Over the past two or so years, Matt Fraction has built a vivid life for Tony Stark. Espionage-infused and centered around a Stark who is simultaneously relentlessly intelligent and also — one of Fraction’s greatest strengths — intangibly human. At the same time, he wrote three Mastodon-sized Thor specials, heavy metal explorations of half-Kirby, half-Nordic myth. Fraction also happens to be taking over “Thor” next month. This story is the first look at which angle he might be taking on the series.
“Fair Weather” is a straightforward, stand alone story about Stark and Thor dealing with a bunch of rich mopes who have terraformed the moon. Little do they know (or if they do, they don’t care), the stuff they’re doing to the moon is drastically and negatively affecting the Earth’s weather. So you’ve got the perfect melding of a technological problem and one that affects the world of the God of Thunder.
In the subtext of the story is the still-healing rift between the two protagonists, but Fraction wisely keeps words like “Civil,” “War,” and “Mind As Extremis Hard Drive Full Reboot And Restore” out of the proceedings. We simply see a Stark on hard times, looking to take his war-profiteering past in a more progressive, beneficial direction. Thor, in this story at least, works as a kind of proxy for the rest of the Marvel Universe, looking to gauge where Iron Man stands, and still wary of what he was once capable of.
John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson’s work here looks very much like their frequent collaborations always do. Versatile, flexible, and dynamic. A classic specialty of theirs occurs on the fourth page, where we see Thor sharing an ale with some storm survivors. It’s a classic JRJR profile, subtle look of pleasant satisfaction on his face. One thing the art team is not as adept at is Iron Man’s new, sleek and streamlined suit of armor. Romita Jr’s style has never gelled well with a design that is more slick curves than bulky plates, always better suited to Celestials than Extremis.
The point of Free Comic Book Day is, naturally, to attract (and keep) new readers. Marvel has taken the probably smarter approach and instead of introducing a new crossover that still requires a whole lot of understanding of current continuity (like some publishers I know) they’ve simply put together an engaging story that plays to the strengths of their line. Writers like Fraction are creating a landscape of vividly weird circumstance, rooted in a modern authenticity. And it’s a fantastic platform on which to welcome new readers.