Similar to the last volume, My Monsters, Invincible Iron Man: Unfixable puts the title in a holding pattern between the Heroic Age and Fear Itself. However, Unfixable does have what that volume lacked: a great core story for the majority of the book.
As indicated on the cover, Iron Man’s foe is Doctor Octopus. Yes, that’s Doc Ock. His new look was explained in Amazing Spider-Man as being caused by his body failing due to his various battles. This makes a lot of sense: after all, Doc Ock has never been the most physically fit of villains, and his arms are directly connected to his spine, which can’t be good for either his nervous system or his skeleton.
Doc Ock now wields eight tentacles and operates from what can best be described as a mixture between Brainiac’s skull ship from the 1980s and a pistachio nut. Notably, his face is covered except for his eyes; is this so they can retcon him away later as not being Otto Octavius?
I truly hope not, because the clash between Stark and Octavius is a clever one, going back to Tony’s pre-Iron Man days. While Octavius respected the boundaries placed on him by his financiers, Stark was a “science hippie,” always trying out new concepts ... and getting alcoholic blackouts when they failed. It’s great that Matt Fraction created a conflict between two long-existing characters rather than coming up with a new rival for Stark out of nowhere. The Hammers and Stanes of the world are fine enough foes without having yet another “lifelong competitor” like the bland Tiberius Stone showing up.
With so many other things going on in his mind -- the Mandarin, the Avengers, his work -- Tony clearly considers Ock to be less than important. Throughout the three-issue story, much of it is spent with them bickering at each other over minor matters that have been escalated into a nuclear threat. The Sandman and Electro make entertaining cameos, representing the recently reunited Sinister Six; their foe in this story is Pepper Potts, now augmented with her own arc reactor as Rescue.
While giving powers to non-powered side characters can be a mistake (see Jimmy Olsen and Snapper Carr for two DC examples, or Rick Jones for a Marvel one), Pepper is able to differentiate herself from Iron Man and War Machine through her non-violent mission. Her weaponless suit is designed to help victims, not hurt criminals. In her fight against two of the most powerful villains in Spider-Man’s rogues, she has to push beyond her boundaries. The book ends somewhat abruptly with the start of Fear Itself in New York, but considering how Invincible Iron Man has close ties to that event, it’s not surprising.
The other two stories in Unfixable, while serving to pad out the trade, also reinforce some of the main story’s theme. The FCBD story is part of Iron Man’s reconciliation with Thor, who you may recall had a tense encounter with Iron Man all the way back in The Five Nightmares. In the wake of Siege, Tony’s struggling new business has been handed to contract to rebuild Asgard and Broxton. However, this story is set slightly beforehand, where a group of rich moon-dwellers has built a weather domination machine from some of Tony’s old plans. These villains steal the show, attempting to form a Randian utopia in the mold of Rapture from Bioshock. Their comeuppance is swift, and it’s a good background for the healing process of two founding Avengers.
After this comes the Rescue one-shot, which plunges us right into the heart of Dark Reign yet again. One of the silliest conceits during Rescue’s debut is that Norman Osborn would only let Pepper use the armor for about half an hour before sending HAMMER forces out to capture her. Now, the Green Goblin was never all there, but this was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen him do. The countdown timer, while a reference to 24, now reminds me more of Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters, which uses a clock in the corner of the screen to count down until the giant monster’s arrival.
Kelly Sue DeConnick (married to Matt Fraction) does her best with what she’s given, and focuses the story around an exhausted Pepper conversing with her dead husband, Happy Hogan. Thanks to the movies and other adaptations, their marriage has faded from readers’ memory, so it’s good to see that Pepper still thinks about him. It’s a simple story, but Pepper Potts is a character due for a solo issue.
The main story’s art is once again provided by Salvador Larroca and his colorist Frank D’armata (thanks for the comments correcting me that he does colors, not inks). I love how the colors and inks fade for the flashback segments.
Because I skipped reviewing Stark Resilient, this is my chance to talk about Iron Man’s new armor. While it goes a little overboard with the various light ports, it’s otherwise a gorgeous design, officially known as the Bleeding Edge armor. Any merchandising calling it the “Modular Armor” is dead wrong -- the Modular Armor was introduced in Iron Man Col. 1 #300 and was the inspiration for the armors used in the 1994 animated series and Marvel vs. Capcom. Iron Man fans take the model numbers, names and incarnations very seriously.
John Romita, Jr. drew the FCBD story, and despite his occasional tendency to draw square heads, it’s always good to see his art. One panel I especially like is Thor standing confused amidst a storm of raining frogs. The expression on his face is grim: after all, some of Thor’s best friends are frogs. (The Central Park Frogs’ cameo in the Onslaught event was one of the saving graces of having the Avengers shuffled off to another dimension.) As is usually the case with JRJR, industry legend Klaus Janson provides heavy inks.
Andrea Mutti is the artist for the Rescue story, and while the art isn’t bad, it doesn’t fare well being in the same book with Salvador Larroca and JRJR. One notable complaint is that Pepper’s hair color seems to change constantly, appearing bubblegum pink at points. Additionally, the cover for that issue overuses shadows on Pepper’s face, making it look like she has a mustache.
While inessential, much like the book before it, Invincible Iron Man: Unfixable is a much better book thanks to some better story delineation. Instead of an anthology, it has a core story and two back-ups which reinforce it. This book is especially good for Spider-Man fans thanks to its main villains.