Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2: The War Machines serves as the lead-in for last year’s big Marvel event, Civil War II. But before we get there, Tony and Rhodey have to deal with a threat in the far east. Oh, and they might get a little help from a certain friendly neighborhood something or other.

Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2: The War Machines
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato, Jr.
Publisher: Marvel Comics

So we’re all on the same page, here’s Marvel’s synopsis:

Something is rotten in the house of Stark, and Tony must delve into the nooks and crannies of his international organization to find out what. War Machine and Iron Man team up to stop a brand-new technological threat – with a little help from a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man! Tony and Rhodey may be best buds on and off the battlefield, but their relationship is tested like never before as new power players reveal themselves in a bloody and dangerous fashion! And, as tragedy sets the Marvel Universe on the road to Civil War II, Tony will face an emotional confrontation with some of his closest and dearest friends!

Something is stolen from Stark Industries, and Tony does not like that. His quest to find out what was stolen and by whom leads him to Osaka, Japan, head to head with the Southeast Asia Crime Syndicate, lead by a mysterious woman named Tomoe. She also goes by the alias Techno Golem, so she’s pretty much a Ninja Turtles villain. Eventually Spider-Man and the rest of the Avengers get involved in this global goose chase, so there’s something for almost everyone to be found in this book.

Spider-Man fans will especially want to check this one out as Spidey is quite involved in the story, as is Mary Jane Watson, who is offered the job as Tony’s personal assistant to keep Stark Industries running as the shareholders want his head for how little he’s been around. The banter between Iron Man and Spider-Man is expectedly witty and entertaining, and would be worth the price of admission alone is there was more of it.

This volume also kicks off the superhero career of one Riri Williams, who constructs an Iron Man-esque suit in her MIT dorm room and, in light of said power, decides maybe school isn’t for her after all–despite getting into one of the most prestigious schools on the planet at the age of fifteen. Riri plays a big part in the Civil War II event, so getting to know her here is essential to getting the most out of it. She’s an interesting character in her own right, though what we see here is mostly setup and we don’t get a lot of time to delve into her personality.

Mike Deodato, Jr.’s artwork here is fantastic. It has a highly stylized look that allows otherwise boring scenes of characters quietly talking to stand out and be mesmerizing. And when the action scenes come–and don’t worry, there are plenty–it’s rendered beautifully. There were multiple times where I stopped for several minutes to just soak in everything that was happening in a full page spread.

The use of panels in this book is very unique. Often times they will be set up so it appears as if there are other panels off-page that are getting cut off, that give what we do see a very different feel. It feels like what we’re seeing is picked out of an endless array of panels. Another neat trick employed here is a sort of combination of full page spreads and panels. Sometimes, what would otherwise be a simple full page spread is chopped up by borders, to make it appear like a page full of evenly sized panels. The real magic is in how these panels are laid out, so the story is actually read from "panel" to "panel," but when you’re done you can just kind of zoom out and absorb the whole thing at once. The creativity shown in the paneling and the artwork in general here is remarkable.

Is It Good?

Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2: The War Machines is chock full of intriguing story and eye-popping artwork. Even though it’s largely sold as a prelude to Civil War II, you won’t want it to end.

Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2: The War Machines
Is it good?

Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2: The War Machines is chock full of intriguing story and eye-popping artwork. Even though it's largely sold as a prelude to Civil War II, you won't want it to end.

Great setup for Civil War II, and an intriguing plot in its own right
Dense with story
Extremely creative artwork and use of panels
Riri Williams isn't given enough time to flesh out her personality much
Ultimately ends in a bit of an unsatisfying manner.