Monday, January 23, 2023

Battleground: Detroit!


We've come to the conclusion of a five-part story arc in the pages of Invincible Iron Man that has a lot riding on the outcome--specifically, the fate of two worlds, threatened by the actions of a rogue Rigellian commander who will stop at nothing to gain power for himself and the empire of his own he craves. To that end, he has set his sights on Wundagore II, a planet which the New Men of the High Evolutionary have once again claimed as their own, but which the Colonizers under the command of the self-serving Arcturus have set their sights on.

With the two sides now in a state of war, the conflict has drawn in both Iron Man and his young apprentice, the Jack of Hearts, who have been separated in the exchange of hostilities: Iron Man having since joined the forces of the New Men, while Jack, on board the Rigellian flagship, has only recently learned the extent of Arcturus's perfidy regarding his betrayal of the Rigellian Grand Commissioner and the fact that he intentionally deceived those under his command. And now, Arcturus has threatened to attack Earth unless Jack supports him; but instead, Jack threatens to expose Arcturus's duplicity to his crew. It's at that point that the command ship is rocked by the combined attack of Iron Man and the New Men, and the battle to decide Wundagore's fate erupts.

Yet as this issue's cover reveals, Iron Man will have a greater part to play--against a pulverizing brute that once served as the enforcer of the will of Galactus!

Realizing the danger posed to his fleet with the New Men's forces being backed by both Iron Man and the Jack of Hearts*, Arcturus decides to play his card involving the Punisher--and soon enough, the Soviet super-soldiers, drumming their fingers on the surface of Earth's moon as they keep watch over the Colonizers' egg-shaped transport device, finally get the opportunity to take a direct hand in their world's safety as the conflict literally spills over to Earth's solar system.

*I somehow doubt that. Everyone involved seems to agree that the New Men are underdogs here, in the extreme--and as Iron Man himself notes, their advantage has come from the element of surprise, while the Rigellian fleet has strength in numbers. Once it gets its act together, the Colonizers' technology and advanced weaponry would likely turn the tide as long as they remained ignorant of the true plans of Arcturus.

Apart from dealing the Soviets back into the story, I've no clue why or how the clash between the Colonizers and the New Men moved to the moon, other than the situation simply getting out of control. The portal's technician was on the verge of shutting off its power when Iron Man leaped into it, which would mean that it deactivated immediately afterward--but even more pertinent, it makes no sense that Arcturus would want to cut himself off from reinforcements from his fleet.

Meanwhile, Iron Man has his own hands full with his pursuit of the Punisher on its journey to Earth--a distance of almost 239,000 miles, which would normally take three days for an Earth spacecraft in 1978 but which apparently the Punisher can make in a jiffy. It's of course ill-conceived that Iron Man would even for a moment believe that his boot jets** were capable of getting him all the way to Earth in record time (or even at all)--and so with his target pulling away from him, one of his armor's most basic functions serves him well here. Nevertheless, before you can say "Earth ahoy!", the pair are over the planet still slugging it out. Yet unknown to both of these powerhouses, they're being tracked by parties on Earth who are hastily prepping a defense option.

**Frankly I'm not sure when they became actual jets in the conventional sense, since there's nothing in Iron Man's recent armor specs that indicates fuel storage capacity.

It's curious that Iron Man is claiming no knowledge of the Super Missile's existence, in light of the fact that it's been launched from Stark International (by order of Tony Stark himself ostensibly, but in actuality a Stark Life Model Decoy)--and equally curious that SHIELD has conferred on Stark complete authority to do so. It can't help but remind me of the absurdity of Leonard Samson taking charge of a military installation like Gamma Base (but that's another story).

This would be the second planetary fall that Iron Man would go through in as many days--and though he probably shouldn't have survived the first, he's really the only one who can stop the Punisher's rampage at this point.  Which means the old adage "any landing you can walk away from..." now also applies to Iron Man and the Punisher--and the denizens of Detroit can look forward to one hell of a battle taking place in their streets. But if a fall from space didn't put a dent in these two combatants, can either prevail against the other? If not, it won't be for lack of trying on the part of Iron Man, who's going to give it everything he's got.

And in our special feature to follow, be sure to keep in mind this scene:

Heh--boot "jets"... "rocket"-skates... but still no fuel for either!
(All right, I'm through harping on that.)

By the way, the locals aren't crazy about Iron Man bringing his business to their neck of the woods--but in this fight's final moments, we don't see them giving up their ringside seats and taking cover, do we? You crazy, fickle comics crowds.

Back on the moon, however, Arcturus attempts one last, desperate gambit in trying to salvage this situation. Fortunately, even though the New Men likely aren't gullible enough to even give his proposal serious thought, the arrival of the Recorder--a creation of the Rigellians whose purpose is as plain as his name--brings this conflict to a close, and certainly changes the optics for Arcturus by exposing his crimes for all to see. (Or at least the bulk of his crew here who were previously unaware of his true goals--we're left to presume the Recorder will inform the rest of his fleet on their return to Wundagore.)

Hey, you heard the Recorder--The End!


The book's "Printed Circuits" letters page had recently been receiving missives from none other than Fred "Knees" Hembeck, but in the form of comic strips--previously non-reproduceable, until this issue, which has Mr. Hembeck looking back on the conclusion of the Midas affair. What a treat. :D


Anonymous said...

That Keith Pollard cover to IM # 112 looks great. In my opinion, he is one of those underappreciated comic artists. This IM interior art does not do his work justice. His work looks so much better with other inkers. He seemed to be a popular artist in the late seventies (he did a LOT of core Marvel books - the artist on the 200th anniversary issues of FF and ASM and 300th of Thor), but by the time I started reading comics in the mid-eighties and later, he seemed neglected. I mostly saw his art through the back issue bins.

While I wouldn't consider him among the greats like Kirby, John Buscema, John Byrne, or George Perez, I think he's just under them. The man was solid. I never understood why he wasn't a fan favorite. There were so many inferior pencillers on Marvel titles in the eighties, that I don't understand why Pollard wasn't given one of their jobs! I rank him along with Kerry Gammill as pencilers who didn't get anywhere near the respect they deserved.


Comicsfan said...

You'll get no argument from me on Pollard's talent, Chris, and you'll find he's well represented in the PPC. Alfredo Alcala's finishes did the heavy work here, but Pollard paces a good story and lays out an impressive battle between Iron Man and the Punisher.