Now that Matt Fraction has substantially raised the bar for the character following a ridiculously successful first issue over on "Invincible Iron Man", guest writer Stuart Moore has the fairly difficult task of making the "other" Iron Man series seem as relevant and exciting -- not what you'd call an enviable task.
Still, he's having a fair stab at it, and indeed ends up going a similar route to Fraction, crafting a story that's fairly standalone and draws on the timeless aspects of the character -- things like the issue of personal culpability and Stark's flawed genius. It makes for a clean break from the Knaufs' previous arc while retaining the same tone.
Moore keeps the "Extremis" aspects of Iron Man largely under wraps for this issue. Not a bad idea, given that his arc is likely to be seen as something of a jumping-on point for anyone coming to the title from the film (and, lest we forget, this whole arc will probably be collected just in time to coincide with the eventual DVD release.) The idea of hi-tech terrorism is a theme that fits both Iron Man and SHIELD like a glove -- one of the bigger problems, though, is that the opening arc of "Invincible Iron Man" looks to be tackling pretty much the same topic.
The other big problem is how the plot device is worked into the story. We're told that SHIELD has an incredibly dangerous doomsday device, so much so that it's categorized as "Zed class" -- or never use again. Which begs the immediate question, why wasn't it dismantled or otherwise destroyed?
Since this arc is occurring in the pre-"Secret Invasion" timeline, it'll also be interesting to see if Dugan makes any suspicious moves. It's likely that the matter will be glossed over so as not to confuse things, but on the other hand it'd be the perfect time to do some, er, retroactive foreshadowing. Er, if that makes any sense.
Someone at Marvel has taken the fairly odd choice to divide this book into two halves and have De La Torre and Pagulayan pencil half of the book each. The shift in styles isn't too dramatic, but it does beg the question of what the reasoning was. In any case, Dean White's colors give the book a unified look. White uses the fairly inventive technique of building his palette largely around red and gold, for obvious reasons, though it leaves me yearning for a few shades of green here and there. Even so, it's a fairly daring approach to take on mainstream superhero work and the industry would only be better if more people approached things from as unique an angle as White's coloring.
Moore provides a near-seamless changeover from the Knaufs' work on the title -â€" if you didn't like it then, you're not going to find your opinion changed, but fans of their work should come out pleased. New, post-movie fans should still be focusing on "Invincible Iron Man", but if they're desperate for more, this issue would be a more-than-accommodating choice.