Review by Frank Plowright
By the end of Stark Disassembled Tony Stark was once again healthy and in almost full possession of his memories and faculties. Almost assembled, in fact. It’s that “almost” that’s the key. He has no memory, other than through what he’s read, of what he’s done for some considerable time, but that loss enables the mending of relationships that might otherwise be beyond repair. It’s a clever device that characterises the thought Matt Fraction applies to this series.
He also moves it a little closer to the movie iteration by having Stark set up a new company, from which this book takes its title, and forswear all military contracts. His intention is to market Iron Man’s repulsor technology as an industrial and domestic power source, but there are always those willing to step into the market he’s vacated. In The Five Nightmares Fraction presented the son of one former industrial competitor, and here the daughter of another, Justin Hammer, is key to events. It makes for fine stories, but prompts the question as to how much time has passed, as these kids have grown up and Stark hasn’t aged.
Another major element here is Iron Man’s redesign, carried out by Ryan Meinderding, a 3-D designer on the Iron Man films, with input from Fraction regarding how he wanted the suit to function for the comics. Artist Salvador Larroca takes it all in his stride, although some copying and pasting is a little more evident here than in previous volumes.
Yet despite introducing an upgraded Iron Man, he’s barely seen here. Over the previous three books Iron Man appearances were minimal as well-plotted sequences played out. Here there’s a greater flexibility to the narrative framework, but he’s still largely absent. Fraction has introduced a compelling quality to the lives of Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, and to a lesser extent Maria Hill, but the title of this book isn’t Terrific Tony Stark. The two women’s relationships are complicated by them sharing a secret that Stark’s now forgotten, which also makes them wary around each other.
Much of this book concentrates on Stark utilising his charm to persuade former colleagues to work with him again, and how significant that personal charm must be is displayed as his past behaviour toward some of them is catalogued.
There is one further problem with this generally good read that’s neither the fault of Fraction nor Larroca. This is a very slim book at four chapters, particularly considering the concluding book is only five chapters, and it’s an expensive book at a list price of $12.99. Would it have driven Marvel to bankruptcy if they’d prioritised readers rather than profit and issued the entire story as a single book?