The Critical Recuperation of Anthony Stark

The Critical Recuperation of Anthony Stark

Oct 22

[This post discusses Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man, including the most recent issue #19. It contains spoilers and should be avoided if you wish to read #19 without foreknowledge of that issue’s events. ]

Near the end of the most recent installment of Sober House, Andy Dick confronts his longtime friend and fellow comic Kathleen Madigan to apologize for the myriad ways in which Dick’s rampant alcoholism and natural dickishness (no pun intended) have inadvertantly damaged her life. It may be the only time I have ever or will ever be moved by Andy Dick.

The entirety of Matt Fraction’s 19 issue (to date) run on Invincible Iron Man can perhaps be boiled down to that scene, just with more espionage, violence and explosions.  “World’s Most Wanted,” the story that began with the end of Secret Invasion and just this week came to its conclusion with Norman Osborn pummeling a basically brain dead Tony Stark on live news. A pummeling that the reader watches with pity, wanting Tony to fight back but knowing that he won’t (in part because the audience suspects that Stark has a death wish, but chiefly because his brain has forgotten how to perform even basic instinctual reactions).  Was it only three years ago that we all cheered when Cap clocked Iron Man in the face after shorting out his armor under a truce?  I mean, I was appalled that Steve Rogers did it, but I was really glad at the same time.  It was due.  After a too-brief run where Warren Ellis gave us a Tony that was a limitless, wide-eyed futurist, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Joe Straczynski and Daniel and Charles Knauf tweaked him into a controlling megalomaniac with a savior complex.  I won’t take issue with that characterization; Tony is an addict, control is how he copes and the savior complex is intrinsic in his origin.  I didn’t like Tony Stark, but I understood him, and that’s far more important than liking.

Post-Civil War, though, Stark had the rug pulled out from under him hard. He hit rock bottom and has been building himself up from that point.  Invincible Iron Man has very much been a book about Iron Man rebuilding his relationships, personal and professional, as an externalization of that recuperation, a roadmap to him becoming a real hero again.  He is penitent, he has feet of clay, and he is willing to basically place himself in a persistent vegetative state to do one last good act.  It’s significant, in terms of absolution, that he’s taking that proverbial bullet to ensure that the Superhuman Registration Act database, the very thing that caused the massive rift among the Marvel Universe’s heroes,  is destroyed.  Fraction’s work on the title has deftly balanced clever humor, bombastic action and touching human drama in a way that few things can manage, resulting in the best long form superhero epic since Grant Morrison’s Justice League.  He’s done the impossible: making us root for Tony Stark again.


  1. I need to read this; great write-up. I’ve read the reviews so I’m spoiled already on it and it sounds incredibly moving honestly. What a great concept from Fraction.

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