Doug Glassman, who blogs at Astrakhan Industries.]
When last we left Tony Stark (in Invincible Iron Man: Worlds Most Wanted), he was brain-dead and Norman Osborn was victorious as the Iron Patriot. As the Siege of Asgard unfolds around him, Tony battles for life. Siege isn’t too important to this story, except that it does explain where these issues fit into the overall event narrative thanks to the Ghost.
The title Iron Man: Stark: Disassembled refers back to the Avengers: Disassembled event, which precipitated Iron Man’s Extremis armor, House of M, Civil War, Secret Invasion and Dark Reign. Matt Fraction clearly intends this story to end that chapter of Tony Stark’s life and start a new one. I believe that he succeeds in reference to both Stark’s story arc and Stark’s character. Tony starts over in more ways than one, and while the ending of this story has been called a deus ex machina, the context of later issues diffuses feelings of a simple ending.
Not only is Tony rebuilt (both physically and metaphorically) in this story, but so are his friendships. War Machine, Pepper Potts, Maria Hill, Thor and the original Captain America are necessary to revive him, and it even ends up being their choice to resurrect him in the first place. Other allies, such as the Black Widow, the current Captain America and Dr. Strange, are also on hand to help Tony. After years of stories in which the Marvel heroes have become fractured and, to an extent, unlikeable, Stark: Disassembled lays the cornerstones for the new Heroic Age, in which differences won’t have to be settled with Negative Zone prisons and Norman Osborn rising to power.
Opposing Tony’s resurrection is the Ghost, who starts to rise to the position of one of Iron Man’s top enemies. I feel that Stark: Disassembled puts him on the level of the Mandarin, Titanium Man, Crimson Dynamo and Spymaster. His anti-corporate leanings have come to the forefront after being sporadically used, making him a perfect foil for Stark. Only a last-minute hoisting with his own petard stops the Ghost, and it also starts him on his road of change as seen in the Thunderbolts series. I do like that there’s a clear point where he leaves the Thunderbolts’ mission to Asgard to attack Stark, as delineated both in this book and in Siege: Thunderbolts. It seems like Marvel’s various titles are really starting to sync up.
Also opposing Tony is his own mind, and a good half of the story is dedicated to his internal battle to return to consciousness. One of Tony’s driving factors has always been guilt; the Armor Wars is the best example. Even his friends aren’t sure whether he should come back, leading to a frank discussion of resurrection in the Marvel Universe. There’s a sequence in which Stark confronts the people who have died because of him, most notably Happy Hogan and Ho Yinsen, but also a few more obscure people. Although they aren’t named, I’m fairly certain that a glasses-wearing man is supposed to be Tony’s technical genius Abe Zimmer, while a blonde woman may be Kathy Dare, the stalker who shot him and destroyed his spine.
Salvador Larocca continues his epic run on Invincible Iron Man. The Fraction/Larocca team may go down in history alongside the Michelinie/Layton runs as one of the best consistent Iron Man writer/artist teams. One of Larocca’s strengths is that his characters can actually show emotion, an ability key to this storyline. He does use some interesting motion blurs, which can be distracting at times, but it does demonstrate how far comic book technology has come. Larocca also did the intriguing cover designs for the issues. The cover for the trade isn’t an example of these (although it is fine artwork), but Larocca created modern-art covers with unique color palettes and a circular design scheme. I really wish unique covers like these could be used more often.
While Stark: Disassembled ends Invincible Iron Man’s two-year-long story, it also ends a seven-year-long character arc. Tony Stark has gone from a Secretary of Defense, to a superhero registration enforcer, to a Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., to a troubled businessman, to a criminal fleeing from what used to be his organization, and finally to a brain-dead shell. This is truly the rebirth of Iron Man, and I highly recommend picking up this trade and those before it.
Thanks Doug! New reviews and more coming next week ... don't miss it!