Matt Fraction’s debut storyline on “Invincible Iron Man” was very broad, very widescreen, a Bourne style epic, spanning from one side of the globe to the other in any given issue. “World’s Most Wanted” is much more ground-level. In the new, “Dark Reign” Marvel Universe, Tony Stark is the most wanted man in America. For reasons I still don’t really get (although Fraction does the best job so far at explaining it), everyone blames Tony for the Skrull Invasion. Fair enough. The specifics aren’t the most important thing in terms of causality.
The important thing is how versatile Fraction is proving to be in writing Iron Man stories. As I said, the first storyline was the summer blockbuster movie. Tony fought one of his deadliest foes in high impact, explosive battles. Cool stuff. Then, in a stand alone issue, Fraction managed to both humanize Stark and tell a light and witty Spider-Man team up story at the same time. Now, with Norman Osborne in charge of pretty much everything, Fraction has shifted into a gritty 70’s noir. Tony is now the ultimate renegade, hunted at every path, barely able to activate his technology for fear of being discovered. His only friends left are Pepper Potts and ex-S.H.E.I.L.D. op Maria Hill.
True to the tone of the story, there’s no battalions busting down Tony’s door or blowing up city blocks to find him. It's just a lot of clever planning and Maria Hill showing that she can take care of herself just fine. Fraction’s a smart writer, so it stands that he can write a very smart Tony Stark. One of my favorite things about his Iron Man is that he flexes his wits not just in inventing high tech doodads, but by outthinking everyone else in the room.
Salvador Larocca is also still on board (no fill ins!) and still putting together great work. He can manage both complicated emotional scenes and the intricate bleeding edge tech of Tony Stark’s world. It’s no mean feat. Plenty of artists are good at one or the other, but few can deliver both so well.
It’s clear that things are only going to get worse for Tony and his friends, as they’re alone against increasingly insurmountable odds. At the start of their run, Fraction and Larocca did a great job at showing just how “Invincible” their Iron Man could be. Now, post “Secret Invasion”, it looks like things are going to get a heck of a lot more vincible.