The stones have forgotten them: Douglas complains about two 5/7 Marvels

Actually, an announcement first: Because I have discovered the secret extra six hours in every day, I've revised and expanded my annotations for DC Universe 0, and posted them at Final Crisis Annotations, where I'll be making notes on FC-related stuff as it appears. So now the complaints, both about comics I more or less enjoyed, under the cut: THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1 and SECRET INVASION #2.

THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1: I liked pretty much the same things everyone else liked about this issue--the clever ways it jumps off from the Iron Man movie (the dial-style chest implants, Pepper's Girl Friday relationship with Tony), the return to Iron Man's roots as a guilty arms merchant, the computer-modeled artwork and coloring (this is one series where there's almost no such thing as excessive digital effects).

The part that irritates me is something that's not unique to this issue at all, and something I've complained about before: the totally cavalier way "terrorists" have become all-purpose bad guys, unconnected to any kind of politics. Terrorism is a means, not a goal. "Terrorists" are not the same thing as "people who go around killing everyone in sight indiscriminately because they just want to fuck shit up a little": they are people who attempt to further a specific political or ideological agenda by creating the fear of violence against civilians. Any terrorist action has an immediate and obvious political subtext, by definition; it's meant to change civilians' behavior patterns. But we don't get any politics here. There is no agenda; there is no ideology. All we get to find out about the guys who blow themselves up in the street at the beginning of this story is that they've blown themselves up.

And that makes no sense . Tanzania doesn't have much in the way of stuff that people blow themselves up over; in fact, the last significant terrorist action there, as far as I can tell, was ten years ago, when the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam was bombed. But to move the plot along, Matt Fraction gives us a a ripped-from-today's-headlines bit about the "three traditional terror outfits" near Tabora: "the Revolutionary Army, the Fist of the People, and the Tiger's Tooth." "Revolutionary army" is a fairly common phrase, but I can find no evidence of the other two anywhere near Tanzania. Whoops, guess it's not actually ripped from the headlines.

So what other terrorists might have been close enough? An "A.I.M. splinter group" called "Advanced Genocide Mechanics" in the Congo turns out to be responsible. (The Congo proper is rather a long ways away from Tanzania; maybe Dugan meant the D.R.C.) This is where the goofy but disbelief-suspendable idea of A.I.M. as a consortium of morally lax scientists falls off a cliff: nobody is just sort of generally in favor of genocide in the abstract--practitioners of genocide have a specific group of people they believe it's justifiable to kill, rather than a hankering to put together an institute to develop new genocidal mechanisms.

There's also the question of why Stane and A.G.M. would need to surgically modify people into human bombs if they're just going to blow them up; the old-fashioned strapping-on-a-bomb technique seems much more cost-effective. Surgical modifications are how the Iron Man armor works, of course, but the chief purpose of his armor, as with any armor, is to provide defense--to protect the user from harm, right?

Anyway. This issue's a Good start, and I'm sticking around, but I sure hope Fraction starts dealing with the messy realities of politics if he's taking this tack on the character.

SECRET INVASION #2: Tom Spurgeon has some interesting comments on the subject of comics costing too much; I'll simply note my annoyance at Marvel jacking up the price of a 22-page story by a third and offering up no enhancement in exchange other than a cover printed on slightly heavier stock. This also seemed like a weirdly lightweight installment of a story as potentially plot-driven as this is: four double-page spreads is definitely too many in this context, especially since most of the plot threads introduced last issue are ignored this time. (I probably would have minded a bit less if this were an issue of Mighty Avengers.) And I wonder if a monthly release schedule was really the right idea for an eight-issue story that seems to be taking place in a very short span of time and requires most other Marvel-universe titles to tie in with it. Okay, and the possibility that some of the SW6 Avengers are real is indeed pretty juicy, but I'm starting to lose patience.