Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Enter At Your Own Risk--The Adap-tor!

Remember the 1980s David Michelinie run on Iron Man, when it was actually fun reading about Tony Stark, Jim Rhodes, and the other assorted characters who made up Stark's business world? Before the events of Civil War soured us on the man? Back in the days of Stark International, we were only beginning to see the Tony Stark who would later emerge to hammer the Superhuman Registration Act into law--the days when he engaged in the so-called Armor Wars in the belief that he was doing what was right no matter how many lines he had to cross. For the most part, Iron Man, month after month, was a great read at the time, with excellent stories and artwork. We may have almost admired Stark then, given all that he'd built and accomplished, to say nothing of the man's brilliance and his drive to help bring the world into a better future.

Michelinie took a hiatus from the book when Stark relapsed into alcoholism, and Rhodes took his place as Iron Man--but when that long series of excruciating stories had played out and Stark began rebuilding both himself and his company, Michelinie returned to give us a sense of the Tony Stark we held in such esteem, which held true as well for the armored hero he would suit up as. Iron Man was hitting its stride, again--and the book likely found its way into pull stacks once more.

We could take a look at almost any story from this rebirth period and experience that magic again--but it seems appropriate to feature the issue where Stark publicly relaunches Stark Enterprises and makes that announcement to both the press and to the world, as the story contains many of the elements that Michelinie brought to the table for Stark and his alter-ego. And judging by its cover, it's already looking like it's shaping up to be quite a ride, eh?

Especially for the hapless Mr. Rhodes!

Stark's business world can be interesting as well as enjoyable reading even in a comic book, if handled the right way--and Michelinie usually manages to give it equal time in Iron Man stories. It is, after all, what makes Tony Stark tick--where he fits in, what drives him to succeed. And with a strong supporting cast that allows him to thrive in his element--in Stark's case, the personnel who make up the various departments of Stark Enterprises and its branches--Stark as a character comes off as more than the man who hurriedly changes to Iron Man in a moment of crisis. And so the moments he interacts with his employees and his friends are often just as entertaining as the book's title character--and as a result, the workings and features of Iron Man's armor that come into play during a battle are in a way balanced by the day-to-day dealings of Tony Stark, C.E.O.

But that doesn't mean Stark's amazing armor only makes an appearance when it's needed; Michelinie recognizes that the Iron Man armor is the main draw of this book, and so even a low-key beginning to this story is well served by a few references to Stark's more famous persona. In this issue, the story begins with Stark assessing the Iron Man armor's "chameleon" effect--a feature I never cared for as it serves to conceal Iron Man, a character who should be seen clearly by both his enemies and his readers. Among other possible modifications he mulls over, Stark decides to disable that particular circuitry, since it's been proven to cause degenerative nerve damage--and I doubt anyone has missed the chameleon effect since.

Afterward, it comes time for Stark to make the press announcement for his new company; and as Stark takes us through his day, we meet more S.E. personnel as well as new cast members, not to mention amusing examples of the man's legendary generosity, extravagances, and of course high standards of living.

You're probably thinking what I'm thinking: Stark's "daily grind" is something we might gladly take on for ourselves in a heartbeat!

We also probably wouldn't mind crossing paths with Stark while doing our job, since our day might end not only in high style but also lucratively.

Stark also never forgets his good friend, Rhodes--"Rhodey"--who, as a pilot, must think that Christmas has come in July this day.

Rhodey's elation actually opens the door for Iron Man's involvement in this story, which we'll get to in a moment. For now, Ms. Pearson is discovering that she's having lunch at Disneyland--Tony Stark style.

Michelinie perhaps goes a little overboard here, since it's hard to imagine a man like Stark flaunting his wealth needlessly by closing an entire theme park and in the process depriving all the families who might have brought their children to enjoy the park that day. It's difficult to admire such a person--and it's difficult to imagine a prospective employee doing so.

Meanwhile, Rhodey is busy tinkering with his new toy--but soon realizes he's fallen into a well-laid trap!

Which means that Stark's lunch with Ms. Pearson is cut short by the emergency call; however, for their concierge, the interruption is well-timed to make his day--er, week one to remember.

Back at the company, the "Adap-tor" is making its move, in a rampaging path of destruction that takes it to the complex's administration building, with Rhodey its helpless captive. And while Iron Man tries to deal with the device while taking pains not to harm his friend in the process, Rhodey is doing his best to access the wiring and attempt to disable its self-destruct mechanism. With the preliminaries of the story over, it's an exciting sequence by comparison, and once again demonstrates the friendship and bond that is shared between the two men.

The climax of the issue is then reached, as the Adap-tor burrows its way to the power plant and prepares to detonate, and difficult choices must be made. We still don't know who or what is behind the Adap-tor or why they've launched this elaborate plan of attack--but those concerns become secondary to Stark now facing the likelihood of having to sacrifice a close friend to save the lives of the men and women throughout the complex. How quickly and expertly Michelinie and co-plotter Bob Layton have shifted this story from one of routine and business-as-usual to one of near-tragedy.

With the plug pulled on the Adap-tor, it doesn't take long for the mind behind its deployment to snidely reveal itself--that of Justin Hammer, a ruthless, resourceful businessman who's crossed paths with Stark and Iron Man before but always managed to slip away and avoid being apprehended. Bringing us full circle, Michelinie concludes this story appropriately--businessman to businessman, and a cold, brief conversation over a telephone line that reeks of hollow cordiality and ends with an implied threat.

Seems a rather restrained response on Stark's part, doesn't it? Leaving it at that?

The response Stark should have sent Hammer's way, using a little technology of his own!

Iron Man #217

Script: David Michelinie
Pencils: Mark Bright
Inks: Bob Layton
Letterer: Janice Chiang


George Chambers said...

It's always a little embarrassing when the colorist doesn't pay attention to the script. Tony's dialog emphasised Marcy's brown eyes, but they look pretty darn blue to me here.


Anonymous said...

You should have also told him not to build a robot version of Thor during the Civil Wars! He got beaten up for that!

Comicsfan said...

George, colorist Julianna Ferriter is actually in the clear here--what you're seeing is the result of digital enhancement of the print copy, which unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired where tinting is concerned. Marcy's eyes are indeed brown in the comic; her hair and lipstick are also less crimson than what the digital conversion has produced. You'll notice as well that Stark's hair has a lot of unnatural blue in it here, whereas in the print copy it comes off as simple contrast.

George Chambers said...

Ah, thanks for clearing that up, CF!

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