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+.