THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN OMNIBUS VOL. 2 (Marvel, 2010; Hardcover)
Collects Iron Man & Sub-Mariner No. 1, Iron Man Nos. 1-25 and the Iron Man stories from Tales of Suspense Nos. 84-99 and Not Brand Echh No. 2 (cover dates December, 1966- May, 1970).
We high-end hardcover collectors are like audiophiles, and are as anal-retentive and nit picky about every aspect of the "fidelity" of the material. Think of the Marvel Omnibus format as a half-speed 180g vinyl reissue of a classic release. Everything is restored to a level that no one in their right mind cares about. Therein lies the crux, because no one ever stated that comic fans are in their right mind! So Marvel capitalizes on our OCD with books like this, which are in turn upgrades over the Marvel Masterworks line, which are upgrades over mouldering pulp paper comic books. This is the end game format, kids.
No matter how sweet this format is, sewn binding and nice paper don't mean a whit if the stories suck. That is not the case here. These are spectacular reads, starting with the collaboration of Stan Lee (Writer) and Gene Colan (Artist). Iron Man co-headlined Tales of Suspense and only had half a book each month to work with. Stan Lee crammed so much goodness into those 10-12 page yarns, more than any modern day writer would in a 22-23 page comic book. Stan Lee handed off the baton to Archie Goodwin (of Creepy and Eerie fame), and the results were at first underwhelming. I kind of put this book down for a week or two, occasionally reading an issue. A few issues into his run, Goodwin remembered that there was a supporting cast and started introducing more ongoing sub-plots. Colan left, and Johnny Craig of EC Comics fame came aboard. It wasn't until Craig was paired with George Tuska that things really started to pop. Craig on his own is a fine artist, and Tuska on his own is strictly second tier for the era, but together they produced some nice artwork.
Many elements that would resonate in Iron Man for years to come were introduced during Goodwin's run, such as Madame Masque and the second Crimson Dynamo. There are a couple of Masterworks volumes available that pick up where this book left off, but I will wait for the third omnibus, which will likely be released to coincide with Iron Man 3...in 2013. I suspect that my backlog and the deluge of new releases will keep me busy until then.