Saturday, April 6, 2013

More Machine Than Man


You know you've hit bottom when you've become little more than an errand boy for your superiors and your transportation to your next task is in a crate that's thrown overboard:



But give the Titanium Man credit--even after his last defeat, he still has the stones to throw his weight around. Though intimidating two cops on patrol is hardly going to enhance his super-villain cred:



Iron Man #22 is the Titanium Man's fourth battle with the golden Avenger, yet he's something of a bit player in the story compared with all the other things going on in this issue; in fact, it's because of those things that I can recommend the issue so positively. For starters, it wraps up a life-or-death fight between Eddie March (who was picked by Tony Stark to be his replacement when Stark decided to avoid subjecting his repaired heart to the stress of being Iron Man) and the Crimson Dynamo, the outcome of which eventually provides the impetus for Stark to reclaim his responsibilities. There's also the Dynamo himself, Alex Niven, obsessed with a vendetta with Stark for what he sees as the corruption and exploitation of his mentor, Professor Vanko, the first Crimson Dynamo. Niven is also enamored with Janice Cord, a manufacturer who's involved with Stark personally and who's discovered that Niven has been using her facilities to create and use the Dynamo armor. To top things off, the issue is written by Archie Goodwin, who always seems to have a firm grasp of a book's characters and consistently writes an engaging and well-paced story.



Goodwin and artist George Tuska mesh all of these elements into a twenty-page story that reads like thirty. And it's because it is such a good story that I don't really mind this time seeing the Titanium Man being used to add to an already tense situation between Niven and Cord, just as Niven is getting through to her as to why he's deceived her. Because it's Niven (known in his homeland as Alex Nevsky) that the Titanium Man has been ordered to retrieve and return to service behind the Iron Curtain, for a very specific purpose:




It's here we catch up with Iron Man, who is now looking for the Titanium Man after being alerted to his arrival. And after steadily watching this armored villain spiral away from his original identity of Boris Bullski, imagine my surprise at seeing that finally confirmed in print:



So everything is set as far as the action coming up. The Titanium Man has made his move, Iron Man is rushing to intervene, and it looks like he and the Dynamo will be having their own showdown with Cord literally caught in the middle. A clash between the Dynamo and Iron Man under such circumstances would be gripping enough on its own--but with a menace like the Titanium Man to also contend with, there's no telling how things will turn out. So we might as well start things off with a bang, eh?



(So Iron Man slams into his opponent while he's carrying his girlfriend several stories above the street.  Has Stark begun drinking already??)

From here, Goodwin makes the battle not only a clash of armored might, but a battle between rivals for the same woman, at least as far as Niven is concerned. Both men are fighting to prevail, with each convinced he has just cause: Iron Man, against a dangerous, presumed partner of the Titanium Man who's directly endangered the woman he loves; and the Dynamo, who has a new reason to despise Iron Man aside from his treatment of Vanko. And those elements play out beautifully in this two-page spread:



With a stroke, the Titanium Man has escalated the conflict between the Dynamo and Iron Man, even though their fight is effectively over. Iron Man sees only the immediate threat of a renewed attack to Cord by the Titanium Man, which has to be ended before he can even think about sorting out the situation with Niven:



While the Dynamo, discovering that the Titanium Man's strike was fatal to Cord, shifts blame directly to Tony Stark's underling:


(Pretty clever of the Dynamo to design his mouth slit so that it enlarges with rage, eh?)


The Dynamo's vengeance will have to wait until another day, though, because it's finally time for the Titanium Man's rematch with Iron Man. We're apparently done with hearing how this villain's armor has been improved and that he's stronger and more powerful than ever, since it just wouldn't fit with the tone of the story; but also, in a telling indication of the Titanium Man's dwindling status as a worthy foe for Iron Man, their battle takes only a single page for Iron Man to triumph:



You know, this makes the third time the Titanium Man has met his end in water. Let's hope the Sub-Mariner doesn't get a crack at this guy:



We have one last battle with the Titanium Man to take a look at before we bring our look at his evolution to a close.  But don't let the fact that he's virtually swept under the rug in this issue make you think that Iron Man no longer has to break a sweat to beat this guy.  Next time, we'll not only see the Titanium Man in a true battle royale with his western nemesis, but we'll also see the return of--Boris Bullski!  Now how can you not want a ringside seat to that?

2 comments:

dbutler16 said...

I'm looking forward to the next battle!

Anonymous said...

I read this stuff as a kid and recently re-read it after 40 years. The Goodwin run was all about "be careful what you wish for."

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