Friday, January 20, 2017

The Plan and the Peril!

In the first meeting between Iron Man and the man known as Whiplash, Iron Man was for all intents and purposes little more than a living target--his power nearly depleted from an earlier battle and unable to make use of his strength or his weapons. Nor was his armor proving resilient enough to stand up to his foe's steel-rending whip. Iron Man only survived that meeting by rerouting power reserved for his injured heart, in one desperate strike which left him as incapacitated as Whiplash.

Since then, Whiplash has moved on from his association with the criminal organization known as the Maggia, but has meticulously been planning his revenge against Iron Man right under the nose of Tony Stark--positioning himself in Stark Industries' Cincinnati plant and waiting for the moment when the paths of both himself and Iron Man would cross. That moment arrives when Stark and his executive assistant, Pepper Potts, arrive for an inspection of a project under development by the plant's manager, Vicki Snow, as well as the plant's head of Research, Mark Scott (a/k/a Mark Scarlotti)--a man we know better as Whiplash himself.

It seems a lot of trouble and effort for Whiplash to go through in order to put in place this revenge plot of his. For one thing, he didn't do too badly against Iron Man in their last meeting, with the Avenger virtually at his mercy; and after Whiplash regained consciousness following Iron Man's desperate attack, it was the Maggia's leader, the Big M, who prevented him from finishing Iron Man then and there. It would seem that a man like Scott would have better things to do than fume about that outcome and be so consumed with thoughts of revenge. There's also one other oddity along these lines in writer Mike Friedrich's story, which we'll get to in a moment.

For now, we at least have a decent battle to look forward to between Whiplash and Iron Man, since it would be absurd to once again find Iron Man too debilitated to put up a fight. That means that Whiplash will have to have some sort of defense against Iron Man's powers other than a single weapon, since he has no strength or invulnerability to speak of. As we'll see, Friedrich will give him a hand in that respect (or in this case, two); but it appears he's also made Whiplash quite the electronics expert since his last appearance, which means he'll have a few surprises for Iron Man. Of course, his whip remains formidable, and there's no disputing the man's skill.

There were a few hands involved on the art chores in this issue of Invincible Iron Man--most notably Craig Russell, whose work at Marvel is sporadic but has been seen in issues such as the first Dr. Strange Annual, the Ant-Man series in Marvel Feature, and of course his work on Killraven in Amazing Adventures. With both Mike Esposito and Frank Giacoia as finishers, as well as John Romita Sr. pitching in, it's difficult to detect Russell's distinctive influence in this issue of Iron Man other than in the panels' layouts--but you'll probably notice a lot of similarity to the Ant-Man work. I tend to associate his style with both his Dr. Strange and Killraven artistry, none of which seems to be present in this story.

As Stark arrives on the premises to meet with Snow, we find that Scott has been up to a lot more than sitting at his desk over in the Research division. As Stark notes, Scott is "quite a climber"--as well as quite the chauvinist, becoming close to Snow and, eventually, her fiancé, for the sole purpose of taking her position after she becomes a "housewife." But in an awkward encounter, Scott finds that Snow isn't on board with his expectations for her.

Scott obviously wants to make a favorable impression with Stark, considering the position he covets--though of course he feels quite differently about Stark's bodyguard.

Scott makes his move almost immediately, when Snow, Stark, and Pepper are reviewing plans for an orbiting laboratory that will be built by S.I., for which Stark has made a custom power cell. But the device is also of interest to another, for different reasons entirely.

It's this scene which helps further to render Whiplash's careful planning pointless. Whiplash could have launched an attack against Iron Man any place, at any time--though with no discernible reason for delay, particularly given how this story's beginning pages make it clear how much he hungers for his revenge. Why take the time and trouble to maneuver himself into a position at a Stark plant in Cincinnati, work his way up the corporate ladder, and cool his heels biding his time, on the chance that Stark would decide to schedule an on-site meeting with Snow--only to then announce his intent to battle Iron Man and wait for the Avenger to show up? What's the point of maintaining a cover if you're not going to capitalize on it and seize the initiative? He might as well have shown up at the S.I. offices in New York and made the same announcement.

