Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Power of Iron Man

I'm sorry to say that not even a Gil Kane cover could help this issue be interesting:

Written by Gerry Conway, "Doomprayer" was the end of a two-part story that had Iron Man going up against Mikas--a lab mutation of Mister Kline, who was a behind-the-scenes villain who apparently wanted both Tony Stark and Daredevil neutralized. Kline used a number of pawns like Mikas to accomplish his agenda, which was played out over several titles and finally came to fruition in a later issue of Daredevil. It's probably best that we sidestep Kline entirely--he was really one of those characters whose name, when dropped, was meant to raise the hackles of the heroes (and readers) who learned of him, but who elicits no more than a shrug in retrospect. But here, have a peek at the man behind the curtain:

Mister Kline, ladies and gentlemen. He's not who he appears to be. Nor will you care, one way or the other.

Which brings us to Mikas, who's captured Tony Stark's girlfriend and uses her as a lure for Iron Man:

Mikas has the dubious distinction of heralding Iron Man's first large-format issue that Marvel experimented with in 1971. Since all titles in this format were released at the same time, Marvel presumably wanted to put its best foot forward with each mag--which is one reason why this issue is disappointing, because it arguably didn't meet that expectation. Given Marvel's press on this format, I think readers were really expecting these titles to take it up a notch--but this issue of Iron Man got the short end of the stick in that respect. For one thing, "Doomprayer" is a regular-sized 20-page story--the rest of the issue is filled with a reprint of an old Giant-Man story from 1964. You don't exactly come away from an issue like that ready to plunk down change for the next large-format issue.

And the story itself? The way that it's spinning its wheels, it's like there's a lot happening yet you feel that there's really nothing happening. It's a good example of Conway's "one step forward, two steps back" approach that he often takes in order to heighten a story's drama--where the hero makes some headway against the foe, only to face a slap-down in the following panels with the antagonist reaffirming his threat level. And while there may not be much actual story in this large issue, there's a good deal of slap-down going on:

Which brings us to another point: Iron Man may be having trouble with Mikas, but he could probably give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money. Because since this battle began, Iron Man's power has been drained and he's running on empty--yet he still manages to make power plays with his strength, his boot jets, and his repulsor rays, all while whining about how he doesn't have any power to wage a battle. This guy's unknowingly solved our energy independence problem, because he's obviously found a way to draw a lot of power from powerless circuits.

At any rate, Mikas plays his trump card (not that he needs a trump card, at this point) and introduces "Doomprayer":

Yes, a giant serpent. Don't laugh. As much trouble as Iron Man had with Princess Python, my money's on Doomprayer. And you might as well get used to grandiose names like "Doomprayer" when Gerry Conway is around. That's an odd name for a snake, I agree; personally I would have chosen something like "Slithertail" or "Venom." Mikas likes to call himself "Soulfather," for whatever reason.  (Probably to keep Mister Kline from snagging it for himself.) But these names will be moot in a moment, because before Doomprayer can lunge, Iron Man incinerates Mikas, Doomprayer, and the entire base:

If I ever find myself low on power, you'd better believe I'm running a cord to this guy.


Anonymous said...

iron man had a real punk rogues gallery, but compared to daredevil's, they looked positively fearsome. although micah wasnt a recurring foe, he managed to give ol' tony the willies just by tossing a big snake at him, like princess python. but dont laugh, i knew a guy in the army who would run for the hills if he even saw a snake. (unfortunately for him, there were even more snakes in them hills.)
It was a big problem for writers to come up with serios opponents for the heavyweights month after month, but boy howdy did they try. i mean, if i can go through a month without being attacked, you'd think the hulk could. no wonder he got agravated. still i gotta admit a certain sentimental fondness for screwballs like stiltman, the ringer, unicorn, and the tumbler. it could be worse--it could be crazy quilt or the composite superman!

Comicsfan said...

Some of those old villains were definitely impressive--and inspired, simply by the fact that their creators could make them a viable threat. The Tumbler actually had a pretty cool debut against Captain America (or, rather, who he thought was Cap)--and having a guy called the Boomerang go up against the Hulk was ludicrous on its face but turned out to be a pretty interesting battle to watch. It may be fun someday to do a post on these third-rate villains who, despite their mediocrity, are still memorable to this day. :)

Anonymous said...

remember when the constrictor took on the hulk?! hey, come on now...

Doc Savage said...

No supervillains are credible threats simply because
they never win. Maybe there should be some stories where the heroes fail. I don't mean just for an issue, then next issue they prevail; I mean they LOSE.

Comicsfan said...

Hiya, Matt. I think maybe the problem demonstrated with this issue comes down to villains who make grand power plays and then get taken down relatively quickly despite their power and arrogance. For example, we yawn at villains like the Red Skull, and Kang, and Thanos, and Zodiac, who play their cards poorly, as a rule. But I can remember instances where villains lost (eventually) and still came off believably as credible threats that made you sit up and take notice. One who comes to mind for me is the Hood, who ran his operation intelligently and made a humiliating example of Tigra--an Avenger, mind you--by putting a bullet into her to painfully force her cooperation. Crossbones and Sin were ruthless, efficient, and effective. The Gatherers and Proctor ran the Avengers ragged. All of these foes were dealt with, yet it wasn't just a matter of the hero(es) pulling a rabbit out of a hat to win the day. They all had good stories that ran the course.