Thursday, July 23, 2009

Iron Man Run, Part 9

Having shared a magazine with Captain America for the last 40 months, Iron Man found himself in the oddball situation of sharing a magazine with the Sub-Mariner for one month, Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1. I assume that with all the changes going on at Marvel--Captain America, the Hulk, Dr Strange and Nick Fury all graduating to their own magazines from being 1/2 of a comic prior to that month, Stan and company found themselves stretched pretty thin and put the Iron Man and Subby stories into this one-shot.

When we last saw Iron Man, he was trapped in a secret compartment underneath a Maggia ship that was under fire from the forces of AIM. Iron Man breaks free and is able to recharge before being grabbed by a "vortex suction beam" that delivers him to AIM's submarine.

Meanwhile, Jasper Sitwell has rescued one of Tony Stark's female admirers from the sinking gambling ship, and she shows her appreciation:

But it quickly turns out her affections are simply a ruse; she is actually Big M, the leader of the Maggia, trying to subvert Sitwell to her side. There was a long history of the noble guys falling in love with an evil woman in the Marvel Universe starting with Hawkeye and the Black Widow (before she switched sides) and Balder and Karnilla, queen of the Norns.

Iron Man is subdued by gas and delivered by the agents of AIM to Mordius, their new leader, who plans to survey his armor completely and duplicate it. He creates three new suits which he gives to his men. Iron Man breaks free (he was just faking being gassed) and battles his three dupes. They find it surprisingly difficult to control the weapons in the armor, but Tony knows it's because his armor refracted Mordius' X-rays.

Mordius reveals himself to be quite cold-blooded, aiming a rocket cannon at the four Iron Men, since he now cannot tell them apart. The other three are destroyed, but Iron Man escapes, and Mordius's laboratory explodes:

Um, isn't that sort of a violation of the Avenger Code? Seems pretty obvious that the indication there is that IM caused an explosion that killed Mordius and several members of AIM.

In the second issue, Drexel Cord is a weapons manufacturer who has been driven mad by losing important contracts to Tony Stark. He designs a robot called the Demolisher that will attack Iron Man by tracking his power supply. In this regard he seems something of an amalgam of The Mysterious Melter, who was also a Stark competitor, and Smythe, the inventor of the Spider Slayer.

His daughter, Janice Cord, is aware of his intentions and departs for Stark's factory, where she encounters Jasper Sitwell. Together they head back for her father's plant. Meanwhile Iron Man is taking a terrific beating and as usual, is running short on power.

Cord deliberately destroys the computer controlling the Demolisher, rather than let Sitwell take over and save Iron Man. However, the Demolisher now doesn't differentiate between targets, and Cord is appalled to discover that his machine is threatening his daughter. He saves her by attacking the robot, but is killed in the process, just before Iron Man finishes off the Demolisher.

Johnny Craig had been inking the last few issues and he took over on pencils with Iron Man #2. Craig was a terrific artist in the Golden Age, but his Iron Man seems a little stiff compared to Colan. In addition, Archie Goodwin took over the scripting chores. The introduction of Janice Cord is important, as Tony Stark had been lacking a love interest since Happy and Pepper's marriage. Speaking of that couple, they have not been seen in almost a year at this point.

Well, it turns out there's a reason for that:

Say what? I didn't see anything about them quitting.

In the story, Tony's heart is weakened again (as Iron Man he had held up a missile that was about to fall on some workers), and he cannot even build up enough of a charge to do anything, so he has to hide in his office, refusing all appointments. Happy and Pepper come to see him. As Happy knows his secret he allows him to enter his office. Tony needs an upgrade to integrated circuits and he has a helmet that Happy can wear while receiving instructions on what to do. Happy responds a little inappropriately for a newlywed:

At a crucial point in the process, however, Tony's heart begins to give out. Happy goes against orders and gives the new integrated circuit costume an extra blast of cobalt radiation to give it the ability to absorb power from heat or cold, but after getting the suit to his boss in the nick of time, he begins to feel strange.

Yep, he's turning back into the Freak again. He kidnaps Pepper, and Iron Man and he have a fight on a skyscraper that's under construction. Tony realizes that he's protecting Pepper and so he jets her away, with the Freak in pursuit. Iron Man and Pepper trap Happy in a sealed truck and pump it full of gas to kayo him. By this point, Pepper has realized that Happy himself is the Freak, and so Tony tortures himself a little bit at the end:

Comments: Overall the stories establish plot points for the future (particularly Janice Cord, and Sitwell and the Big M), but are pretty much standard Marvel plots. Villains who only come back to reality when their daughter/son is threatened by their schemes?

And the "I'm almost out of power" dodge is getting old; indeed Goodwin indicates at one point that perhaps he will be dropping it with the new suit, which will now be able to draw power from heat and cold. It was interesting to see the switch from the long-running transistors to integrated circuits; I suppose some letter-writer from Cal Tech or MIT had alerted Stan or Archie to the newest technology.

This is an aside, but transistors were really hot in the early 1960s. I remember getting a "transistor radio" for my ninth birthday, and while it didn't freak me out, a lot of the adults expressed astonishment at such a small radio. It was quite common for manufacturers back then to pack transistors in to their plastic boxes so they could claim to be an "8-Transistor" radio, but if you analyzed the circuits, you'd find that four or five of them weren't even functioning.