Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Script/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Spymaster assassinates Tony Stark's Life Model Decoy and draws Iron Man away from Stark International. After realizing he's been had, Iron Man flashes back to the sequence of events which brought him to this point: In order to draw his would-be assassin out of hiding following last issue's bombing, Tony attended a high profile reception for the Carnelian ambassador, then returned to Stark International for the night.

Following the flashback, Iron Man returns to S.I. to confront Spymaster. After a chase across the company grounds, Iron Man catches and defeats the mercenary, and discovers that he was attempting to steal a tape containing a list of Stark's shareholders. Elsewhere, the men who hired Spymaster reflect upon his failure, as they walk to a NATO/SHIELD meeting presided over by their superior... Nick Fury!

Continuity Notes: Editorial notes in this issue direct readers to issue #116 for Spymaster's failed assassination attempt on Stark's life, and to issues 33 and 34 for Spymaster's first appearance.

Additionally: Tony Stark is evicted from his penthouse following the battle with the Ani-Men and the bombing. Narration notes that the Life Model Decoy of Stark has been in service for years (I'm unfamiliar with prior Iron Man adventures, so I don't know how heavily it figured into them). Also, the Carnelian ambassador will figure into future Michelinie/Layton stories.
As a possible foreshadowing of the "Demon in a Bottle" storyline, when he arrives at the reception and is immediately badgered by a pushy senator about a defense contract, Tony grabs a glass of champagne, thinking that it's the only thing that can get him through the night.

Most notably, during his flashback sequence, Tony recalls meeting Bethany Cabe the night before at a political soirée. Bethany will eventually become Tony's chief love interest during this run.
(Ever the suave playboy, Tony's line when meeting Bethany -- as he saves her from a group of would-be suitors -- is: "I don't think the lady needs a light, friend -- she seems to shine quite nicely on her own!")

My Thoughts: First and foremost, how did this sequence get through editorial and the Comics Code? During the climactic battle, Spymaster quotes the "Fernwood Flasher" (apparently a seventies television character) as he produces a phallic-looking missile-grenade right at crotch level. And this prompts one of his mysterious employers to declare that he's getting "a bit... cocky". This cannot be unintentional!

Anyway -- the issue opens spectacularly, with a splash page that had to be shocking for the audience of the time, as "Tony Stark" suffers a graphically depicted shot to the head from Spymaster's rifle while relaxing in his office.

Beyond that, this is a serviceable, if not overly exciting, issue. Romita and Layton pull the action off superbly, and Michelinie's "conversational seventies Marvel narration" is fun to read. With the exception of the few sub-plot pages, it's really nothing more than a protracted fight sequence.

The sub-plots are the main meat of the story, though, with Stark's eviction setting a potential change in scenery, and the introduction of Bethany giving us our first look at the new love interest -- barely an issue after writing out the previous one. Most importantly, the rogue SHIELD agents have set up a story I'm pretty certain was mostly unheard of at the time (but which has sadly become played out in the following decades): SHIELD as the antagonist, rather than the ally, of a Marvel hero. I look forward to seeing this storyline play out.

Incidentally, for those who care, this issue is cover-dated the month I was born (which means it was on sale a few months earlier, but still...).


  1. The "Fernwood Flasher" was from the satirical late-night soap opera "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman", which was set in fictional Fernwood. (A spinoff of the show, a parody talk show called "Fernwood 2nite", with Martin Mull and Fred Willard, later replaced it.)

    The LMD first helped Tony pull off a fake-out in Iron Man #11, I believe, and in #17-18 it tried to replace Tony and take over his life. I'm not sure if this LMD is that same one (which "died" at the end of #18) or a better-programmed replacement Tony later commissioned.

    1. Thanks for the history lesson, and more importantly, for reading and commenting! (I assume you're Dan, who signed the remaining comments that were posted last night.) I'll be going through to respond to your notes when I have some time later.