Monday, November 18, 2013

IRON MAN #116

"ANGUISH, ONCE REMOVED!"
Plot/Words: David Michelinie | Plot/Inks: Bob Layton | Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Letters: Annette Kawecki | Colors: George Rouossos | Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As the Ani-Men beat up on Tony Stark, the mysterious assassin from last issue reveals himself as Spymaster. Having previously planted a bomb in Tony's penthouse, Spymaster triggers the device's countdown. Meanwhile, throwing his secret identity to the wind, Tony dons his Iron Man armor to battle the Ani-Men. But their fight ends abruptly when the bomb detonates, apparently killing the villains.

Madame Masque and Count Nefaria escape in the confusion and travel to Stark International on Long Island, where Madame Masque attempts to restore her father's youth and vitality with Tony's equipment. But Iron Man catches up with them and, after making his way past a couple traps set by Madame Masque, confronts her. In the ensuing conflict between Iron Man, a rogue Mars exploration rover controlled by Masque, and Stark security, the machine containing Nefaria is destroyed, and the Count perishes.

Madame Masque reveals that, as Whitney, she still loves Tony -- but she now blames him for her father's demise. She departs, declaring that she must sort out her feelings.

Continuity Notes: Count Nefaria makes note of his battle with the Avengers in issue #166 of their own title. He also mentions that he was freed from captivity in Avengers Mansion during the fight between the Avengers and Arsenal in IRON MAN #114. Which -- really? Per Mantlo's previous issue, IRON MAN #113 and 114 both took place the night before #115 -- which ended with Nefaria, Masque, and the Ani-Men confronting Stark. So in just a few hours, the decrepit Nefaria crawled away from Avengers Mansion, got back in touch with the Ani-Men, found his daughter, and turned her against her lover? That's a busy night!

Nefaria's death should also be touched upon, as he is an Avengers foe dating all the way back to issue #13 of their own title. His demise here remains canon for about two decades, if I recall correctly. I don't believe he will turn up alive again until the Kurt Busiek/George Perez AVENGERS run, circa 1999 or so.

Other items worth noting: Spymaster (who has been kicking around since IRON MAN #33), states that he planted his bomb in IRON MAN #113. Also, Tony reminds the Ani-Men (and readers) that he used to be a munitions manufacturer (which apparently makes him a crack shot with a pistol). And lastly, as he makes his way through Stark International, Iron Man battles a Life Model Decoy of Tony Stark, which had been revealed last issue by Mantlo as a tool used by Tony to keep up the "Iron Man is Tony Stark's bodyguard" ruse.

There is no mention this issue of the Unicorn and the "Other". I'm curious to see if that plot will be dropped entirely, though with continuity-conscious Roger Stern editing, I have a feeling it will probably pop up again at some point.

My Thoughts: This is an acceptable start to the much-loved Michelinie/Layton run. It's clear from page one, though, that they're not paying much attention to Mantlo's plot threads. When the previous issue ended, Madame Masque seemed pretty sinister, and declared that Tony Stark was going to help cure her father. But suddenly as this issue opens, Nefaria is calling the shots, Masque his unwilling aide, and his "plan" is simply to kill Tony so he can't prevent Nefaria from getting better.
Last issue...
...This issue.
And by the way -- what's up with the fact that Tony just happens to have a machine capable of restoring Nefaria to normal? I suppose we could justify it by saying that, being a humane bunch of heroes, the Avengers commissioned Stark to build the device so as to keep Nefaria healthy, but still... it seems a little too Silver Age-y to me.

Artistically, though, this issue is light years ahead of the last one. At this point, there's no comparison between Bob Layton and Dan Green. Layton's inks are slick and bold, and with his embellishment, Romita's work suddenly looks amazing. I don't know what it was like for readers of the era, but I can easily imagine Bob Layton's arrival on the scene being as exciting and energizing as Terry Austin on X-MEN. The work just looks so much more modern than much of Marvel's output at the time. I can't wait to see these guys evolve together over the upcoming run (though I believe there are a number of fill-in pencilers along the way).

Anyway, Spymaster is front and center on the cover of the next issue, so I'm looking forward to that. I've always thought he was a really cool looking character.

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