It would be a bit silly to expect the follow-up to “World’s Most Wanted” to share that storyline’s high octane pace and penchant for truly surprising twists, but “Stark: Disassembled” is at times almost a bit too laconic. It has featured some great character moments in previous issues; like Pepper Potts wondering why with all the people suffering casualties, Tony Stark always seems to be able to find a way around mortality; but this installment lacks that human weight as Dr. Strange (Version 1.0) arrives to help out with Tony’s Resurrection. What we’re left with is a few small scale storylines going on at the same time.
In one corner we have Tony’s dreamscape, which while visually interesting, isn’t so specific on the metaphors
that it really resonates. Also, it’s just a bit too sparse in the visuals to firmly anchor its circumstance. In the other we have Maria Hill, Pepper Potts, and a few Avengers all trying to protect Tony’s body as his posthumous plans are carried out. It’s in this second, or “B,” plot that the story is most engaging. Fraction does a great job of illustrating that the people left guarding Tony are really quite out of their league, stuck in a stairwell and kind of freaking out. One of the things Fraction has been quite adept at throughout his run is focusing a lot of attention on Stark’s influence on the not-so-powerful. Not to get too high-minded, but it’s quite a lovely metaphor to take someone whose “powers” reside solely in their control of external technology and extend their influence over a kind of community of protection in addition to or, in this instance, in place of, their armor. (Yeah, it’s a stretch but that’s the way my brain works, folks!)
It should also go without saying that Rian Hughes’ graphic design and cover assist makes this storyline look like nothing else on the racks. I’ve often been pretty unimpressed with a lot of Marvel’s uninspired logo and design work, but when they do get Rian Hughes on the case (see also: “Captain America Reborn”) he always delivers, often in an even less restrained and more bold fashion than his DC work.
So, while it may not be as arresting a work as “World’s Most Wanted,” and a lot of its tension might be actively defused every month or so with “Siege” solicits, “Stark Disassembled” is turning out to be an intimate, slightly flawed, but still engaging read.