Monday, December 9, 2013

IRON MAN #122

"JOURNEY!"
Writer: David Michelinie | Pencils: Carmine Infantino | Inks: Bob Layton
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Ben Sean | Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Based on the original story by Stan Lee, Larry Leiber and Don Heck

The Plot: Iron Man and Namor part ways with the U.S. Naval forces that came to their aid last issue. As Iron Man flies home, he reflects on his origin, back in Vietnam: he was there as Tony Stark to demonstrate and perfect new weaponry for the army when he was mortally injured and kidnapped by the warlord Wong Chu. Wong Chu ordered Stark to spend the final week of his life constructing weaponry with the aid of another prisoner, a physicist named Professor Yinsen.

But instead of following Wong Chu's orders, Stark and Yinsen constructed a suit of armor that would keep Stark alive and allow him to overthrow Wong Chu. Yinsen sacrificed himself to allow Stark's escape, and later that night Stark, now as Iron Man, defeated and killed Wong Chu.

Back in the present, Iron Man finishes his reminiscence as he passes over Montauk Point, New York. Justin Hammer is informed of Iron Man's whereabouts, and orders a third test of his ability to remotely control our hero's armor.

Continuity Notes: There is one footnote at the start of this issue, recapping the previous two installments, and a second at the end, reminding us of Hammer's previous tests on Iron Man's systems; however beyond that this entire story is one big continuity note, recapping Iron Man's origin.

Interestingly, Michelinie and Layton must have figured that in 1979, they were still close enough to the Vietnam War to keep Iron Man's origin tied to it. The story is explicitly set in Vietnam in the sixties, though no exact date is specified.

My Thoughts: Having never read Iron Man's original first appearance, I'm unsure how much of this story has been updated. But I have to say, as a recap of a Silver Age issue, there are some more... simplistic ideas at play here. Tony Stark's crowning invention, which will change the tide of the war in the U.S.'s favor, and which provide the power to his armor, are highly advanced transistors. Additionally, Wong Chu offers "ten thousand yen" to the man who can bring him Iron Man. And best of all, for fun, the tyrant wrestles villagers for sport, "with the survival of their entire village as the prize!"

I was also extremely amused to see that present day Stark's latest cutting edge upgrade to his armor is the addition of an FM radio antenna. I find it both amusing and kind of cool that, rather than give Iron Man some sci-fi holographic heads-up display or other fanciful item, they choose to keep the technology relatively grounded in the real world.

The artwork here is an interesting mix -- Carmine Infantino is a Silver Age artist, and I would assume he was assigned to this issue to give the flashbacks an appropriate flavor. But Layton's inking is just as modern as ever, and to me, the work looks more like Layton than Infantino. Mind you, it doesn't look bad at all -- but it seems to defeat the purpose of having an "old school" artist like Infantino penciling.

Overall, I'm glad to see that two of the definitive Iron Man creators chose to provide their spin on the classic origin story (though the fact that Michelinie is credited solely as "Writer" -- with only an inking credit for Layton -- leaves one wondering if Layton had any input on this tale). If nothing else, it gives a sense to their Omnibus collection that they had always intended to have this material packaged together someday. But now that this recap is out of the way, it's on to bigger and better things.

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