The opening page of “Invincible Iron Man” #523 set me off to distraction right away as I spent more time than recommended trying to decipher the models that were the templates used for Salvador Larroca’s excessive photo-referencing. That style has been a staple of Larroca’s work on this title from the first issue, but in this issue, on that page, the talking heads are so woodenly posed on a rather unimaginative background that the only thing to really study is their likenesses.
Larroca’s art is mostly solid throughout the remainder of the book (save for some really bizarre E.T.-like pointer-finger issues) and actually is at its best in the scenes where it matters most: with Rescue chasing Iron Man resulting in an eventual scuffle. That scene has everyone’s attention, as it is the strongest for the lettering and coloring as well, with Rescue and Iron Man having different styles of dialog. Larroca’s storytelling is a little befuddling, however, as he favors power zaps and arrays splashing about the page. I cannot tell if the Tron-inspired Iron Man armor is damaged and sparking or if that is a natural mode of exhaust dispersal. Many of the other scenes feel washed out with various shades of inoffensive yellows and greens serving as backgrounds, which doesn’t make “Invincible Iron Man” #523 the best looking issue of Larroca’s run with Matt Fraction.
Fraction’s writing marks time in this issue. Tony Stark gets a minute (sixty-eight seconds actually) to rally the troops being coerced into service by Mandarin in a scene that would be better suited for a movie or television show than for a comic. It slows the story down a bit, which seems to be compounded throughout this arc, leading to minimal action for the titular Avenger. In twenty pages of story, there are five pages of Iron Man action. I’m sure Fraction will make up for it soon, but in this issue it’s noticeably slower.
This storyline is far from my favorite of the series. Fraction and Larroca have pulled out all the stops by bringing in virtually all of Iron Man’s foes over the course of the story, but it still feels woefully incomplete. There is no mistaking that “Invincible Iron Man” #523 is part of a larger narrative, and a fairly unmemorable installment at that. I just hope the larger part kicks in soon and the creative duo is able to celebrate their last few issues on this series with flair.