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

The Story: The unlikely team of Tony Stark, Ezekiel Stane, Blizzard, Living Laser, and Whirlwind go to war against the Mandarin.

The Review: The good guy/bad guy team-up in the face of a greater evil is one of those tropes that is always innately satisfying and I’ll admit that I’ve always been a sucker for it.  Given this, Invincible Iron Man #525 is a fun, engaging, and thoroughly satisfying read.  I just can’t deny the awesomeness of seeing Iron Man, Stane, Blizzard, Living Laser, and Whirlwind all working together to kick ass in Mandarin City.  Seeing Stark teaming up with former enemies and seeing so many different suits, with all different sorts of powers, working together triggers the fanboy glee in me.

A lot of that is due to Salvador Larroca, of course, who has always excelled when it came to drawing the machines and the suits.  Given that so much of this issue is spent on a wide variety of suits smashing the shit out of people and fighting giant robots, this is Larroca at his best.  The suits are gorgeous and the action is fun and Larroca’s art ends up being just as much fun as Fraction’s story is.

I also continue to really enjoy Fraction’s writing of the Mandarin.  After spending so long in that repressed, malevolent pose, it’s really great to have an entire issue of him just being completely off his rocker with rage, insanity, and megalomania.  The veneer of class and civility is completely gone and you’ve now got a superpowered maniac running about half-naked amidst his giant robots, all in a quest to destroy the world.  After having Mandarin only hint at his insanity, only letting the guise slip once in a while, seeing him fully transformed into the frothing lunatic that he really is was actually a kind of cathartic experience, a sense that at this point, he’s finally laid all the cards on the table.

As Fraction and Larroca wrap up their run, it was also cool to see Fraction bring in another forgotten strand from earlier years.  A whole bunch of characters from earlier in Fraction’s run show up in a genuine surprise that ends up being a really swell call-back that I look forward to seeing further developed.  It was another nice little piece to a story that, with Tony and Stane at its heart, has always felt a bit like Fraction’s run coming full circle.

Ultimately, all I can say about this issue is that it was a tremendously satisfying one.  There’s tons of action and I can’t emphasize enough how much fun I had watching Tony make an all-armored team with his former enemies, each of them visually distinct and wonderfully illustrated by Larroca.

Conclusion: After a transitional issue last time around, this issue shows up in a big way, delivering satisfying action and introducing more elements that are sure to please long-time readers.

Grade: B+

– Alex Evans