If you don't understand Pepper Potts' relationship with Tony Stark and Happy Hogan, just stick around for ten minutes; it'll change. In the last set of stories, it looked like Pepper was firmly in Tony Stark's corner, but in Tales of Suspense #89, he saves both her and Happy from being killed by an overloaded crane and:
Where's the gratitude? At any rate, Stark realizes that Hogan has won this round and consoles himself with the international playboy routine for a few pages before the story really gets started. The Mysterious Melter (last seen in an Iron Man story in ToS #47) escapes from prison and captures Stark, ordering Tony to make a smaller version of his melting gun, which now can melt anything, including human flesh. When Tony's finished, the Melter turns the ray on him, but fortunately he survives because of the armored chestplate under his shirt.
Meanwhile the cops have arrived, so the Melter battles it out with them in the parking lot. Tony quickly changes into his original Iron Man suit, not wanting to risk taking the time to go back to his office and get the modern armor. At first this seems a crucial mistake, as his old armor just isn't quick and nimble enough to avoid the Melter's blasts. But Tony has sabotaged the gun and it quickly overloads, making it possible for the Melter to be taken into custody.
There is an amusing sidebit with Tony's many girlfriends getting in the way of the police:
The next issue is a one-off with The Crusher, a steroid-crazed freak from Cuba whom Iron Man blasts with a ray that makes him too heavy for the Earth's crust to support. (Why do I get the feeling he'll pop up in a Mole Man story?)
But the big news in this issue comes on the personal front:
In the following issue we get a brief mention of Tony's childhood:
The fact that he has a dissolute gambler as a cousin hinted that Tony came from money, but this is the closest we've come to getting any further details.
Iron Man is in Vietnam, and in the story he agrees to help out the US Army with a local villain:
The warning is that the guy's named Half-Face and considered the local equivalent of Tony Stark. But they should have told him that the weapon Half-Face is working on is one that Iron Man has faced before:
The new, improved Titanium Man proves too much for Iron Man and it is only by feigning death that he manages to survive long enough for Half-Face to send TM on a new mission. The US bombers are approaching legitimate military targets in North Vietnam, but Half-Face plans a propaganda coup for the commies:
Iron Man thinks, "For the sake of my country--I've got to stop him!" It's kind of interesting that he doesn't phrase it, "For the sake of those peaceful villagers--I've got to stop him!" I have to admit it feels strange to be criticizing a Marvel character for excessive patriotism; one would certainly rarely do that these days.
Anyway, as Iron Man and Titanium Man are battling, Half-Face is horrified to discover that the village he has ordered destroyed includes his wife and child. As Iron Man saves them, Half-Face decides to change sides and work against the communists in his country.
Comments: This was getting towards the end of the anti-communist stories; both DC and Marvel largely avoided mention of Vietnam as the battle over the war raged on the home front from 1968-1972. I was pleased to see a resolution finally of the Happy/Pepper/Tony love triangle. Senator Byrd also drops his demand that Stark reveal Iron Man's secrets during these issues as well, and we see a mysterious stranger gain entrance to Tony's factories in the final issue, a foreshadowing of a new long-running character in the series.
We are nearly to the end of the Tales of Suspense Iron Man stories; only five more issues to go!