Wednesday, November 13, 2013

IRON MAN #115

The book I'm using for this review series was hyped as the complete IRON MAN run by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, but technically it is the IRON MAN BY DAVID MICHELINIE, BOB LAYTON, AND JOHN ROMITA JR. OMNIBUS. As such, the very first issue in the book is Romita's first as penciler, an issue before the arrival of Michelinie and Layton.

"BETRAYAL!"
Writer: Bill Mantlo | Embellisher: Dan Green
Letterer: Diana Albers | Colorist: Don Warfield
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
And introducing the pulse-pounding penciling of John Romita Jr.

The Plot: The Avengers drop off Iron Man's unconscious enemy, the Unicorn, at Stark International in New York. After the Avengers depart, Iron Man reviews the Unicorn's history, then changes to his alter ego, Tony Stark, and departs for Manhattan to see his girlfriend, Whitney Frost. Along the way he is observed by a mysterious figure with plans to assassinate him.

When he reaches his penthouse, Tony is attacked by the Ani-Men, servants of Avengers' foe Count Nefaria. After the Ani-Men knock Tony out, Whitney reveals herself as Madame Masque, and states her plot to force Tony into curing Nefaria, her father, of an affliction she blames on the Avengers.

Continuity Notes: As a Marvel comic from the seventies, this issue is steeped in references to past stories and overflowing with footnotes: the Avengers battle with the Unicorn, as well as with a robot called Arsenal, is stated to have occurred in the past two issues of IRON MAN. The review of Unicorn's history references TALES OF SUSPENSE #56, IRON MAN #4, IRON MAN #57, and IRON MAN #69. Tony also notes that he hasn't seen Whitney since "yesterday", in IRON MAN #113.

Observed by a mysterious assassin...
Beyond that, references are made to the Unicorn serving somebody called "The Other", who, even drawn only in silhouette, is pretty obviously long-time Iron Man foe Titanium Man. The Ani-Men were originally Daredevil foes who later bummed around the Marvel Universe for a while. I personally know them best as Count Nefaria's henchmen in the very first mission of the "new" X-Men in UNCANNY X-MEN #94-95.

Lastly, Madame Masque is a foe of Iron Man dating back to the lates sixties, while the condition of her father, Count Nefaria -- he appears to be elderly and decrepit -- is most likely a reference to his epic battle with the Avengers in a story by Jim Shooter and John Byrne. I have shockingly never read those issues, even though I have a collected edition that includes them, though someday I plan to get around to it.

My Thoughts: I love "continuity porn" as much as the next guy, but this issue is insane. Just look at my notes above. The story is a massive info-dump which serves little purpose. But then, I've never been a fan of Bill Mantlo. I find his work over-written and boring, and his stories rarely hold my attention. I know he has his fans, but I'll never understand why. His Spider-Man material, which is how I'm best familiar with him, is pretty much dreck.

I feel like this exchange is meant to be funny, but... it's not. It's just not.
The art here does Mantlo's writing few favors, as well. I believe this was John Romita Jr.'s first mainstream comics work, and it's quite impressive for that, however I've rarely been a fan of Dan Green inking Romita. I'm not big on their first UNCANNY X-MEN collaboration in the mid-eighties, and this is even worse (I do like them together for their second UNCANNY run in the nineties, though). I'm looking forward to Bob Layton inking Romita for the rest of this run.

And speaking of which -- with Michelinie and Layton about to arrive next issue, I'm curious to see how they'll proceed with Mantlo's plots. I'm not certain how long he'd been writing IRON MAN at this point, but clearly he was juggling several plot threads. Obviously the Madame Masque storyline must be resolved, as it's this issue's cliffhanger -- but what about the mysterious assassin tailing Stark and the "Other" (coughTitanium Mancough)? Will they be addressed? I guess we'll soon find out...

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