Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Hunger Of The Gods

"Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception." -- George Orwell

You wouldn't think a revolutionary coup ďétat taking place in the Central American country of Costa Diablo would have any bearing on super-heroes, nor would it necessarily merit the involvement of the invincible Iron Man. Unless, that is, there's a branch of Stark International operating in the country that a military junta is very interested in securing for itself.

It would be easy to assume that this junta's siege of Stark's facility would pose little to no challenge for the likes of Iron Man to deal with, even when it appears he's heading into a hostage situation; indeed, much of this story provides a textbook demonstration of Iron Man's formidable strengths, combined with his ability to think on his feet and adapt to the forces set against him. Yet this single-issue story by David Michelinie, John Romita, Jr., and Bob Layton (co-plotting with Michelinie), while a fun page-turner on that basis alone, may be headed for more than just the defeat of the bad guy; in fact, Iron Man will find in this case that victory can go hand-in-hand with defeat.

For now, we first must check in with Tony Stark, who gets word of the crisis and attempts to work through the State Department to free his people from custody; however, finding the government's help less than stellar, Stark instead moves on to assembling his own team and putting a plan in place, and, from there, suiting up to put it in motion.

(Oh for the days when Cap would let it go at that, eh?)

On arrival, however, Iron Man finds that there is technology in place to ward against incursion--advanced technology of mysterious origin. Stranger still is that the one man likely to have been able to have it installed is the same man who disavows any knowledge of it.

(No, I don't know how a beam designed to rip apart machinery as tough as an Avengers quinjet doesn't do beans to Iron Man--not even make a scratch on his paint.)

What follows is a methodical invasion of the facility by Iron Man to locate and free his people. There's something to be said for heroes being given a free hand by the writer to do their jobs without running into complications--it makes for very entertaining reading, particularly when accompanied by Michelinie's writing style, which often makes their opponents look hapless and out of their depth when the story means to have things go the hero's way. Still, Iron Man isn't allowed to make a clean sweep of things, since one of his men will be unaccounted for.

James Rhodes, Stark's pilot and friend, arrives right on the mark with the transport that will carry the facility's detained personnel out of the country. As for Iron Man, he heads off toward the presidential palace, where Generalissimo Caligerra is thought to be holding Stark's administrator and friend, Ricardo Pruz. Again, Iron Man runs the gamut of defenses that have been put in place, considerably more beefed up given the importance of the structure they're in place to protect. The same questions remain as to where the technology that Iron Man faces is coming from; but regardless, Iron Man makes short work of his opposition.

At this point, we have to believe that Caligerra will at least offer token resistance--perhaps even attempt to take Pruz hostage in a gambit to force Iron Man's compliance or withdrawal. Or, let's say Michelinie has a more tragic ending in mind, with Pruz "falling on the grenade," as it were, killing both men. As it turns out, however, Iron Man has his eyes on the wrong mastermind of this coup--when his real foe has been hiding in plain sight.

Iron Man's parting words to his once-friend add a sense of symmetry to the story, following Michelinie's splash page caption referring to "the dogs of war [being] hungry tonight." But it's really Tony Stark's reflections back in his office at S.I. which serve to make this story resonate with the reader--and would have made Iron Man's words resonate with Pruz, if only he were still around to consider them.

Invincible Iron Man #148

Script: David Michelinie
Pencils: John Romita, Jr.
Inks: Bob Layton
Letterer: Joe Rosen


George Chambers said...

I remember reading this one when it came out and shaking my head at it in disbelief. Why would Pruz, the "true leader of the revolution", engage in the charade of resisting the takeover of the plant? Plausible deniability if something went wrong, perhaps - but WHY get himself SHOT to do it, when he could have easily ensured he was far away instead? And why did Stark just fly away meekly when he's already broken international law in his little invasion? Why wouldn't he level the plant around Pruz's ears rather than let his own property be nationalised? Remember, this is Tony "I'll commit every crime in the book before I let my intellectual property be stolen" Stark we're talking about. Nice art, but an awful story.

Comicsfan said...

You make some fair points, George. There's no reason that I can see why Pruz would maintain his pretense of being loyal to Stark once Caligerra and his men stormed the facility and took control--though as for getting shot, we could assume that one of Caligerra's men wasn't as careful as he should have been when they opened fire, and Pruz was hit by a stray bullet. (It's a fair bet that soldier received a few lashes later, courtesy of Pruz.) But basically I agree with you that Pruz didn't even need to be at the facility at that point.

As for the facility itself, Iron Man probably saw little point to staying and levelling it; after all, the opposition already had Pruz, who could provide Caligerra and his men with any technology or data that they needed. Though it seemed his usefulness came to an end fairly soon.