Friday, May 9, 2014

The Rage Of The Red Ghost!

At face value, there are two rather silly things about this cover of Invincible Iron Man, and you really don't have to look hard to find them:

For one thing, Iron Man--restrained and menaced by apes. That's a hard pill to swallow. This man has fought and beaten the Punisher, a powerhouse of Galactus that once forced the Fantastic Four to retreat. Still, these "super-apes" have powers, gaining them in much the same way as the FF, so Iron Man can be forgiven for having his hands full with them. So let's jump to the second item: he seems to be terrified that his armor won't stand up to a buzzsaw. A buzzsaw.  You just know every Iron Man villain is going to be packing a buzzsaw from now on.  Perhaps a buzzsaw is the one durability test he neglected to put his armor through, I don't know--but Tony Stark is a pretty thorough engineer, so I doubt it. Since this is a super-monkey, we'll have to assume that this is no ordinary buzzsaw that came from Home Depot.

Now that we've leapt over those two hurdles, let's tackle the story in Iron Man #83--though, given the scene on page one, it looks like this fight, like our hero, is over and done with!

Iron Man's armor may have a problem with buzzsaws, but let's hope it--as well as the man inside--can stand the test against a plummeting impact with a street.

First, we should back up a bit and take this shocking scene in context. Tony Stark is hosting a party on the top floor of his building--and his trusted aide, Happy Hogan, is "standing in" for him as Iron Man, so that Stark and Iron Man can be seen in the same place at the same time. Unfortunately, the Red Ghost's super-apes show up with orders to kidnap Stark--and when they efficiently make off with him, Happy is forced to go into action as Iron Man.

After pursuing the apes to the roof, the simians take turns batting Happy around like a piƱata, knocking him senseless and sending him hurtling over the edge of the building to eventually crash on the pavement below. The apes then make off with Stark to a hidden location--where he discovers Ivan Kragoff, the Red Ghost, with a most peculiar condition:

Kragoff wastes no time in telling Stark exactly why he was taken captive, as well as what will happen to him if he doesn't cooperate:

Stark probably knows it's unlikely he'll be able to handle the odds against him without his armor--and so, since he can't bring his armor to him, he does the next best thing:

In case you're wondering about the fate of Happy (and who isn't?), his wife Pepper has brought him to the hospital, where the doctors have verified his vital signs and advised him to rest and arrange for further tests. Happy is reticent, to Pepper's surprise, and it isn't long before he completely collapses; but, if you're a long-time Iron Man reader, you can probably guess what life-saving treatment will make things much worse for Mr. Hogan.

Let's skip ahead to Stark International, where the Ghost and the apes have bypassed Stark's security and Stark has proceeded to modify the cosmitronic cannon. Unlike Happy, Stark's treatment of Kragoff will have significantly better results (but no fair skipping ahead!):

Naturally, Kragoff wouldn't be much of a villain if he didn't pull a double-cross on his benefactor:

Stark, on the other hand, has prepared for something like this, and so activates another modification on the cannon--the emission of a smoke screen, which paves the way for a more formidable adversary for the Ghost and his simian minions:

As impressed as I was with artist Herb Trimpe's handling of Iron Man in a prior fight with the Hulk, I can't say I was comfortable with his work on Iron Man, which was a complete surprise to me. Given all the hardware we tend to find in the world of Tony Stark, including a main character whose own hardware and gadgetry are in constant play, Trimpe seemed like such a natural fit for this book, as adept as he is at making hardware and ordnance stand out as virtually their own characters in stories. But he tends to pencil Iron Man rather stiffly in fight scenes, and the technology in use (e.g., repulsor rays, flight) gives the impression that he doesn't really have a natural feel for the character. I realize the argument can be made that it would be difficult not to make a man in a metal suit come across as stiff and awkward; but I've seen Iron Man look sensational in fight scenes, and I've also seen him drawn in a clunky manner. I would say his depictions by Trimpe fall somewhere in the middle, though still decent work.

It's odd how, in this "rematch" between Iron Man and the super-apes, the apes attack one at a time, whereas with Happy in the Iron Man suit they ganged up on him. And so we're forced to see the rest of this battle play out one-on-one, which includes the Red Ghost waiting his turn (though that's probably to accommodate a dramatic scene for Kragoff, which we'll get to momentarily). First up, the orangutan with the magnetic powers (though the script constantly refers to it as an "orangutang"):

As you can see, the orangutan's only offensive move is to batter Iron Man against other objects--whereas Magneto, for instance, might turn his powers on the suit itself. So it's only a matter of time before Iron Man takes control of the fight and lowers the boom:

Next comes the baboon--a shape-shifter that attacks Iron Man in various deadly forms before settling on a carpentry tool we've seen before:

(Heh--"that cuts it!" A little Shellhead humor there. What a cut up, that guy.)

Fortunately, if there's one thing Stark knows how to handle, it's tools--and I must say his solution is pretty resourceful:

Which leaves the super-strong gorilla. It's a good thing that Iron Man has more than strength at his disposal, because it looks like his armor is vulnerable to both pavement and gorillas:

Kragoff then decides to finally make use of his power to become immaterial in order to give him an edge in this fight. But Iron Man hasn't had a chance to give Kragoff full disclosure on his "cure," and the villain's attempt to use his original power of intangibility turns out to be a most fatal mistake:

It wouldn't be the last we'd see of the Red Ghost, of course (despite appearances)--but it would be nearly the last we'd see of Trimpe on this book, finishing his brief run with only four more issues before long-time Iron Man artist George Tuska would step in again. Trimpe certainly didn't lack for work at Marvel, popping up in many, many Marvel titles and putting his stamp on the character(s) he was assigned to before moving on to other work.

When we catch up with the Red Ghost again, he'll have moved on, as well--this time to Earth orbit, where he'll meet in battle another top scientist.  He'll be without the services of his apes--but I'm almost sure he'll be packing a buzzsaw.

Invincible Iron Man #83

Script: Len Wein
Pencils: Herb Trimpe
Inks: Marie Severin
Letterer: John Costanza


Anonymous said...

Get your hands off Iron Man, you damn dirty apes!

Phil said...

I love the Kirby cover. I remember being disappointed it wasn't Kilrby interior art. I do like how the Red Ghost just fades away, that's so cool. as for the nose.......

Comicsfan said...

Anon, great comment! Almost made me spit out whatever beverage I was drinking. :)

Phil, it looks like we probably have Ron Wilson (with Danny Crespi) to thank for the issue's cover art, according to its Marvel Database entry. (Though you'll get no argument from me on that conspicuous nose!)