Salvador Larroca

Invincible Iron Man #511

Invincible Iron Man

Invincible Iron Man #511; Marvel Comics

I have been reading Invincible Iron Man for several years now, I think since the Extremis armor storyline.  The numbering of this particular title has, of course, changed but this is actually the 46th issue in this volume (2008).  For the most part, this volume has been above average, but nothing has been really awesome amazing.  In other words, this is a solid Marvel title with one of the classic characters.

I am not a big fan of writer Matt Fraction; in fact, I am not really a fan at all, but I am trying to be kind. Last year, Fraction’s event Fear Itself was a bloody mess and aggravated a lot of Marvel readers. Fraction’s been writing this volume since issue #1, however, and has done a decent job.  Every issue that I read is good – but the writing is not the strong part, the art is. Salvador Larroca’s artwork is phenomenal and perfect. I love it. Every issue I look at I find myself saying things like: “Hey, that’s a really good frame” or “This art is really quite good.”  So, ultimately, I am not sure where this title would be without Larroca.

The above holds true for issue #511.  The storyline is good enough, albeit a little tired. I feel after 46 issues, we are still in the same exact arc as issue #1.  Now, I know that Iron Man has his particular villains that he constantly battles and that contained storylines are something of a rarity in today’s comic industry. However, I feel like we are having some sort of groundhog day stuck-age where we are moving forward and moving forward, but just not going anywhere. The thing is, it’s interesting (fighting Ezekial Stane and the Mandarin), but we have been doing it for 40 issues. Looking at the whole volume, it’s easy to see developments and progression, but at the same time, I feel there is this lack of anything happening. It’s a very odd read – which is why I was complaining about Fraction.

However, as long as Larroca keeps drawing, I am going to keep reading. His artwork is fantastic and, honestly, not enough readers/critics are talking about it. It really ought to be praised more than it is. Maybe after all these issues, everyone has started to take it for granted. I haven’t though, because reading this issue I was still impressed with the art.

Pepper Potts by Larroca

angry Pepper Potts by S. Larroca

Here are two of my favorite frames from this issue. The first is of Pepper Potts. Potts is angry and frustrated. Maybe even a little hurt. And Larroca is able to display all of these emotions on her face in such a way that it doesn’t make Pepper look silly, constipated, or blah.  You can look at this frame and almost empathize with Pepper.  It may seem like a “simple” facial drawing, but it actually conveys Fraction’s storyline better than Fraction’s words.

Sasha Hammer by Larroca

Sasha Hammer by S. Larroca

Another frame that really, really caught my eye was of Sasha Hammer. She’s standing in front of the Detroit Steel tech and the media, with dozens of cameras, is eating the scene up. I was trying to imagine a shiny piece of armor as a backdrop for a saavy, catty chick like Sasha. I then imagined all the camera’s flashing and the media crowded around her while she basks in the attention.  When I stopped imagining, I found that Larroca had been in my brain had had drawn precisely the image that I had imagined. Really. I mean, I love how her hair looks, I love the incline of her head, I love the sunglasses. Of course, Larroca’s art here is perfectly completed by colorist Frank D’Armata. The “blurry” colorful background with the flashbulb reflections in the sunglasses is awesome. Really. I mean, you feel like you are right there in the scene at Hammer Industries’ Hanger with the arrogant Sasha Hammer.

4 stars

Iron Man #25

Invincible Iron Man 25

Invincible Iron Man #25

Since the Civil War event (2006 – 2007) in Marvel Comics, Iron Man has been a key ingredient in most of Marvel’s storylines.   However, if you are interested in reading up on Iron Man/Tony Stark recent history, you have to return to the six-issue storyarc called Extremis run in the 2005 Iron Man title.  Extremis was new, exciting, unique technology that Tony Stark developed.  Then there was the Civil War – with the issues of the Superhero Registration Act.  This includes Tony Stark giving Peter Parker the Iron Spider suit.  Then we have Secret Invasion and finally Norman Osborn (Dark Reign) takes over, well… everything, and crushes Stark Industries feverishly hunting down Tony Stark himself.  That’s a whole lot of comic book issues to read through – its really great reading and well worth the time spent – but what you need to know started with the newest volume of Iron Man:   Invincible Iron Man. The first issue was released in July 2008.

Extremis armor was very cool, in my opinion. Extremis technology stores the inner layers of the Iron Man armor in the Stark’s bones.  He can control the armor through direct brain impulses. Extremis also integrates Stark’s existing lockchip (a personal networking implement implanted in his forearm) directly into his nervous system.  Basically, Stark IS his armor.  Its really high-tech, sci-fi, fun stuff that one would expect from Tony.  This armor means no more unfolding, Transformers-like suitcases.   No more dashing into phone booths.  The nanoparticles inside Tony’s body literally become the armor around him – its really quite neat.

But Extremis, as it was in 2005 ends up having issues – or is it that Tony has issues?  Regardless, after 24 issues of the newest volume of Invincible Iron Man, Tony Stark meets up with Reed Richards and creates the newest Iron Man armor.  So, of course, issue #25 is a big deal – and I could not find this issue anywhere. I finally had to sell a kidney. Totally worth it.

First of all, I absolutely love this cover. I read on a few websites that people thought all of the #25 covers (variants and other) were boring.  I love covers like this, though, simple, full-page, not cluttered or busy.  I like the title shoved to the lower left, I like the font used for the title and credits. I like the dark background.  This is a good cover.  But wait – there’s more! (Sorry, I’ve been watching TV commercials.)  I absolutely love the interior art for this comic.  Let’s use some common sense – if you are introducing a new armor for Iron Man – you need to have amazing art.  The artist needs to be on his game.  That’s all there is to it.  And Salvador Larroca nails it.  Pretty much every frame is excellent and melds perfectly with the writing.  In this issue, the art isn’t an accessory to the story, it actually does its own share of telling the story. Very nice.

New armor

New Armor

Well, do you want the real story or the story we just tell people?  In reality, Tony Stark totally designed this tech in an apartment living room.  The fake story is that Marvel writers and artists designed this.  Who specifically?   Marvel gives a lot of credit to an artist named Ryan Meinerding.  Apparently he started the design process.  Editors and writers apparently eventually gave their insights and the new armor was born.  Now, since I have only read issue #25, I am not completely aware of how the armor operates.  It looks like it works similarly to the extremis armor.  I am glad for this.  I loved most of the extremis armor concept, especially how it did away with figuring how to have the armor ready and accessible at any minute.

There are some other things going on in issue #25.  Thor shows up, Rhodey is complaining, Maria talks about Avengers.  The big plot is that Stark is rebuilding Stark Industries and he has just changed his weapons-based business agenda, to the chagrin of the military. But these are not the reasons this issue was scarfed up – its because of the sexy, new armor!

4 stars