Invincible Iron Man #25
Whoa, imagine that, the issue hitting the shelves a week before the movie is actually a good jumping on point for new readers. Might sell a whole couple dozen more copies!
Anyway, this is pretty good, no surprise there - Fraction has been playing a very long game on this book for the last two years and we're just now seeing some of the threads from the very first story pulled together. I thought the first story, with the "living repulser weapons," was a pretty steep misfire, but everything since Secret Invasion has worked very well. It's funny: usually creators complain about having to work around status-quo-shifting crossovers, but Fraction was only able to really get into a groove on the book when he had the constraints of Dark Reign to push against. Who knows whether this new "Heroic Age" direction will hold up as well - I'd personally be content with issue after issue of Tony Stark traversing the globe and apologizing for being a dick to everyone. But the most amazing thing is that, somehow, Fraction was able to achieve the impossible: make Stark an interesting and sympathetic character once again, after years of mistreatment. It almost makes you think they had a plan like this all along . . . but nah, that's giving them too much credit.
I will confess to a little bit of disappointment that the new direction didn't also serve as an impetus to finally get rid of that stupid Extremis crap that's been clogging up the stories for years. I think giving Stark legitimate super-powers - regardless of how much they might initially seem like a natural extension of his traditional reliance on technology, takes the character too far from his core appeal. But if the execution is right I suppose we can chaulk that up to a minor quibble.
Anyway, one more thing: there's a bit in here about Stark pulling out of the weapons manufacturing business, and the plot hinges on the military's pissy reaction to this decision. The only problem is - Stark has already pulled out of military contracting so many times over they years that the announcement is meaningless. He hasn't produced weapons since, what, the 70s? the 80s? I don't remember off the top of my head but this has already been a plot point many times over the years.
Bill WIllingham and I, we've had our differences in the past - like, you know, the fact that Fables is a transparent exercise in right-wing fantasy world-building, like a D&D campaign written by a overly literal-minded Tucker Carlson impersonator. His superhero work has generally been decent, if not spectacular. I genuinely liked Shadowpact: nice mix of characters, fun adventures. But this? This is perhaps the least original comic I've ever read in my life.
Let's see - alternate future where Nazis take over and kill everyone, all the superheroes live in concentration camps, but they're just biding their time until they can turn the tables on their jailers and undo the damage to timeline. That's not a plot, that's a pattern, like if you were making your own prom dress out of Sears & Roebuck flower-print curtains. Plus, like, in twenty years the Nazis will have managed to completely conquer North America and exterminate all the ethnic minorities? Really, Bill? Because even with evil Nazi superheroes I don't know if a very small splinter-group of neo-Nazis could overcome, you know, 300 million odd people very resistant to the idea of being part of the Fourth Reich.
So - yeah - this is pretty bad. Like a faded photocopy - and what was briefly one of DC's sales powerhouses goes down in a soggy mess of horse manure.
I'm just going to come out and say it, regardless of whether or not you believe me: this is one of the best comics on the stands. It's kind of a shame that it's been retroactively "revealed" to be a 13-issue limited series. At least the current storyline will be able to finish. But for the meantime?
This is pretty awesome. Basically, this is the platonic ideal of what a comic book like this should be: loud, fast and funny, with lots of gross monsters and sexy babes. It's really no more complicated than that. Special consideration must go to Bong Dazo, who has proven himself to be a distinctive talent of note, hitting it out of the proverbial park with every consecutive issue. Let's take a look at a particularly well-done action sequence from this issue:
Extra special credit for colorist Matt Milla, who manages to keep Dazo's very dense linework and composition readable and clear through the judicious use of contrasting colors to draw the eye across the page.
Look again at that first page: see how the eye is drawn downward in a left-to-right direction by the repetition of the red circle of Deadpool's rifle scope. Also, the letterer has placed his word bubbles and captions near the red circles, creating a perfect synergy in terms of how the eye is pulled compositionally and how the reader's eye naturally flows towards the text. Finally, on the bottom panel of the page, the figure of the Zombie Absorbing Man is pushed aside by the blast of DP's bazooka, shooting in a left to right direction, taking the reader from the Absorbing Man's reaction to the shot through to the shot's true target, what is revealed in the next page to be . . . a support column for the Chrysler building.
The next page is equally interesting: the two cramped insets in the top left corner, placed in a right-and-downwards direction, pulls the eye across the page along with the huge mass of debris about to fall on the Absorbing Man. The shape of the falling rubble frames the empty space at the bottom of the page, directing the reader's attention towards the suddenly very small figure of the Absorbing Man, about to be crushed. And of course, Deadpool's red uniform pops out against the background, and Dazo never forgets all the little details - like the beads of cartoon sweat falling from his head as he hoofs it off the page, Bugs Bunny-style, bending under the weight of his monstrous bazooka, six-pack of beer still securely attached to his samurai sword.
The next page pulls out of Dazo's typically packed compositions for a full splash - and boy, does he know to draw piles of shit blowing up good. But even here, look at how the damage is framed by the figures of Deadpool's posse staged across the bottom of the page, with the bright flesh tone of Dr. Betty's - um - copious amounts of skin, as well as Bob's bright yellow AIM costume drawing the eye down across the muted grays and blues - a sideways direction also indicated by the gray plumes of smoke rising from the wreckage like arrows pointing the eye towards the page's resolution.
It's probably very easy to overlook Merc With A Mouth among all the other superfluous Deadpool books on the market right now, but this is exactly what I had in mind when I said that a sudden rush of multiple Deadpool books might result in some good stuff bleeding in around the edges. This is an extremely well constructed over-the-top adventure book designed by people who are obviously having a blast with the opportunity to produce a purposefully, delightfully exaggerated adventure serial. Bong Dazo especially is a talent to watch, appearing seemingly out of nowhere with both a distinctive style and a rock-solid understanding of storytelling basics. This is good stuff, and deserves a critical reappraisal before it disappears.