Thursday, September 8, 2016

It's Open Season on Tony Stark!

The issue leading up to Invincible Iron Man #100 has so much happening in it and so many players that you may feel a little taxed in trying to put all of its pieces together. It's no wonder Tony Stark has a heart condition, with all that he's asked to keep track of while also suiting up as Iron Man and putting out all the fires he has to manage. But let's see if we can break it down in order to bring you up to date:
  • The Mandarin has returned from the dead--and after we were so certain that the Yellow Claw had finally punched his ticket;
  • Senator Hawk from Washington is pressuring Stark to be interviewed, following up on information that accuses Stark of bribing Japanese officials for the purpose of selling intelligence systems abroad;
  • Det. Michael O'Brien, who holds Stark responsible for the death of his brother, Kevin, has attacked Iron Man in the Guardsman armor, the same armor that led to Kevin's death;
  • Due to the return of his heart condition, Stark is forced to cast a new suit of Iron Man armor, redesigned to include circuitry that keeps his heart from failing while in battle;
  • The ultra-nationalistic mutant, Sunfire, attacks Stark's factory complex, believing the criminal charges against Stark--and with his new armor not yet ready, Stark engages Sunfire as the Guardsman;
  • O'Brien becomes convinced of Stark's innocence, grabs the new Iron Man suit, and races to help Stark against Sunfire;
  • Stark, his chest in agony due to the Guardsman armor not having any support for his injured heart, takes the opportunity to get back to his lab to don the new suit, only to find it missing--and in desperation, seeks out his older armor with its life-support chestplate, guided to it by... Madame Masque!?
  • Both Sunfire and O'Brien are astonished when a teleportation beam whisks O'Brien (still in the new Iron Man suit) away;
  • Sunfire resumes his attack on the factory, only to be engaged by the "original" red- and gold-suited Iron Man; and finally...
  • Jeez! Does anybody need some Dramamine before dizziness sets in??

There's also the surprise cover to this issue by artist John Buscema, who's drawn Iron Man enough in the pages of The Avengers but to my knowledge has never stepped in as artist on the character's own title. (What other characters' series has Buscema declined? Dr. Strange... Incredible Hulk... Captain America... X-Men and its numerous spin-offs... The Defenders... Marvel Team-Up... quite a few, it seems.) Here, he rewrites the laws of engineering and features the mask of Iron Man actually grimacing.

But we'll have to wait awhile to find out how Iron Man became trapped by the Mandarin, because he still has the hot-headed Sunfire to deal with. And as we can see, the issue's splash page only has room to tell a fraction of what's been happening to Stark and Iron Man--and there's a lot more story development waiting in the wings!

Iron Man is doubly motivated at stopping Sunfire, having seen what appeared to be Sunfire blasting O'Brien into nothingness; but even after learning the truth, he's out to stop Sunfire by whatever means necessary. It's understandable for Iron Man to want Sunfire out of the way, since it would be one less thing on his already full plate; but writer Bill Mantlo's usual breakneck pace as scripter on this title doesn't fully explain why Iron Man is coming after Sunfire with such a vengeance. S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell, who's been on the scene since Iron Man battled Ultimo in Washington, has been monitoring the battle, hoping to assist--but it seems Iron Man's fury will prove to be a match for Sunfire's, even in outdated armor that still stands the test.

Sunfire has taken the fall for Japan more times than I can count, and usually has his own misguided tunnel vision to thank for it in adhering to a nationalist fervor that regards suspicion or accusation as fact and viciously attacks the source without any patience for explanations. Iron Man isn't the first to try to drum some sense into his head--but when Sunfire's own countrymen accuse him of rashness and going too far, it comes at a point when Iron Man loses his last shred of patience and opts for a lesson which will have even Sunfire thinking twice about taking him on again, even if the use of brute force is probably the last thing that will have this angry young man reconsidering his actions in the future.

