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

The Story:  Tony forges uneasy alliances, Pepper gets a clue regarding the identity of the new Iron Man, and Jarvis gets scary.

The Review:  I’ve been singing the praises of Invincible Iron Man quite a bit these days and let’s get this out of the way first: this is still a pretty good issue.  Unfortunately, it’s also on the slow side.  It feels weird, given that things certainly do happen this month.  Yet somehow, it still really felt like a “middle of the arc” issue and one that was mostly transitional.

I think part of the lack of appeal compared to prior issues is that Fraction spends much of the issue away from the more interesting components of Iron Man’s current status quo.  For instance, instead of spending more time on the Tony/Ezekiel relationship, Tony forges alliances with the goons he’s trapped with.  That’s well and good, but none of the goons have strong personalities, we can’t identify any of them since none of them are wearing their suits, and none of them have any real relationship to Tony.  As a result, this development doesn’t really hit as hard as Fraction would like, instead just coming across like a logical plot point without any real resonance.

I also felt that too much time is spent with Pepper.  Her discovery, sort of, of Rhodey’s being alive felt fairly random and sudden, which I think spoiled any gratification that the result should have yielded.  Also, the Pepper/Wyche relationship still feels awkward and out of left field.  Fraction’s spending more time with the pair actually only emphasizes this.

That said, I loved the direction Fraction took Jarvis/Rescue this month.  Seeing Jarvis follow his own initiatives was delightfully creepy in that Hal-9000 sort of way.  Seeing the AI take on a life of its own was pretty unnerving.  While I’m sure Jarvis isn’t as villainous in reality as Fraction makes him seem this month, it’s still a really nice development.

While I may be in the minority here, I also still rather enjoy Fraction’s techno-babble about the Swarm and cloud-computing and such and the Apple-esque lectures regarding Resilient’s new technology.  I’ll admit, however, that this likely is a large part of why this issue felt slow, given that it meant time spent away from real developments and character moments.  That said, wacky technology is part and parcel of an Iron Man comic and I enjoyed reading this stuff.  I also found myself trying to puzzle out how this “swarm” technology of Resilient’s plays into Tony’s plan, as it surely must.

Larroca’s art remains strong this month.  He gets to draw several scenes of Rescue and Rhodey punching each other, and robots hitting each other has always been one of Larroca’s strong points.  The guy is nothing if not consistent and this issue is up to his usual standard.

While I did love the Jarvis bit, I did find that the issue also didn’t have the strong cliffhanger that previous issues had left us on.  Maybe that’s  part of the reason for why I felt it was slow?  I don’t know.

Conclusion:  It’s a decent issue, but clearly a transitional one.  Still, a transitional issue of one of the best superhero comics on the stands is better than the majority of what’s out there.

Grade: B-

– Alex Evans