Invincible Iron Man #500.1 (Marvel): If you’re going to judge the success of this issue by whether or not it makes me want to jump on board and buy the next one, then I think it fails pretty miserably. That’s not my idea mind you, these are the terms that Marvel has laid out for their own, ahem, “Point One Initiative,” that it’s this brilliant demarcation for a lay jumping on point. The problem is, there isn’t any tease here for any semblance of what comes next in the story. There’s no continuation whatsoever. It’s totally self-contained. To make matters worse, Marvel feigns a consumer nod by holding the price at $2.99, but then only offers 20 pages of story content, with it feeling like every other page is a house ad. I just don’t see why this “filler” issue couldn’t be worked into the regular numbering system, make it issue 32 (or whatever would have been next) or even issue 500 if you’re really intent on it being some pause/jumping on point. Anyway, if we shift gears and look at the content itself, and not the sloppy marketing approach, it’s actually done quite well. Fraction and Larroca offer up a deep dive examination of the psychology driving Tony Stark. It’s interesting to observe that most ambitious, intelligent, confident people are fueled by their own inner demons and social insecurities. Fraction uses a mild “untrustworthy narrator” bit that isn’t as intense as say, Keyser Soze, but it allows Tony’s expositional tale to be framed in such a way that he’s truly telling his cathartic story, but so vague that he doesn’t out himself as Iron Man. It’s a bit of a revisionist history for the industrialist’s origins. The exploits of most of his life have been little more than a system he’s created to manage his feelings of powerlessness. Larroca’s art is mostly on point, but occasionally slips into a really flat 2D look that doesn’t do much to make the talking heads and flashbacks pop. The high points on art are probably his rendition of the Avengers and the personification of the “Demon in a Bottle” years. I enjoyed the clever way Tony confesses he got a girl’s digits in the AA meeting by calling her out, but I’m not sure Larroca lands her reaction very clearly visually. The book makes a strong case for Tony’s adaptability and willingness to reinvent himself. It seems there is power to be found through the process, that if he trusts himself and trusts the process, he can actually regain some of that power. Though, as we see in the end, old habits do die hard. Heh. Grade A-.
Daytripper TPB (DC/Vertigo): Yeah, I already own all of the single issues, but I’ll tell you what. This book is worth buying all over again, even at $19.99, just for that single page Craig Thompson introduction. Somehow he manages to condense the magic of Daytripper into a single page of graphic design wonderment, full of comics, free floating text, part biography, part review of the book, yet part commentary on its development, all while aping Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba’s style, yet somehow still making it distinctly Craig Thompson – all at once! I just keep staring at it. It really is a startling piece of work. It’s certainly the most original take on an “introduction” that I’ve ever seen in the medium. Critics never agree, but if there’s a book that was more universally praised as contender for Best of 2010, I have yet to see it mentioned. For 10 issues, this is just $2 per issue, plus the Craig Thompson piece, plus a couple pages of bonus sketches. It’s not likely to be offered in any other format, so now is your chance to snap this up at a great price, though I suspect DC will be keeping it in print for years to come.
Orc Stain: Volume 1 TPB (Image): I haven’t read it yet, but it’s clear just by thumbing through that James Stokoe is like the Geoff Darrow of his generation. This thing is packed with detail and has received nearly universal critical buzz from the indie crowd all the way up to repeated ramblings at Warren Ellis’ web-site.