Not that he's not well prepared for his armored foe either way, as Iron Man discovers from Whiplash's successive strikes.

It may seem needless for Whiplash to destroy the repulsor ray emitters in Iron Man's palms, since he already has a technological defense against them; on the other hand, it's an impressive display of his skill, as well as an effective way to demonstrate his threat potential against someone of Iron Man's capabilities. But Friedrich likely has another reason for having Whiplash inflict damage on Iron Man's gauntlets: to take them out of the game altogether.

Other than to accommodate the story's ending and provide Snow with a sense of pride insofar as striving to have the same dedication to S.I. as Iron Man, it makes no sense for Iron Man to remove his gauntlets. After all, the emitters are already damaged beyond repair--what would be the point? But unless Stark isn't worried about shattering every bone in his hands, the removal of his armored gloves prevents him from delivering any armor-powered punches to Whiplash--another apparent handicap by Friedrich to even the odds in this fight. And let's take away another advantage, while we're at it:

Making a pinpoint strike even while partially blinded--the man is good, but come on. And why would Whiplash be "toying around" with Iron Man at this stage of the fight? Is he interested in exacting his revenge or not?

But the tide of battle finally turns Iron Man's way, when he unveils a new wrinkle to his arsenal--and a clever one, its use intended to deprive Whiplash of his primary weapon.

Now, of course, the conflict between these two comes down to a fight on equal terms--just as it did in Friedrich's recent Masked Marauder climax (which Snow made loose reference to in her briefing). And while it's a satisfying conclusion to this struggle, Iron Man fighting bare-handed only serves to delay the outcome without adding any sense of high stakes that his fight with the Marauder's henchman, Steele, conveyed. As Iron Man points out here, it's "no contest--no contest at all!" Until it reaches its, er, tipping point.

No, I don't know how Whiplash, possessing only normal strength, was able to flip a piece of equipment that Iron Man had to summon all his power to move. To somehow overturn a piece of equipment that weighs hundreds of pounds, the leverage that Iron Man speaks of would have to come in the form of a bulldozer.

At any rate, Whiplash escapes--and due to his secret identity at the plant, he can comfortably go back to his cushy job and his equally cushy plans for Snow.

Or can he?

As for Whiplash, did Iron Man make good on his vow to nab this villain at their next meeting? It wasn't exactly Whiplash's finest hour, but yes--though Whiplash would continue in later stories to give Iron Man his share of grief.

The cover to this issue--with Pepper in peril!

(She had better luck in the actual story, eh?)

Invincible Iron Man #62

Script: Mike Friedrich
Pencils: Craig Russell (with John Romita)
Inks: Mike Esposito and Frank Giacoia
Letterer: Artie Simek


George Chambers said...

Good thing the Wingless Wizard never patented his anti-grav discs, since I'm pretty sure that's what Tony used here to get the win.

Comicsfan said...

I see your point, George, though it makes sense for Iron Man to use magnetism as a weapon, a tactic that goes back to the days of Wong Chu--and here it's certainly a good substitute for anti-gravity. But I am mildly curious about what compartment in his armor he keeps all of these surprise weapons in. Given Stark's talent for micro-circuitry, I would have expected something less bulky here. (BTW, exactly how was he controlling those discs? Every emitter in his armor was shattered.)

Gvieto said...

And I thought the Masked Marauder was a very tough for Iron Man due to his opti blast weapons. Whiplash makes Masked Marauder look like an angel by comparison.

Anonymous said...

I was always amazed the Masked Marauder was as tough to beat as he was against the likes of Iron Man and Spider-man, despite a very cool helmet and those opti-blasts! ;)

M.P. well as a helicopter with a disintegration field that also served as a teleportation beam. Where did that guy get all that stuff?!

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