One of the things I've found myself enjoying about Matt Fraction's run on "Invincible Iron Man" is that it's a mixture of corporate espionage and super-heroics. To me, finding a balance between the two is what a comic about Iron Man should be. After all, Tony Stark isn't just a guy flying around in an armored suit, he's also the founder and (sometimes) CEO of Stark Enterprises. What goes on in the board room is just as important as up in the skies, really. It's a tactic that he and Ed Brubaker used on their all-too-brief "Immortal Iron Fist" series, and seeing it back in action here? That's a pleasure.
It helps that, with Marvel's new "Heroic Age," a lot of the things done to Tony Stark are finally over. There's no more H.A.M.M.E.R. and Norman Osborne chasing him down, no more "Tony Stark is the most hated man on the planet." Instead we're getting a series about a guy rebuilding both his reputation and his company from the ground up, and it's a fun place to be. And since Stark has to get everything back in order, it's the perfect time for his enemies (of all shapes and sizes) to attack. Why wait until he's back up at full speed, right?
The end result is that part 2 of "Stark Resilient" is a lot of pieces getting shuffled around the board. We get the arrival of Spymaster to the title, with opening and closing sequences defining the character's abilities (both in terms of physical and mental power) and letting us understand the kind of nemesis he'll be. The Hammer women are making their moves as well, allying themselves with all sorts of people even while Fraction uses the fall of H.A.M.M.E.R. to his plotting advantage. We even get a new supporting cast member for Tony, and you can already tell that based on their past it's not going to be terribly buddy-buddy between the two of them. The book doesn't feel like it's moving super-fast this because it's so much introduction and set up, but when you look back at the end of the issue there's a lot now out on the table.
Salvador Larroca and Frank D'Armata continue to turn out a slick looking final product. Larroca continues to be one of the few lightbox artists that understands how to keep his figures from looking stiff and overly posed. They've got energy and expression; the pouting faces that Stark has while talking about hitting rock bottom are proof enough on how Larroca is able to make it work. There's more than that, though; from the swish of the champagne as two glasses clink together to the close up on Stark's eyes as he says, "But it doesn't work," there's a nice punch to Larroca's art that carries the reader through the issue. Add in D'Armata's understated and gentle colors, and it's an attractive looking book.
"Invincible Iron Man" has captured my attention for over two years now, and that's far longer than any past "Iron Man" team has managed. So long as Fraction, Larroca, and D'Armata are on board, I have the greatest of confidence that they'll have me around as a reader. Who knew hostile takeovers could be so much fun?