Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1: The Five Nightmares TPB
by Matt Fraction (Author), Salvador Larroca (Illustrator)
The first part Fraction & Larocca’s run on the Invincible Iron Man (2008) is a rare thing in that it is both an editorial mandate done right, and it has been clearly designed to promote the then-fledgling Iron Man movie, with a tour de force of all of Iron Man’s earlier armours as well as the initial villain being none other than the son of the movie’s villain, long dead in comic canon.
Not that it takes much for that to be reversed in comics, but I digress.
The opening arc is sadly nothing to call home about, with Ezekiel – Stane’s son – being pretty much little more than a stereotypical Iron Man villain, with very conflicting motivations that largely make him little more than a cardboard cutout.
What matters the most about this book is the editorially-mandated ties to the then-running event “Dark Reign”.
While I sincerely wonder how it would play out in today’s landscape, as Tony Stark does what he was born to do – try to redeem the image of the playboy billionaire – it certainly makes for an engaging, globe-trotting cat-and-mouse game where Tony regresses further and further, sacrificing everything that he is in order to escape the clutches of what can easily be described his perfect foil at the time – the other maniacal billionaire, Norman Osborn, of Green Goblin fame.
Reading this while bearing in mind Tony’s actions in his tenure as director of S.H.I.E.L.D and the superhuman Civil War elucidates how things could have been progressively worse, regardless how and polarised the superhuman community became under his watch. While it still fetishises Tony’s genius to a ridiculous degree – as is typical with Iron Man comics – it does shine a light on how this affects his relationships, how it alienates him from those around him and thinks of problems solving in terms of debugging rather than a social phenomenon, making even his love life somewhat tumultuous. And none of this is made more clearer than his encounter with Madame Masque, a villain which I believe could have been an interesting villain for one of Tony’s on-screen outings.
Knee-deep in fetishisation of the moneyed lifestyle and Tony’s excellence to the point that he feels like a Mary Sue of the whole peace, it however remains an intriguing read if only for its action and its reflection on how Tony seems to both want to protect the people around him while completely being negligent with them. It however has decent artwork and writing that keeps you reading if simply to get to the next meltdown by good ol’ Norman, which are always enjoyable.