aftermath (the broken apartment in the daylight).  It created almost a police procedural, detective feel that also served to make the whole thing a bit haunting and unsettling, which is great given how creepy “Detroit Steel” already is.  The other short scene that stands out is the end, which sees Mandarin facing down a possible insurrection.  There’s not much to it yet, but it leads to yet another GREAT cliffhanger for Invincible Iron Man.  It also suggests yet another turn in Ezekial Stane’s gradual shift from dastardly villain to almost anti-hero.

The one downside to this issue is that a lot of time is spent with Rhody and his new suit.  Don’t get me wrong, Larroca draws great tech and machinery and action scenes involving new suits and new technology are a hallmark of this series.  There’s nothing terribly wrong with any of these scenes, it’s just that it’s far less interesting than all of the other stuff that this issue offers.  When the book cuts to Rhodey, it’s almost irritating; I found myself looking forward to getting through the latest action scene just so I could get back to Bethany Cabe and Stark Resilient.  In other words, it’s not that this extended action scene with Rhodey is BAD, it’s just not as good as the rest of the issue.  I think part of the problem is that we’re not at all invested in the villain and, with his new suit, we know he doesn’t stand a chance against Rhodes.

Art-wise, it’s another ridiculously consistent outing from Larroca, though he does have more opportunities to shine here; the guy continues to excel at armoured combat scenes and Fraction gives him plenty of that to illustrate.  His facial expressions were also very on point this month, from the determination of Cabe to the smugness of the Mandarin.

Conclusion: While this issue isn’t quite up to the sky-high standard of the past few installments of Invincible Iron Man, it’s still very solid.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans