Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hello, My Name Is Boris


After Boris Bullski's humiliating defeat at the hands of Iron Man, you'd think his superiors would want to distance themselves from the "Titanium Man," the armored suit that Bullski created and wore to challenge the golden Avenger in an east vs. west battle in front of the entire world. On the contrary--even after Bullski's loss which resulted in a propaganda disaster for them, they decided to double down, working on the armor with Bullski in an effort to once more confront Iron Man and erase the stain of their defeat.

And finally, it looks like all systems are "go":




Which makes you wonder if any of these guys had their TVs on like the rest of the world while the first battle was going on. Because if they had, they might have noticed that Iron Man never made a dent in the titanium armor, and so its resistance to force was never the problem. Rather, Iron Man was able to compromise and neutralize the armor's defensive components, in effect rendering it useless. So, basically, they've spent a lot of rubles beefing up a quality of the armor that was never at fault.

Regardless, the stage is set. And in this second battle, initiated by the "reds" to keep the secrets of Iron Man's armor from being divulged to the U.S. military, you'll notice a number of similarities with the original battle which took place just ten issues prior. Once again, the battle occurs in a three-issue story arc (Strange Tales #s 81-83). Once again, the story unquestionably takes on a tone of east vs. west, communism vs. capitalism. Once again, the TV cameras are rolling, and the spectators are featured prominently to add to the fight's patriotic thrill. Once again, Tony Stark's aides, Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan, are front and center, with one of them again directly involved in the fight. And once again, a last-minute development spurs Iron Man into galvanized action.



As for the site of the battle, it's not an abandoned, historic battlefield this time; but with the stakes of nationalistic pride so high, it doesn't come as much of a surprise to find the battle's backdrop to be Washington, D.C.:



And yet, even with all the familiar elements to be found in this second battle, there are others that draw distinctions between the two clashes. For one thing, the battle is not prearranged, nor does the Titanium Man make use of hidden weapons caches. Also, curiously, you won't find Boris Bullski's name mentioned once, nor see his face; instead, Iron Man constantly refers to him by the sarcastic name of "Ivan," perhaps in an effort to tone down Bullski's self-centered reasons for challenging Iron Man and instead shifting the focus exclusively to nationalism. And while Iron Man makes use of various weaponry, it doesn't occur to him to try the same weapons that gave him the upper hand in the last battle. You'd think the guy would want to bring this fight to a quick end, given the danger a drawn-out battle would pose to civilians.

One difference that's very welcome is that, in this battle, Iron Man isn't plagued by concern for his heart condition, nor do we see him quibbling about the expenditure of his resources. The beginning of the story makes very clear that, as far as his armor is concerned, Iron Man couldn't be in better shape to battle this foe, ready to go the distance.

Of course, the biggest difference you'll spot is in the artwork--this time rendered by Gene Colan, whose talent in the mid-to-late 1960s is at its peak and simply a sight to behold. Just look at the realism here, and I'm not even talking about the main battle yet:



With Colan's various angles, we see greater emphasis on the Titanium Man's bulk and get a better sense of his armor's strength:



And quite frankly, the battle sequences are dazzling:




Yet this is the supposedly new, improved Titanium Man, so it's nice to see that even Iron Man's confidence in handling this battle isn't enough to just carry the day as if his foe were the villain of the week. And, caught off-guard by a new feature of his enemy's armor, Iron Man is put on the defensive:



But aside from Iron Man's repulser [sic] rays, one of his main strengths is his ability to think on his feet. Or, in this case, his wheels:



I don't know about you, but I'm sure the crowds can't be thrilled by watching their hero skate around aimlessly, evading an arrogant foe who insults their national pride with every breath. Fortunately for our peace of mind, the Titanium Man literally puts a stop to it:



Things look bleak for Iron Man, yet it would be ridiculous to see Happy Hogan leap in again to save the day. And you know who that leaves:



Despite that big helmet, the Titanium Man isn't blind, and he can see how concerned Iron Man is for this woman. So he alters his plan in favor of taking a more sure path to victory:



I don't know. Having your foe trapped in a parlysis ray and helpless to stop your killing stroke seems a pretty sure path to victory to me. Perhaps the Titanium Man just wants to humiliate Iron Man by forcing him to surrender in front of everyone. Fortunately, Iron Man finds that a live wire works wonders on paralysis rays while miraculously sparing humans:



And that's all she wrote for the Titanium Man, because this is the third issue of the arc and it's time for Iron Man to once again have his dander up, this time because Pepper was put in danger:



As you've probably guessed, at this point there'll be no stopping the virtual tidal wave of patriotic fervor and momentum that will cheer Iron Man on to victory. In this next well-placed panel, you can see the various sources in play--the high-minded musings of the politicians... the words of the broadcaster, lacking only the Star Spangled Banner playing in the background... even the narrative prods us toward patriotism:



Heh.  "If only the day would come when force is no longer necessary..."  Your government wasn't interested in doing a lot of "reasoning" when it helped to set up that first fight in Alberia between these two, pal.

Anyway, Iron Man can't deliver the coup de grĂ¢ce until he first hacks into something on the Titanium Man that he's probably glad he had the sense not to include on his own armor. An accessible control panel:



And when Iron Man is finished doing aerial cartwheels, we have our winner:



Afterward, everyone is so busy patting Iron Man on the back that no one even notices his big green armored opponent rise to his feet and make his escape. But considering that this is the guy's second failure, the phrase "he won't get far" is going to likely be heard coming from his own comrades:



You'd think that the Titanium Man would go down like a rock in that choppy ocean. But thanks to a Vietnamese scientist called "Half-Face," we'll be seeing him in battle again. Maybe Half-Face will even call him "Boris."

1 comment:

dbutler16 said...

Great art, OK story. I've always found Iron Man's skates a bit silly.

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