Waiting for the Trade
Iron Man: Iron Monger
by Denny O’Neil (and five artists)
collects Iron Man 193-200
Why I Bought This: I always loved Iron Man 200 and thought it would be worth owning the entire Iron Man/Iron Monger saga in trade.
The Plot: Tony Stark lost everything due to alcoholism including his company (to Obidiah Stane) and his superhero identity (which he handed off to James Rhodes). Now having recovered from alcoholism he starts putting his life back together.
Chapter 1 – Tigra is flying a quinjet when a dinosaur-monster knocks her out of the sky. Cut to Tony’s new company Circuits Maximus where
Chapter 2 – Tony is sinking into the ocean and this armor doesn’t have an air supply. Meanwhile Hank Pym is experimenting with a dimensional doorway when
Rhodes arrives. They
are interrupted by a random armed hit man who wants the secret of Pym’s
shrinking powers. Hawk and Bird cannot find Tony with their quinjet. Tony manages
to get his armor off and swims to the surface but he’s stranded in open water. Rhodes even without armor is able to take down the hit
man but in the melee the hit man and Pym both fall into the other dimension. Rhodes suits up and goes in after them. When he enters a
blob materializes in our universe. Rhodes is
having trouble finding his bearings in the other dimension. The blob attacks
Hank’s secretary. Hawkeye rescues Tony. Rhodes
rescues Pym and the hit man but the hit man reenters the dimension door rather
than go to jail.
Chapter 3 –
referred to Shaman of Alpha Flight who decides to cast the stereotypical dream
walk face yourself psychology come to life mumbo job plot. Meanwhile two dudes
try to kidnap Bethany Cabe (one of Tony’s ex girlfriends) but she fights them
off. Rhodes completes his dream walk and realizes that Tony is the one who is
meant to be Iron Man.
Chapter 4 – An extra dimensional energy blob (apparently from chapter 2) finds an Iron Man suit discarded in Jim’s dream in Chapter 3 and reassembles it, then open a portal to Earth seeking to return it to its owner. Meanwhile Godzilla returns to Demonicus with Tony’s original armor in his mouth. Extra dimensional Iron Man accidentally pops a hot air balloon imperiling some lovers and this gets bad PR on the news. Tony sees this and whips up some spare costume parts from WCA HQ to investigate. Meanwhile Demonicus dons the original armor to attack Iron Man. He ends up attacking the extra dimensional creature. Tony interrupts their fight and defeats them both. The extra dimensional being returns home when they take its helmet off, while Demonicus goes to jail.
Chapter 5 – In the wake of Secret War II #1
Rhodes as Iron
Man has delivered Thundersword to the police. Thundersword figures out how to
reactivate his powers, breaks out of jail and takes down Rhodes.
Meanwhile Tony and Bethany are on the phone when more kidnappers attack her.
Tony takes the original armor and flies to the rescue but his armor is not fast
enough to catch the helicopter that has her. Rhodes
radios Stark for advice on Thundersword. They lure him to a nuclear power plant
where Jim patches in to power up and punches the dude into the ocean.
Chapter 6 – Madame Masque forms an alliance with Stane. Stane gives us his origin: his father was a bad luck Gambler who committed suicide in front of him; the stress made him bald as a child and taught him the lesson if you are going to play a game you need to win at any cost; he fell in love with the game of chess; in a chess tournament some other kid was better than him so the day before the big match he killed the kid’s dog; as an adult he applied these same underhanded tactics to the world of business moving up the corporate ladder through blackmail; as a CEO he began using super-powered henchmen to weaken companies he wanted to take over. He’s also hired a mad scientist to do something to Cabe. Stane has also built a flying robotic tank he intends to set on Stark’s new company since Iron Man has begun interfering in his plans again. Tony and Rhodes see it coming and both suit up (Tony in the outdated original suit). Tony has a tough go off it but with Jim leading the way the two of them destroy the tank. Stane watches this on a view screen and then turns on Masque by injecting her with something that
KOs her. The original armor is
no longer operable and Tony swears he will never suit up again. Bethany Cabe
wakes up and makes out with Stane.
