I must admit. As much as I really enjoy Fraction’s work on this book, I’m unsure how I actually feel about this conclusion at the moment. The run has been filled with great moments. Pepper, Maria and Natasha make a great team, and the twist of Madam Masque being in the Rescue armour was a great moment. Watching Norman crow about how good a day he was having while the three women were in his headquarters causing havoc (including J.A.R.V.I.S. trashing all of Norman’s captured suits of Iron Man armour) was great.
Another highlight was the final Tony/Norman fight. By this point, Tony’s virtually incapable of putting one foot in front of the other, and is wearing only his original Iron Man armour, while Norman’s at the top of his game, yet despite everything being in Norman’s favour, we see Tony’s victory as Osborn is outsmarted, revealed on television pummelling the defenceless Tony and discovering that the information he was so desperate for no longer exists.
Despite this though, I’m left feeling slightly unsatisfied. This story was 12 issues long, so while its no Clone Saga, that’s still a long story in modern terms, where most aim for six issues in order to fit trade paperback requirements. Despite this long run though, it feels like we end on yet another cliffhanger. Tony is now in a vegetative state, having erased the contents of his memory, and his body is a prisoner in the HAMMER helicarrier. We still don’t know what’s on the hard drive Maria and co were so desperate to retrieve (although its a fair bet it relates to however Tony’s going to get out of this mess in time for the upcoming Seige event). Despite the story’s length, there’s still the feeling that the main beats aren’t resolved, which is a bit frustrating. Given the status at the end of the issue, with Norman having chased Tony around the globe for nothing, and having lost all his Starktech except for his one suit of Iron Patriot armour, it should’ve felt like more of a win for Tony. Instead it all felt a bit “too be continued”, a real shame after 12 issues.
However, I don’t want to be too down on this. I don’t doubt that whatever happens next is going to be very interesting indeed, as we see Tony’s friends getting in touch with Donald Blake, who happens to be the executor of Tony’s Estate according to his will, in addition to being the secret identity of a certain god of thunder. So its obvious all we’ve really seen is the conclusion of stage 1 of a larger plan (again, we have Fraction playing on Tony’s ability to think three steps ahead).
This has been a great ride. Matt Fraction’s done a great job of showing Tony’s descent as his intelligence slowly left him. He’s also greatly captured Norman Osborn’s character showing how dangerous and deranged he can be (witness his right-hand woman freaking out over how Norman’s going to kill them all when he learns of Pepper’s escape). There’s a great supporting cast in place here, and so all we really need is to see exactly what Tony’s got up his sleeve for how he’ll get out of this. And then, of course, I have to presume that we’ll be getting one of those great Iron Man moments as we have the unveiling of a redesigned suit of armour (since the Extremis suit is now useless). With the damage done to the character during Civil War (a good idea, badly handled in my opinion), its hard not to really feel for Tony as he desperately tries to string together a coherent thought while Norman is pounding on his armour, and that is possibly the greatest strength of this run. Its made Tony Stark a character that you’re cheering for again.