Back in his lab, Stark puts two and two together, and concludes that it's the Mandarin who teleported O'Brien to Red China. Tying into a SHIELD scanner satellite, Stark observes O'Brien being attacked by the Mandarin's warrior-henchmen wielding electro-swords. O'Brien, inexperienced at using the armor's weaponry, falls to their attack--a surprising approach for Mantlo to take, given that the Guardsman armor, which O'Brien used so adeptly in battle, is so similar in function and design to Iron Man's. The satellite also picks up the Mandarin closing in, who attacks with both his karate skill and his deadly rings--and O'Brien is captured and taken back to the Mandarin's castle, where the next image reveals to Stark confirmation of the Mandarin's return and the definite threat to O'Brien's life. At that point, Stark is able to connect all the pieces to the developments that have recently been plaguing him.

Banking on the hope that the Mandarin will toy a little longer with the captive he believes to be Iron Man, Stark primes his old suit for battle and borrows an Avengers quinjet to race to the site where O'Brien is being held. Obviously speed is of the essence, since there's only so long that the Mandarin will brutalize O'Brien before finally losing patience with him; but in Washington, we see another reason for Stark to wrap up his business with the Mandarin, as his absence at a meeting with Sen. Hawk may possibly serve to implicate Stark in the criminal behavior he's accused of. Because while Hawk is attempting to give Stark the benefit of the doubt, his assistant unexpectedly does an end run around him and presents what may be damning evidence against the C.E.O. of Stark International.

Mr. Rich isn't the only one making his move, as the Mandarin fires the missile that will herald World War III, with O'Brien helpless to stop it. Fortunately, another Iron Man arrives on the scene just in time to avert catastrophe. And with the missile no longer a threat, O'Brien learns the full truth about the man he sought revenge on--a man now girding himself for a showdown with his most dangerous enemy.

If you're curious about the wrap-up to this affair, be sure to check out the PPC review of Iron Man #100 in a separate post. Will it be Iron Man's greatest battle--or the Mandarin's final triumph??

Since we've looked in on a situation of national importance, we probably shouldn't wait to find out just what was in that briefcase that Jon Rich was unlatching! The case has the initials "A.S." on it, so we can assume it's the special briefcase that stores Stark's Iron Man armor; and since Stark is being investigated for providing the U.S. and its allies defective defense systems as well as offering the Iron Man armor to hostile foreign bidders, snapping open that case is bound to provide damning evidence against Stark. But Rich has foreign ties himself--and three guesses as to the identity of the one whose orders he obeys. (HINT: No, it's not Hawk, because Hawk happens to be working with someone else!)

Thanks to the Mandarin, Rich will never stand trial for treason--though in a twist of fate he never saw coming, he nevertheless paid the price for his actions.

Invincible Iron Man #99

Script: Bill Mantlo
Pencils: George Tuska
Inks: Mike Esposito
Letterer: John Costanza


Anonymous said...

Although there's no doubt George Tuska was a great illustrator, I never thought of him as a "superhero" artist per se, and I thought his strongest work was maybe in other genres, horror, westerns, etc.
But boy did he deliver some great superhero-action type art here, this comic just roars along and doesn't let up. It's well worth a look.
Tuska did a lot of great work on this title. I'm not even much of an Iron man fan, but I collected quite a few of these because it was a good, solid comic back then, both in the art and the writing. That fight with Ultimo comes to mind.
And those covers, like the one here, would just reach out from the spinner rack and grab you!
Great issue!

Comicsfan said...

M.P., I also thought Tuska's style was a good fit for Iron Man, or at least the Iron Man armor and its action scenes. I couldn't say that about many of his other assignments, but I'm happy to give the man some credit where it's certainly due.

david_b said...

Tuska was easily my favorite on IM, after Gene Colan. Partially because he was my 'first' IM artist in the early 70s, but as mentioned, he always knew how to draw the armor, both bulky, yet very cool.

Tuska never did as well on the team books like Avengers, but he had IM down pat.

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