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Invincible Iron Man #23

Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2010
By: Dave Wallace

Matt Fraction
Salvador Larroca (p & i), Frank D’Armata (colours)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Invincible Iron Man #23 arrives in stores tomorrow, February 3.

"Stark: Disassembled Part 4--Ghosts in the Machine"

Invincible Iron Man #23 sees Tony Stark--aided by Doctor Strange--continue his attempts to escape his self-imprisonment in his own mind, at the same time as Madame Masque and Ghost attempt to throw a spanner in the works to prevent Iron Man's resurrection.

As with the previous issues of "Stark: Disassembled", this penultimate issue of the arc is more interesting as a metaphorical examination of how Tony Stark plans to rebuild himself as a heroic character than for the literal story involving his return from the brink of death. It helps that this issue offers a guide in the form of Stephen Strange, who can interpret Stark's mindscape for the reader, making explicit elements that have previously only been implied. There's a slight sense that the adventures in Tony's dream-world are becoming a little drawn-out, but writer Matt Fraction still manages to make them compelling thanks to a mixture of some odd and surreal bio-mechanical concepts, enjoyable back-and-forth exchanges between Stark and Strange and an effectively created sense of dream-logic and unreality. It's not often that a writer can make non-literal scenes like these as gripping as the action that's going on in reality, so to have been able to keep it up for several issues in a row is no mean feat.

Back in the real world, a couple of the arc's subplots are moved forwards. We see Ghost continue his attempts to infiltrate the group, leading to some friction between him and Madame Masque. And we see Maria Hill and Pepper Potts discuss Pepper's recovery, and admit to each other that they have both had more-than-professional relationships with Tony in the past. I found this latter plot point particularly well-handled, as the two women's reaction to their mutual revelations is not to be angry at each other, but to direct their ire towards the unconscious body in front of them. I can't wait to see how they react to Tony once he's back in the land of the living, and I love the fact that the first thing that Stark is going to see when he wakes up are two women who want to have a word with him about his philandering.

Salvador Larroca's artwork is as strong as ever, and shows no sign of being compromised despite the book appearing on a slightly-more-often-than-monthly schedule (the previous issue only came out three weeks ago). We see the usual emotive facial expressions and informative body language--Doctor Strange calmly drinking a cup of tea whilst talking Tony Stark through his trauma is a lovely image---and we see yet more excellent design work from Larroca as Tony confronts the bizarre machines that have been plaguing his nightmares since the start of the arc. Finally, there's a visual punch in the gut as we see the Ghost's plans begin to come to fruition towards the end of the issue, leaving the outcome of this arc very difficult to predict.

Frank D’Armata's colouring is also noteworthy, particularly during the scenes set in Tony Stark's mind, in which colour is used as an indicator of mood and of Tony's mental state. When the "Stark: Disassembled" arc is collected, it'll be interesting to read it through in one sitting and see how D'Armata's colouring moves from the initial warm and earthy oranges and browns through to the dark purples of the previous issue into the bright yellows and whites that we see in this issue, and how these changes relate to the progress that Tony is making with his resurrection.

If you're not reading Invincible Iron Man, you're missing out on one of the best superhero titles currently being produced. And that's not just my opinion: my fellow reviewers Danny Djeljosevic, Jason Sacks and Paul Brian McCoy have all given the book high marks in their respective reviews of issue #20, issue #21 and issue #22. I'm pleased to add my own positive review to the pile, and to encourage anyone who might not have tried this book to give it a shot.






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