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Graphic Novel Review: Iron Man: The Five Nightmares by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca

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Iron Man can be a tough character to write. While inside the suit it’s too easy to forget about the man inside, and outside the suit it just doesn’t feel like enough superhero action. After all, Tony Stark isn’t James Bond. Clothes do make the hero. Many of Marvel Comics’ most skilled writers have taken a run at the Golden Avenger at one time or another, but Matt Fraction seems to have stepped out of the wings and written the perfect Iron Man graphic novel in The Five Nightmares.

This graphic novel is the perfect blend of Tony Stark/Iron Man’s world. It’s a combination technological/cutting-edge science/political intrigue/human story that mixes all the elements of this superhero into a concoction I haven’t seen in the comic in a long time. The way Fraction sets up the story feels like a thriller movie. It moves into high gear within the first few pages, and the story stakes continue to rise at a meteoric rate.

I loved the opening sequence and the introduction to Iron Man 2.0. Wonderful stuff, and it kept me on the edge of my seat as the backstory was laid out. Even more to the point, this new villain has seeds planted from an old one. Ezekiel Stane is the son of Obediah Stane, also known as the Iron Monger to the movie fans.

The book kind of compiles the comics world with the world created for the movie, and the hybrid offers the best of all worlds. The Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. role plays extremely well in this story arc as well. Tony’s shop looks a lot like the one in the movie, but Stark Industries has the techno-feel to it that comics fans are familiar with.

Ezekial Stane is a great antagonist. As Tony acknowledges, Ezekial is smarter, faster, younger, and lethally brilliant with everything he knows and can create. I felt the menace of this guy the first time he stepped onto the page, and his ability to create wanton destruction and recover is amazing.

I also liked the secondary characters in the story. Pepper Potts is Tony’s perfect Girl Friday and even stands her ground when other women are looking down on her. The injury she suffers was interesting, as is Tony’s reaction and solution to it. I enjoyed the byplay between Tony and his S.H.I.E.L.D. counterpart, and the sterling explanation of why the Iron Man armor can’t be mass-produced to outfit the United States military. It also ensures that Iron Man will be one of a kind for the foreseeable future, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I loved the story and the resolution, but I particularly enjoyed the stand-alone issue that shows up in the aftermath. Spider-Man and Iron Man cross paths as Tony’s trying to put everything back to rights, and we get to see a side of both characters that ties into who they are when they’re not busy being superheroes saving the world.

I’m kind of on the fence regarding Salvador Larroca’s art. I think his layouts are brilliant, but I don’t think I’m a fan of the ultra realistic approach. The photographic aspect threw me out of the story a few times, but the action sequences are dead on and really lend to the thriller feel.

Overall, if you haven’t read Iron Man in a while, this is a graphic novel to come home to. And if you’re a new fan because of the movie, this is a great jumping on spot for those of you willing to read adventures while waiting for the next movie.

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