Sunday, September 21, 2014

Waiting for the Trade - Iron Man


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.

 (Spoilers below)


 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 Rhodes offers to let Tony resume being Iron Man but he turns him down because he thinks the carefree invincible attitude he gets when he puts on the armor will lead to him drinking again. Rhodes has also been having headaches so Tony refers Jim to Henry Pym. Cut to a secret lair in the Pacific Ocean where Dr. Demonicus (an evil geneticist) is scheming. We learn the dinosaur-monster is actually Godzilla mutated into a subservient form (because Marvel’s license to use Godzilla expired hence the change of appearance and while they can’t use the name it is clearly him based on Demonicus’s comments as Demonicus first appeared in the Marvel Godzilla comic) and he orders Godzilla to kill Tigra. At West Coast Avengers headquarters Tony dons his original armor and reveals his secret identity to Hawkeye and Mockingbird while also telling them Jim needs to be placed on sick leave. Just as he is about to depart Tigra’s mayday call comes in. Tony however declines to join the rescue effort (and Wonder Man is also not around leaving just the two non-powered humans to try to save the day). After they go Tony feels guilty and jumps into a second quinjet to follow. Demonicus shoots downs Hawkeye’s quinjet. Tigra meanwhile is facing Godzilla alone and is completely ineffectual. Tony picks up Hawk and Bird and they arrive just in time to save Tigra though Hawkeye’s arrows are only mildly annoying to Godzilla. Tony is forced to join the battle to save Hawkeye. He picks up Godzilla and carries him out to sea but his original armor can’t support the weight for long and both sink into the ocean.

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 – Rhodes is 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 Rhodes 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+.

15 comments:

  1. Anyone here anticipating Superior Iron Man?

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  2. Well, I still don't think he can wrestle. He did have some great hardcore matches in that era though.

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  3. If Cena wins tonight -- I will replace his name with Koko B Ware

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  4. It was, like most Cena feuds, extremely one sided. Umaga SHOULD have won the belt off of Cena, or at least brutalized the Big Boy Scout until the ref DQ'd him. It wouldn't have hurt Cena at all to drop the title to the monster, only to regain it later, or you know, have someone ELSE step up and stop the rampaging "bad guy".

    Meh.

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  5. Not anymore. I think the last time Cena was actually, honestly an underdog character was when he "disrespected" BikerTaker, and had to earn the Deadman's respect, through a hard fought loss, WAAAAY back in the beginning of Cena's career.

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  6. Cena/Umaga at the 2007 Rumble is maybe my all-time favourite John Cena match. What an incredible brawl, and it was such a great face vs. monster bout that it actually got the crowd 100 percent behind Cena.

    Cena choking out Umaga with the ring rope, seemingly having him beat, and then having Umaga suddenly rise up again was like something out of a monster movie. There were literally screams in the crowd.

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  7. That has to be it. Cena/Lesnar from 2012 and Cena/Umaga from RR 2007 should be #1 and #2 on the list, but they both had blood.

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  8. Another example of this WWE era's "main event style" as nine of these 10 results are Cena winning with either the STF or the AA. If you put together a top-10 toughest wins for, say, Bret Hart, he would've had a Sharpshooter finish in maybe 2-3 or them.

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  9. So they really did it. They a made a "Top 10 #CENAWINSLOL" list.

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  10. Also, Cena/Lesnar Extreme Rules not making this list is a crock.

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  11. Fairly random observation, the HBK match at WM is one of the few occasions when Cena applied the STF in a completely believable fashion. Frustrating that most of the time he seemingly can't be bothered.

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  12. No Night Of Champions thread yet. WTF? Sweet intro video for the show tonight.

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  13. They'd just B/W it out, it's not that hard.

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  14. I was wondering...but then I saw it was 2012, not pre-2007.

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  15. I am glad someone else said something about the Last Man Standing match with Umaga not being put on the list. That match is one of my favorites as well because simply, it's fun. It told a killer story with just enough wildness to not be over the top. Plus it helped to solidify his run as champ before facing Michaels and that awesome series of matches.

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