Wednesday, December 11, 2019

...In Battle We Join!

Believe it or not, there was a time when the Sub-Mariner and Iron Man had mutual respect for one another--but the last we may have seen of it was in 1979, in a two-part story that saw Tony Stark's problem with alcohol becoming more apparent by the day, and the Sub-Mariner showing fierce loyalty toward a human, both situations giving us a different perspective in how we're used to seeing these characters. In Stark's case, he's begun imbibing more than usual as a result of S.H.I.E.L.D. initiating a hostile takeover of his company, Stark International, in an effort to return S.I. to the business of manufacturing munitions--while Namor, having recently been rescued from toxic waste poisoning by a lone island dweller named Hiram Dobbs, now occupies that island with Dobbs against the incursion of a U.S. Special Forces unit that wishes to evict Dobbs for his own safety due to the island having been used for several years as a government dumping ground for radioactive waste.

And when Iron Man is drawn into Namor's clash with the Army unit... well, take a wild guess as to how things escalate from there.

But... shouldn't Namor want to be helping his new friend?

To get the answers we need, let's start by going back to when Stark's passenger jet is downed by a flying tank, of all things--and he arrives at the site of the incident to receive a briefing from Capt. Hale of the Army unit. But we soon discover that Iron Man might have been sold a bill of goods by Hale, in order to secure the armored Avenger's aid against the threat of the Sub-Mariner.

As Iron Man stories go, this one would have made a fine installment of Marvel Team-Up, which often had our heroes (a) come to blows before (b) coming to an understanding of the true threat and joining forces to deal with it. In Part 1 of the story, Hale has seen to it that there will be a good deal of the former--though with a few questions hanging in the air, with Iron Man currently having no idea of why Namor has appeared nor his reasons for initiating hostilities with the Army.

And so when Iron Man confronts the Sub-Mariner, in part to ease tensions as well as to impress upon him the urgency of relocating Dobbs, there is clearly more to this situation than he's been made aware of--nor is Namor inclined to take the time to explain himself to someone he feels has been duped. All of which opens the door to an impressive clash between the two by writer David Michelinie and artists John Romita Jr. and Bob Layton, a creative team which made quite an impact on the Invincible Iron Man title.

A surprising reaction by Dobbs, who has clearly taken Namor's side in this fierce altercation and makes use of one of the Army weapons at the scene to aid the one whose life he saved. Yet while resulting in only superficial effect on Iron Man, his act has allowed Namor to take his fight with Iron Man into the sea, which effectively and significantly reduces Iron Man's chances of prevailing.

But if Iron Man is hoping for a breather from employing a tactic that might allow his escape--well, that depends on how we're regarding the word "breather."

Unknowingly, Iron Man has been subjected to a test of technology designed by Tony Stark's corporate nemesis, Justin Hammer, to take control of his armor--part of a plan that would be later carried out to devastating effect when Iron Man seemingly murders a foreign ambassador in full view of horrified witnesses.

Assuming he lives that long, given how this development has sent him helplessly sinking to the bottom. Fortunately, the Sub-Mariner is not interested in seeing Iron Man dead, yet--but he makes it clear to his foe that his mercy is conditional on how he proceeds from here. Or, put another way, and as is the case with any good team-up story--the time has come to compare notes, starting with the story of Namor's connection with Hiram Dobbs.

Meanwhile, we find out precisely what "Captain Hale" and his team are after on this island, when Stark's personal friend and pilot, James Rhodes, along with Stark's lady, Bethany Cabe, are captured while on approach to the island and brought before a decidedly different reception committee than that which greeted Iron Man.

Luck is definitely not in your corner today, Mr. Executive.

With the Navy closing in as well, Hale decides to cut his losses and detonate the entire island after a five-minute countdown. With Rhodey's warning, that gives Iron Man and Namor little time to get everyone to safety, but they get the job done--but the devastation of the island pales beside that which they see in the eyes of Dobbs, having lost in an instant the 20-year dream he'd cultivated with his lost wife. It's a poignant end which the Sub-Mariner frames to close out a rather nicely done story.

Invincible Iron Man #s 120-121

Script: David Michelinie
Pencils: Jon Romita, Jr.
Inks: Bob Layton
Letterer: John Costanza


Steve Does Comics said...

It's not just my imagination is it? Captain Hale is clearly based on Stan Lee?

dangermash said...

Yeah, that's got to be Stan.

Comicsfan said...

I can't say I agree, gentlemen, but the phrase "I could be wrong" is practically a mantra for me. Have Misters Romita Jr. and Layton ever remarked on it, I wonder?