Writer: Brian Michael Bendis / Artist: Stefano Caselli, Kate Niemczyk, Taki Soma & Kiichi Mizushima / Marvel Comics
It’s probably not entirely fair to call this a filler issue as it does keep some storylines moving along, if ever so loosely. But this issue, we intentionally get a departure from the main story or another breather before the next arc, which looks to begin in earnest next time. What we are treated to is a “didn’t you know Tony Stark was actually a pretty decent guy in secret” kind of story as Mary Jane and Riri both tell stories of how they met Iron Man before their current involvement. Mary Jane’s is a bit more fruitful with an extended time spent with Tony, at first hitting on her, but then being “honest” in what turns out to be a more human interaction than typical depicted. Riri’s encounter is a lot more typical (given her age at the time) but does give some insight into Riri’s intellectual curiosity at an even younger age.
Both contain some throwbacks to some Iron Man Easter eggs; there’s a bit about when Tony used to pretend Iron Man was his bodyguard or, just the spectacle of Tony drinking. Which can be either enlightening or pretty sad depending upon how much Iron Man lore you’re up on. All in all, some cool insights, but I think most Iron Man readers know that Tony Stark isn’t a terrible one dimensional person, so while it came with some heart, it did feel a bit like a sledgehammer from a Tony Stark campaign.
Any time you have this many artists on a book, you will probably run into some consistency issues, but nothing goes too awry here. The book is almost entirely dialogue driven and you can’t really see the brushstrokes too prevalent. After being used to Caselli’s art, it really recognizing what wasn’t penciled by him compared to something looking bad.
Essentially, Invincible Iron Man doesn’t do a whole lot of movement in the story, but gives some nuggets here and there about the man that is Tony Stark before the next arc where Tony will definitely be a focus kicks off. Riri isn’t central here and we don’t know how much she will be in the subsequent issues, but still an important read for the throughput of the next arc.