Wednesday, December 11, 2013

IRON MAN #123

"CASINO FATALE!"
Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. Letters: Irv Watanabe | Colors: Bob Sharen
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As he approaches Stark International on Long Island, Iron Man's boot jets malfunction. He manages to save himself, and heads for his lab, where he spends hours examining and testing his armor, only to find nothing wrong with it. Afterward, Bethany drops in and Tony invites her to Atlantic City for a date.

As Tony and Bethany gamble after dinner, the casino is attacked by three of Iron Man's old foes, Whiplash, Melter, and Blizzard. Tony ditches Bethany and changes into Iron Man. He initially has the upper hand on the villains, but when they join forces they turn the tables. Against the others' wishes, Whiplash prepares to finish Iron Man off.

Continuity Notes: The issue's first footnote reminds readers of the previous armor malfunctions in issues 118 and 120. A second note pointing at #120 references the plane crash, noting that no authorities are aware Tony was aboard. One final footnote tells us that Iron Man last encountered Blizzard in issues 86 and 87.

When the story opens, Iron Man is musing over SHIELD's hostile takeover attempt, a plot point which had not been touched upon in either of the past two issues.

As Iron Man's boot jets malfunction, he smashes through the Marvel Comics offices, specifically the office of Jim Shooter. Several Marvel employees are present, but I only recognize Roger Stern, David Michelinie, and John Romita, Jr. I assume one of the others must be Bob Layton, though.


Bethany finally reveals this issue that she is "one half of Cabe and McPherson, Security Specialists," explaining the many skills she displayed during the Roxxon affair in recent issues. She tells Tony that her firm specializes in security for diplomats and royalty, which is why she was at the Carnelian ambassador's function in issue #117.

Tony and Bethany remind us that Rhodey was shot by Roxxon. Specifically, Bethany is shocked at Tony's callous attitude toward his employee's injury. In the same scene, Tony drinks an Amaretto & Scotch. Later, in Atlantic City, he and Bethany finish one bottle of champagne and Tony goes immediately for a second before Bethany suggests gambling instead.

When Iron Man's foes attack the casino, Tony is surprised to see them in action, as he "thought all of these jokers were either dead or ... on ice!" Additionally, the villains reference a mysterious "boss", who has specifically warned them that Iron Man is "off limits". Also, as Tony races to change into Iron Man, he bowls over an old woman with whom he had a similar encounter aboard the airplane in issue #120.


My Thoughts: Another outstanding title from Michelinie! I love this stuff. But if you think this one's great, wait till next ish!

This is one of my favorite types of Marvel comics -- a sub-plot heavy story, where the superhero action is secondary to moving the pieces around, reminding us of who is where and why they're doing what they're doing, and so on. All the major events of the past several issues are touched upon at least briefly, and it's quite a lot to keep track of. We're less than ten issues into the Michelinie/Layton run, and already they have several plates spinning, which will pay off big time in the next couple issues.

Now that we know the truth about Bethany, I have to say -- maybe it makes me something of a hypocrite, but I find her "jill-of-all-trades" persona very cool and interesting, and yet when Chris Claremont takes a similar tack with a female character, it feels hackneyed and played out. I suppose the reason is that when Claremont does it, it's par for the course -- all his female characters are "the best there is at what they do". But you don't expect the love interest in an IRON MAN comic to be quite so capable.

Anyway -- I would go so far as to day this is the strongest Michelinie/Layton issue so far. More than wanting to read a simple action-adventure story, I want to feel like things are happening, and plots are advancing, and this issue accomplishes that in spades. There's a lot going on, and every thread is compelling.

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