Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Two Against One (Or: Knuckles Over Detroit)


When last we left the Masked Marauder, he had Iron Man at his mercy. And the Marauder must be the most merciful villain I've ever seen, because he decides to spare Iron Man's life and bring him with him as he executes his plan to ransom the stolen Stark Industries space shuttle. Yes, the Marauder likes to roll the dice--because putting Iron Man, of all foes, in an improvised metal restraint is just asking for your scheme to be foiled:



Now does that contraption look like it's going to hold Iron Man? The Marauder sure thinks so, because he's even going to tell the Avenger all about his revised scheme:



Translation: "Go ahead--stop me. Get free and stop me.  I DARE YOU, you cretin."  And Iron Man is nothing if not accommodating.



Before we get to that, though, let's take a look at that cover image, which bends the details of the story just a tad:



As we've seen, there is no "missile"--rather, it's the shuttle itself that's loaded to become a weapon. And I don't know what the Marauder is pointing at, because both he and Iron Man are aboard that shuttle--so when we're told that the shuttle is going to strike its target in three seconds, both the Marauder and Iron Man have that long to make out their respective wills, because they're both literally going down with the ship. No wonder Iron Man is struggling like hell--he can't convince this moron that they're both on board that "missile," and that they're going to personally be kissing Ground Zero in three seconds.  (Also, notice how artist Rich Buckler is adding considerably more restraint to Iron Man's captivity, so it's no wonder the Marauder is feeling particularly cocky.)

Anyway, it looks like the Marauder brought Iron Man along just to have his armor analyzed. And our electronics wiz, Steele, accepts the assignment eagerly:



You get the impression that Steele is one of those techs who excels in reverse engineering. But he's not going to get much of a chance to disassemble his captive, because Iron Man meant what he said about busting out of this lame restraint:



So now we're set for Round Two of Steele vs. Iron Man. And obvously Iron Man doesn't think it's going to be much of a round, aiming to wrap things up quickly with a sock to the jaw:



But Steele sees the flaw in Iron Man's move, and intuitively uses the Avenger's own weaponry against him. Apparently, Steele assumes the glove comes with its own power source, so maybe Tony Stark could still teach him a thing or two about electronics:




Regardless, Steele seems to be no slouch in the physical strength department, so he's able to continue a fight with Iron Man toe-to-toe. Frankly, if I were Iron Man, seeing what I'm up against, I'd start punching this guy with my armored fist--wouldn't you?



So back and forth these two go, with Steele tenaciously giving the Avenger a pretty good fight. I hope Stark didn't have too much money sunk into this shuttle, because there's not going to be much left to it as this rate:



I'll say this for Steele: if you're looking for an underling who doesn't run for the hills when things go south, he's right up there with Victoria Hand. But Iron Man is finally, finally able to bring their fight to an end:




Of course, since these two have made enough noise to wake the dead, no alarm is needed to alert the Marauder to enter the fray:




No, I don't know why Iron Man has totally forgotten that he's wearing villain-bashing armor on his other hand. Though it's a moot point--he's also forgotten that the Marauder's costume can absorb and negate any impact from his armor.  So what good does Iron Man think a flesh-and-blood fist is going to do against him? On the other hand (whoops, sorry, bad pun), the power it gives the Marauder is put to good use:



But Iron Man's middle name is "resourceful," so he shorts out his other glove and uses a live wire to shock his nervous system, restoring his sight. And with the Marauder's opti-blast now drained, that puts Iron Man back on the offensive:



So far, writer Mike Friedrich and artist George Tuska have given us one hell of a fight, with Iron Man constantly being diverted from reaching the Marauder's deadly bomb. The Marauder has proven to be a canny foe--and Steele has been a worthy combatant, almost giving us the impression that he could overcome Iron Man if he had the right opening. But, has Iron Man finally won? Unfortunately, he's again failed to reckon with the properties of the Marauder's costume:




And jeez Louise, look who's ready for Round Three:



Question: with a bomb to disarm, why in the world should Iron Man put himself at a disadvantage and accede to Steele's demand? As strong as Steele has proven to be--shrugging off repulsor blasts and "shredding machinery like paper"? Now Iron Man's going to give him two armored gloves to attack with? So when Iron Man finally does lower the boom and end this fight, it's really more due to end-of-the-story heroics than strategy. And in a comic book, that's not necessarily a bad thing:




Clearly, Friedrich side-stepped a good deal of logic in order to make this fight believable as well as one that's no cake walk for Iron Man, and there are several places where we have to look the other way in order to enjoy the story. (Which I did--I think Friedrich and Tuska did a great job with it.) I can buy the Marauder having the brains and the precautionary common sense to enhance his costume to resist the blows of the super-beings who seem to cross his path during his schemes--but, in effect, he now has a suit that looks and fits like ordinary clothing but has properties that make Iron Man's armor seem antiquated. And Steele's super-strength seems to appear on an as-needed basis--with his ability to take on Iron Man helped in no small part by Iron Man conveniently being shorn a glove and choosing to connect to Steele with his bare fist.

All that said, Friedrich makes good use of the Masked Marauder, and it was a very readable two-issue struggle on Iron Man's part. As for how things turned out for Happy and Pepper Hogan and whether they resolved their marriage difficulties, you'll have to seek out the issue to learn more. I have the feeling that I won't exactly be leaving you in a state of consternation.

1 comment:

Gordon Turner said...

Gee...if this story were set in the present, the Masked Marauder might make Detroit a better place by blowing it up! (rim shot)

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