I don’t know if there’s any writer in the comic industry right now whose work is more compulsively readable than Matt Fraction‘s. On any given day, I can sit down and read 6 comics by him in a row without being bored or reaching for something else. The interesting part is, Matt Fraction’s writing, even for Marvel, doesn’t always revolve around high-flying and flashy action sequences. The industry standard right now seems to be that there needs to be a fight in every single issue, even in pickup issues, hence when Wolverine fights a team member for no particular reason in so many otherwise slow issues of X-Men. Matt Fraction though rarely relies on such gimmicks. If a fight sequence can’t be worked naturally into a story, there simply won’t be a fight–and yet the issue is still exciting!
For proof of this, check out Matt Fraction’s work with The Invincible Iron Man. While the first story arc, The Five Nightmares, largely revolved around fights with Ezekiel Stane and his cohorts, the second large story arc, which started with World’s Most Wanted and segued directly into Stark: Disassembled, brought into focus Tony Stark’s managerial skills, his relationship with Pepper Potts, a brief dalliance with Maria Hill, and took us into our hero’s subconscious. In the entire storyline, there wasn’t much actual fighting at all. Instead, issues centered around corporate espionage, political corruption and the ethics of technological advancements.
The lack of fighting wasn’t a problem at all. Invincible Iron Man is consistently entertaining, provocative and thrilling.
It has to be pointed out that Matt Fraction can handle action packed stories too. For evidence of that, check out the central Fear Itself story. One of the things interesting about Fear Itself is that there wasn’t a huge build-up, unlike DC’s Final Crisis which was preceded by a largely arbitrary 52 issue series appropriately titled “Countdown.” Instead, the premise is set up in just a few pages of Fear Itself Issue One: The Red Skull’s daughter Sin has decided not only to follow daddy’s footsteps, but to go one step further by awakening an ancient evil: a long forgotten Norse god who happens to be the rightful heir to the throne of Asgard! On top of featuring a god out for revenge, Fraction also throws in robo-neo-Nazis and mystical hammers that instill new powers in the wielders while also controlling their minds. When the hammers came into play, I thought at first Fear Itself was borrowing from DC’s Blackest Night, but the similarities ended quickly, as Fear Itself went onto be a powerful and mesmerizing story, while Blackest Night became rather convoluted towards the end.
I only found out this week that Matt Fraction has written comics outside of Marvel as well, and has his own creator-owned series titled Casanova, which is created with the artistic help of Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, who were the unique talents behind the series Daytripper, published in America by Vertigo.
Possibly Matt Fraction’s biggest accomplishment as a writer with Marvel was to make Tony Stark likeable again. I for one was never a huge fan of Iron Man to begin with, but his character became immensely harder to like when he lead the superhero initiative that eventually caused the Civil War. I avoided Iron Man successfully for years until finally reading Invincible Iron Man only because Matt Fraction’s name was attached to it. In days, I had read the first 25 issues.
There’s one more thing I have to thank Matt for: bringing back Kitty Pryde! He was a writer for Uncanny X-Men for a while, and managed to create some pretty stellar comics with the help of two of my favorite pencilers, Terry Dodson and Greg Land. Then, towards the end of his run on the series, he comes up with a storyline where Magneto joins forces with the X-Men, and, to show he’s legit, he guides Kitty Pryde back to Earth (she had been lost in space ever since phase shifting into a giant bullet during Joss Whedon’s amazing Astonishing X-Men series).
Last I heard, Matt Fraction shifted gears a little bit. He’s still writing Invincible Iron Man, but has also taken up responsibilities with Thor (what do you do with Thor after Fear Itself?) and The Defenders. I’ve learned though it doesn’t matter what characters he’s working with, Matt Fraction always creates satisfying comics.
Here’s the comics I’ve already reviewed by him.
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Check out my book The Madness of Art Short Stories, available on Amazon in paperback and as a cheaply priced ebook!
Here’s a youtube interview where Matt Fraction discusses how he became one of the most prominent writers at Marvel.