Two years and twenty-four issues later, Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca have continued to do what I didn't think possible: make me read, enjoy, and look forward to "Invincible Iron Man" every month. A character that could charitably be called damaged goods after going up against his fellow heroes during "Civil War," Fraction's scripts have not only told a story about the fall of Tony Stark, but also his eventual rebirth. And so far, I'm buying it.
Throughout the previous, year-long "World's Most Wanted" story, Fraction had Tony Stark sacrifice his own mind in order to save others, which was the tipping point for letting him become a true hero again. Now with "Stark: Disassembled" we've gotten to see the flip side of Tony Stark; finding out what really exists in his core when you take away all his memories and rebuild him from the ground up. Some might find this to be a bit of a cheat; by removing everything in the previous story, the temptation would certainly be to try and automatically absolve Tony Stark of all of his recent mistakes in the process. After all, it was a tactic used in the infamous "Avengers: The Crossing" story where a villainous Tony Stark was for a time replaced with an earlier, teen-aged version of the character that hadn't gone bad. But that doesn't seem to be the case here. There are a lot of signs put out quite plainly that the redemption of Tony Stark isn't going to be remotely simple, that he won't be able to escape his past. And as a reader, I think that's the right tactic to take. There's a lot more story potential with what we're getting in "Invincible Iron Man" #24, as we watch Tony Stark finish clawing his way back to life and reality.
Of course, there's more to the story than just Tony Stark. Fraction uses the Ghost trying to kill our heroes as a physical struggle to work alongside Tony's mental battles, and he's certainly as creepy as ever here. The various guest stars in the issue get their own roles to play, and it's nice to get a reminder that the people Tony surrounds himself with are all capable in their own ways (superheroes or otherwise). Fraction's ably assisted by Larroca, who after twenty-four issues in a row shows no signs of slowing down. The dreamland of Tony Stark's soul is suitably eerie, a strong match for the deathlike specter of the Ghost rampaging through the hospital. His photo-realistic art is aided well by Frank D'Armata, and the end result is a book that looks like it was airbrushed into reality. It doesn't look quite like anything else on the market, but in a good way.
If you aren't reading "Invincible Iron Man" you're missing out on a lot of fun. (I like it so much that I've already pre-ordered the upcoming hardcover omnibus of the first 19 issues of this series.) "Invincible Iron Man" delivers the goods every month, and in ways you never even thought to ask for. But don't just take my word for it. Try it out for yourself, and I think you'll be quite pleased.