Chapter 7 – Stane’s goons kidnap Tony’s former secretary Mrs. Argobast. Tony enjoys some time with his two other employees until he receives word about the kidnapping. He decides he and Jim should warn all of his other friends. Rhodes (as Iron Man) interrupts the kidnapping of Pepper Potts but a helicopter attack sets a nearby building on fire and Jim is forced to let the kidnappers escape with Pepper so he can save the people in the building. The next target is Happy Hogan but this time Jim downs their helicopter and makes the save. Tony finds thugs kidnapping an orphan baby he delivered but without armor Tony is dropped in one punch. Stane mails a bomb to Tony’s office. Jim accepts delivery and it detonates just as Tony pulls up. When Tony wakes he sees a body bag dragged out of the wreckage.
Chapter 8 – The body is one of Tony’s two other employees not Jim. The sister of the dead employee and Rhodes are also hospitalized by the explosion. Tony is deeply
PO’d and dons
his new Silver Centurion armor for the first time in a gorgeous splash page. He
then flies across the country via space in 20 minutes towards Stane HQ. Stane
meanwhile when he took over Stark Enterprises reveals he got a copy of Tony’s
design journals and used it to build his own armor: the bulkier Iron Monger.
Tony knocks on Stane’s door and demands a meeting. Stane throws a few goons to
no effect and then dons his own armor. However Tony’s experience and advanced
design has Stane totally outclassed. Stane threatens the hostages but Tony is
able to disable the deathtrap he rigged them to. Stane threatens to kill the baby
but Tony creates a distracting explosion to make the save. Stane’s armor is
barely functional but rather than admit defeat he commits suicide.
Critical Thoughts: A real uneven collection. The stuff with Godzilla and the West Coast Avengers is fun fluff. The stuff in the middle with
is terrible. The final three chapters with Stark vs. Stane are terrific.
There is not much more to say about the WCA chapter. I like the WCA and have mentioned this often. Who doesn’t like Godzilla? Demonicus is not the best villain but he is not terrible: he has a good look and he would be a recurring for in the WCA’s solo book. On its perfectly fine single issue story; while in the larger context this chapter also marks the first time Tony has worn Iron Man armor in years so its need to be included.
Overall Tony’s journey is well written. We see him express his doubts on whether being Iron Man again will impact his sobriety. Circumstances conspire to slowly force him back into the role and each step along the path feels natural for the character. In the sense of a story telling a clear character arc for the lead this one succeeds admirably from beginning to end—and has a hell of a climax to boot.
Those middle chapters are brutal however. Chapter two is filled with too many coincidences. Hawkeye finds Tony in the middle of the ocean while some random non-powered criminal chooses the day Jim visits to attack Hank Pym who has been long retired as a superhero. Indeed Pym and Shaman’s involvement seems to come out of nowhere. Chapter three with Rhodes and Shaman is awful. It’s a bad plot device to begin with that comics tend to overuse, but the execution is worse than most. There is no explanation for why
Rhodes’ armor ends up in the dimension Pym was exploring
based on the mystic hoopla he was doing with Shaman in Chapter four. Also
Demonicus’s plan in that chapter is terrible. He’s like ‘I found damaged
outdated Iron Man armor let me put it on and pick a fight with the experienced
hero wearing the current model. Also for no reason I’m going to leave Godzilla
at home for this fight.’ Secret Wars II is a terrible crossover so it should be
no surprise the tie-in chapter there has nothing of note to offer either.
The final three chapters rebound really well though. Stane’s origin is really well done both in narration and art. It’s powerful stuff. The kidnapping of all Tony’s friends is a nice upping of the stakes and shows why in the classic comics era you never let anyone find out your secret identity. The cliffhanger with the bomb is a good one. And then there is issue 200 just a masterpiece of art and storytelling: both suits of armor look fantastic and the action scenes are tense and have a very coherent sense of space. It is the single best Iron Man comic I’ve ever read both for its own story and for a primer to who Iron Man and what his powers are as Tony uses every power that his new suit has in the battle with Stane.
My primary complaint about this volume is it isn’t big enough. This was released the same time as the first Iron Man film and while I can see why they would want to do a smaller hardcover prestige edition for the film tie-in; I think they’d have been better served to show the entire Stane story of him taking over the company and Tony falling into alcoholism. I actually have not read that original story and was hoping to get it here when I bought this off Amazon. Still as I said while we are joining it in the middle, Tony’s character arc is very linear in this trade and he is the star so in that sense the trade does give you a solid story if you had seen the film first and then picked this up.
Grade: There’s some really good stuff in here but there’s also a lot of bad and mediocre chapters too. Literally half the book gets a subpar grade and so that averages out the excellent work down to a C+.