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Invincible Iron Man #14

Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2009
By: Jon Judy

Matt Fraction
Salvador Larroca
Marvel Comics
"World's Most Wanted: The Shape of the World These Days" (Part 7)

This is a not-bad installment in what has been a very good storyline.

Some background, for those who havenít been following along: Tony Stark is on the run from the law. He canít risk falling into the hands of Norman Osborn, as Tony has all sorts of secrets locked in his head that the Goblin would just love to get a hold of. To make sure that knowledge is unobtainable, Tony is erasing his own memory by gradually making himself stupider--long story. It makes sense, sort of, if youíve been reading all along. Unfortunately, thereís a bit of a trade off here: Tony now lacks the intellect to control his most cutting-edge armors, so he is on the run now in an outdated armor and he is gradually losing his ability to control even that.

In one subplot that is particularly pertinent to this review, Tony saved Pepper Pottsí life by hooking her up with her own, unarmed armor. It has all kinds of nifty Stark tech, minus the weaponry that would get her in trouble with the law. Furthermore, the armor comes with its own artificial intelligence so that Pepper, a mere, not super-y mortal, can actually use the armor. Now why canít I have a friend like that? Actually, why canít I have any friends of any kind?

And therein lies my primary complaint about this storyline (not my lack of friends, but Tonyís gift to Pepper): Why would Tony think to have an artificial intelligence for one armor and not all of his armors in general? In other words, if Tony is too stupid to use a newer armor, and he has artificial intelligences that could run his armors, why wouldnít he have a new armor complete with an A.I. and go on the lam in that?

Next bone to pick with this subplot: The conversion of Pepper to a superhero, complete with superhero name: Rescue. OK, I suppose I can accept that any average person who suddenly found themselves with superpowers might end up using them to help people. But would they then go around with a superhero name? I canít accept that. It would take particularly acute delusions of grandeur to do that, and yet it seems like everyone who gets a superpower--which is just about everyone in the Marvel continuity--decides to do just that.

Hey, cake and eat it too, here. If you just want to produce silly superhero stories, where everyone runs around in a costume and calls themselves by a superhero name, cool. If you aspire to create more grounded science fiction with a more contemporary, sophisticated, thriller edge, which seems to be what Marvel is aiming for these days, then people need to actually act like, you know, people.

The silliness of having a superhero name is compounded by the way Pepper gets that name. Check out this exchange between Pepper and her doctor, as Pepper heads out to rescue some people:

PEPPER: [...] seventeen workers are calling out for immediate rescue.
DOCTOR: ďRescue?Ē That what youíre calling yourself these days?

Not since the day a generic soldier was awestruck by a hulk has such an awkward superhero christening taken place.

So I find this storyline in general hinges on an implausibility and this issue engages in an absurd convention of the superhero genre. But this issue is also substandard because of the role it plays in the overall narrative of the storyline: Nothing really happens in this issue. Nothing real happens, anyway. Tony is still on the run. Pepper still wants to help him. Maria is still on the run. Osborn is still making like Blofeld and plotting and planning sinisterly. Itís a holding issue, only advancing the story very slightly.

I will say this for the issue: Itís very accessible, and I donít think a new reader to the title would have much trouble at all picking this issue up understanding the story. So new readers, I think youíll find this a beautifully illustrated comic book with a fun, even if itís a little nonsensical, story.

People who have read previous issues and are unsure of how to spend their $2.99 this week, donít worry about taking a pass on this one. You can catch up next month just fine.

I feel like Iíve been on a long, long streak of lukewarm reviews. Itís like Iím leaving you with nothing but ďIt was mehĒ over and over and over. So let me leave you with something else this time, something in the way of trivia. The whole Tony-getting-dumber storyline owes an obvious debt to the short story ďFlowers for Algernon,Ē which was written by Daniel Keyes, who once worked briefly for Martin Goodmanís company, which was the precursor to...Marvel Comics.

And now you know...the rest of the story.



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