Sunday, October 21, 2012

There Must Be An Iron Man

My Very First Issue of:

 Iron Man
Invincible Iron Man #47

Since at the time I was still very new to Marvel books and was still experimenting with which issues to pick up on a regular basis, these special "origin issues" that Marvel would publish from time to time were made to order for me. Along with a story that brought me up to speed on a character, I also got a glimpse of the current storyline and was able to sample the work of the book's resident creative team. Except, unbeknownst to me, I wouldn't get all of that in this case. Oh, I got a comprehensive origin of Iron Man--but both story and art were done by parties not regularly involved with the book. In this case, Iron Man #47 was written by veteran Marvel writer Roy Thomas, with art by Barry Smith (whom Thomas had worked with on Avengers).

As a result, I got a story that was much more polished and coherent than what was the norm for this book. Subsequent issues by writer Mike Friedrich and artist George Tuska were a notch or two down in quality, I'm afraid--but I nevertheless enjoyed those stories, as well as this new character I was now reading, which compensated to an extent for both script and art. Nevertheless, it was quite a step back from the Thomas/Smith effort.

To give you a little background on Iron Man at this point in time, the character of Tony Stark was still more or less getting off the ground--as was his company, Stark Industries, still making munitions and weapons. Most threats targeted Stark's factory; Stark was still dependent on his chest device to keep his injured heart beating; and Iron Man of course was still Stark's "bodyguard" who appeared just as soon as Stark could reach his attache case and a private room somewhere. Also, many of the Friedrich stories brought Iron Man into crisis mode just as soon as an enemy began to cause him damage--because a low-on-power Iron Man meant that the character was minutes away from dying when his chest device would fail. So enemies were desperately dispatched at the last minute, generally.

But in this issue, we got a break from most of that, since this was an issue of reflection. Stark's personal friend, Kevin O'Brien, had just died in prototype "Guardsman" armor, leaving Stark to wonder just who was he helping in this double identity of his. Or, as he put it as he descended to Kevin's funeral:

Iron Man's presence at the funeral doesn't last very long, as police soon arrive to take him into custody for questioning regarding O'Brien's death. Iron Man decides to take off, rather than disrupt the proceedings further, and his thoughts set the tone for the rest of the issue:

That "first" death caused by the armor, if indirectly, is of course that of Prof. Yinsen, a physicist who befriends Stark while they are both in the captivity of Wong-Chu, a communist tyrant in southeast Asia who was trying to force a mortally wounded Stark to create weapons for him. Yinsen and Stark, instead, create both the life-saving chest device that will keep Stark's heart beating, as well as the iron prototype body armor that would act as a weapon to give them their freedom. Yinsen sacrificed his life in order to give the armor time to build power--even while Stark's life began anew, as Iron Man, represented by these two beautiful panels by Barry Smith (with guest inker Jim Mooney):

And, since it wouldn't do for this newborn hero to suffer defeat his first time off the table, Yinsen and Stark made sure the prototype contained sufficient "extras" to help break them out of captivity. One being the armor's strength, of course:

And naturally there was this old standard:

Yet finally, all this heavy thinking comes to a head, and Stark is forced to reflect on all the lives bound up in his armor, in one way or another. And it all boils down to a simple question, to bring the issue full circle:

And since we've got a few things in play here--(a) the issue's just a page from its ending, (b) Thomas, Smith, and Mooney are packing up and won't be returning in the following issue, and (c) Iron Man isn't exactly a quitter--that question is really only going to have one answer. And it would help to reel me in as a regular reader from then on:

As for that crack about Bob Dylan--come on, it wouldn't be a Roy Thomas story without a conspicuous pop culture reference somewhere, now would it?


Terence Stewart said...

Wow! I'd never seen any interiors from that issue of Iron Man, so the Smith/Mooney art team is a revelation. Very nice.

Comicsfan said...

They did indeed do very nice work here.