Title: The Invincible Iron Man: Fear Itself, issues #504-09
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Salvador Larroca
Tony Stark’s drunken bender in Fear Itself follows the usual path: he get stoned, makes some friends in low places, and winds up with his face in the mud. By that, I mean he fights a villain who turns people into rocks, he drinks with dwarves, and he nearly dies fighting a monster made out of mud. He is, however, very drunk through most of it.
Readers of the main Fear Itself series will remember how Iron Man, after realizing The Serpent and Sin’s army are practically unstoppable, drinks a bottle of hard alcohol in order to get Odin’s attention. He then travels to the mythical realm of Svartalfheim where he forges eight powerful weapons for heroes to wield, thus turning the tide in their favor. In the Fear Itself main series, this whole process is glossed over in just a few pages. In Invincible Iron Man Fear Itself spin-off, we get to read about exactly what went down in Svartalfheim, and the story takes up 6 issues.
Years ago, Tony Stark’s alcoholism was detailed in the still famous story arc “Demon in a Bottle,” and in recent years, he has remained relatively sober. In Fear Itself though, Tony realizes to get Odin’s attention, he has to sacrifice something, so he gives up his sobriety. Unlike what the main Fear Itself story suggests, it doesn’t stop there. Once he gets a taste, he relapses and ends up drinking with Odin’s obedient underlings, a crowd of boisterous dwarves.
Prior to seeking Odin’s help, Tony, as Iron Man, has one of the most intense battles I’ve seen in the past year or so. His foe is the Grey Gargoyle, an evil-doer who can turn people into stone by looking them in the eye. The Grey Gargoyle is scary enough as he is, but now he has his own mystical superweapon.
I was shocked to see how many civilian casualties this villain inflicted. He reduces a lot of Parisians to rubble before Iron Man even arrives, and proceeds to transform more during the battle itself. This was highly unexpected and disturbing. In superhero comic books, it’s often only people of the superhero community who are put in danger, similar to how in The Godfather it’s only gangsters who are whacked. In Fear Itself, it’s clear things have changed. Unprepared for such a foe, Tony Stark, an outspoken atheist, turns to the gods for help and shortly thereafter turns to the bottle.
If things aren’t bad enough, in Svartalfheim, he also encounters a golem who tries to kill him.
The pencils are by Salvador Larroca, who provided the art for nearly everything Matt Fraction wrote for The Invincible Iron Man series.
Overall, I would say that The Invincible Iron Man Fear Itself was the best of all of the Fear Itself tie-ins, likely because it was written by the writer of the main series, Matt Fraction. The second best Fear Itself spin-off was Uncanny X-Men. Apart from those two, a lot of the crossover comics were a mixed bag, and it seemed like many had almost nothing to do with the main event.
My only complaint with Invincible Iron Man Fear Itself is that, like the film Spider-Man 3, it definitely seemed like it had one too many villains. With the Grey Gargoyle nearly killing Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, and with The Serpent and Sin destroying the world with Nazi-robots, a mud monster seemed like a bit much. Was the Sandman busy?
What was your opinion of The Invincible Iron Man Fear Itself?