Well, Spider-Man and Iron Man had to meet again sooner or later. After the events of “Civil War” where Spider-Man turned his back on his friend after acting as his right-hand man and, then, “One More Day” where knowledge of Spider-Man’s secret identity was erased, a confrontation between these two was inevitable, but the question was how would it be handled? Thanks to Matt Fraction, the answer is quite well.
Fraction handles the logistics of the post-“One More Day” status quo with intelligence: Peter Parker used to work for Tony Stark and left under circumstances less than positive, while Spider-Man is just another unregistered hero. Although the circumstances of Parker’s departure aren’t provided, simply having Stark take Parker down a few pegs at a press conference with a few mocking words is enough. It’s refreshing to have a writer not obsess over the small, immaterial details and just get on with the story.
Ben Urich wants to do a piece on Tony Stark and Stark Industries after the terrorist attacks of Ezekiel Stane for “Front Line,” which is how Parker and Stark come into contact, and spurs Parker to try and make nice via their respective superhero personas. Of course, Iron Man is standoffish since Spider-Man is an unregistered hero, constantly threatening to arrest him... and yet never does. If there’s one glaring flaw in this issue, a flaw share by a lot of post-“Civil War” comics, it’s that Iron Man doesn’t arrest Spider-Man. It’s especially bad since Stark is also director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and really has no excuse not to beyond not wanting to.
Despite this, Iron Man reluctantly allows Spider-Man to tag along as he tracks down black market dealers in super-weapons of mass destruction, a logical move after Stane’s attack. The interplay between the two is funny at times as Stark berates Spidey for not patenting his web fluid or tracking devices, while Spider-Man does everything he can to both endear himself to and annoy Stark. It’s never outright stated, but it’s obvious that Parker feels guilty over turning his back on his friend, and this is his attempt to mend the friendship. While it doesn’t work entirely, progress seems to be made.
The plot is light, but the character work by Fraction is very well done, not just to finally deal with the Spider-Man/Iron Man issue, but also as an epilogue to “The Five Nightmares” story. The issue ends with a dejected and tired Tony Stark not sure if he’s up to all of his responsibilities and afraid of what may come up next. While Salvador Larroca’s photo-referenced art is inconsistent at times, the final page shot of an emotionally wrecked Tony Stark sitting amidst the rubble of one his factories in his Iron Man armor is one of the best pieces of work he’s done in a long time. This may be the best issue of “Invincible Iron Man” yet and really shows what Matt Fraction is capable of.
And if that didn’t convince you to pick up this issue, maybe CBR’s seven-page preview will.