by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer
Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Salvador Larroca
Published: September 2012
Prisons always make compelling settings for stories. You take your hero, you incarcerate him (wrongfully, of course), and you let him loose. He’s surrounded by criminals, so he’s free to kick whatever ass he wants and he’s always be the good guy. That’s the sort of vibe we get from Iron Man 521. Tony Stark has willingly become the captive of the Mandarin as part of an agreement to keep his arch nemesis from wreaking havoc. Now he’s living in Mandarin City under his foes thumb.
Meanwhile, Iron Man is still alive and kicking, just with somebody else behind the wheel. Even Pepper Potts is unaware that Rhodey has donned the suit.
As always, Fraction shows his skill at juggling multiple story elements without blundering them into a convoluted mess. Issue 521 deals with Stark, the Mandarin, Rhodey, Resilient, and Justine Hammer, and it all flies by in the blink of eye, but it’s a smooth ride.
I love the way Fraction portrays Justine Hammer. He doesn’t need her to commit atrocious acts to convey how evil she is, it comes through loud and clear when she reacts gleefully to horrific news. Despite the medium, she’s not a traditional comic book villain. She’s just a greedy narcissist.
That’s what makes her a good Iron Man villain. Tony Stark is a narcissist, too, and his ego outshines that of most villains. Fortunately, his ego is encompassed by his heart, which Fraction makes evident in a surprisingly touching moment towards the end of issue 521. And if that doesn’t convince you that Stark is a true hero, Fraction reminds you again a few pages later.
Fraction has taken the “invincible” Iron Man and made him anything but. He’s given us a completely vulnerable Tony Stark and made it one of the most compelling books out there.