Invincible Iron Man #501
Tony prepares Resilient's first high profile project, the reconstruction of Asgard. With the successful (and unusual) test drive of the prototype car the investors have come rolling in, but before he can enjoy the fruits of his labor trouble comes a knocking on Ol' Shellhead's door. Doc Ock returns to settle an old score with Tony.
Normally I absolutely abhor when characters are retconned into another's past, but Fraction does it how it ought to be in this issue. The story opens up with a younger Tony and Octavius crossing paths at a gathering of the worlds best and brightest minds in the tech industry. From the giddy up he establishes the animosity between these two, making the acerbic dialog that occurs between them throughout read very believably. The contrast between Tony's youthful, idealistic views and Dock Ock's more cynical, grounded "The customer's always right" philosophy serves as the perfect catalyst for their future conflict.
I really like Fraction's portrayal of Dock Ock. He writes him with the perfect balance of arrogance, bitterness, anger, and desperation. The fact that the man that he secretly envies, even more secretly admires, and openly loathes is his lone hope for saving his life really shines through. The interaction between he and Tony is just the kind I love seeing between heroes and a villain, especially two as iconic as these two.
The stuff with Tony making the PR rounds for Stark Resilient was humorous and provides a nice insight into what makes Tony tick these days and what he hopes to accomplish with these bold and unorthodox moves he's been making lately.
I know Fraction's a character focused writer, but I think a great fight between Iron Man and Dock Ock was sadly wasted. He's given Tony this awesome suit, but he's yet to let him actually use it in a battle worthy of it. I'm all for cerebral, plot driven storytelling but Fraction needs to kick up the action more than a few notches to make this title all it can be.
As much as I loved Dock Ock's appearance, It highlights a huge problem with Iron Man the character. His rogues gallery is pathetic, I mean truly and utterly so. His best villains have always been the long time foe of another heroe and that needs to be corrected. Zeke Staine was a move in the right direction. Hopefully he, the Hammers, and Mandarin' joining forces will give Tony the threat a flagship character like him deserves.
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While I wished for a LOT more action, the deftness of fraction's pacing and well crafted dialog is more than enough to make up for that. Every conversation between Tony and Dock Ock reads wonderfully and gives great insight into both men. Fraction creates a wholly believable history and relationship between two men who up to this point had none (as far as I know) within current continuity. Fraction manges to logically graft in the events of recent Spider-Man issues without bogging down his own title, and that's no mean feat. You can jump right into this story without knowing in depth information on what's been going on in Spider-Man or Iron Man and fully enjoy this issue.