Monday, December 23, 2013

IRON MAN #126

"THE HAMMER STRIKES!"
Writer: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Conceptual Assist: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Rhodey comes around on the Monaco beach and is arrested for disturbing the peace. Meanwhile, Tony Stark is brought before Justin Hammer. Hammer gives Tony a tour of his lab complex, including a look at the computer which has taken control of Iron Man's systems so many times in recent days. During the tour, Tony attempts to escape, only to find that he is aboard a massive floating estate with water on all sides.

Later, Tony is locked up but soon escapes his cell after electrocuting a guard. While sneaking around Hammer's estate, he sees Blizzard, Melter, and Whiplash arrive on the island and get berated by Hammer. As Hammer lectures the villains, Tony sneaks into the lab, dispatches the guards, and blows up the Iron Man controlling machine, then turns his attention to the briefcase housing his spare armor, which Hammer's men had been analyzing.

In response to the explosion, Hammer sounds the alarm, and a small army of supervillains come to his aid from nearby barracks. They burst into the lab to find Iron Man waiting for them.


Continuity Notes: The first few pages of the story recap the last two issues before leading into a flashback set between last issue's issue's cliffhanger and this issue's opening. It seems Rhodey and Tony had held their own against Hammer's "mother-lovin' army" until Rhodey was KO'd from behind. Tony soon followed.

There is a single editorial note in this issue, reminding readers yet again of the armor malfunctions in issues 118, 120, and 123.

Hammer explains to Tony that he has been a competitor of Stark International for years, through various dummy corporations. Indeed, his entire scheme to assassinate the Carnelian ambassador was simply a ploy to convince the Carnelians to award a lucrative contract to him rather than Stark.


It's stated in the extended opening flashback that Scott Lang's dual identity as Ant-Man is unknown even to Tony Stark. This was not made evident last issue, so it's handy information to have clarified.

In a brief scene set at the offices of Cabe & McPherson, Security Specialists, we meet Bethany's partner, Ling McPherson, and the two discuss Bethany's relationship with Tony, comparing it ominously to another relationship she had previously, with a man named Alex.

Tony attempts to have a drink while in his luxuriously appointed cell, only to find the liquor cabinet empty. The guard tells him Hammer is aware of his recent drinking problem thanks to a network of informants, and would rather have him sober.

The villains who come to Hammer's aid in the issue's climax include Spymaster, Constrictor, Beetle, Porcupine, Water Wizard, and other second and third-tier characters who I don't recognize.

My Thoughts: "Conceptual Assist"? Was Layton too busy to co-plot this month, or did Michelinie just give him a different title for some reason? Note that Michelinie is credited solely as writer as well, not co-plotter. And things go straight back to normal next issue. Weird.

Anyway, this is another issue of the adventures of Tony Stark. Except for a single splash panel on the very last page, Iron Man appears only briefly in flashback at the issue's start. I now have to believe Shane Black and Marvel were influenced by this story when they created IRON MAN 3. The issue even features Tony running around the villain's palatial estate, armed only with his wits and some gadgets, exactly like the raid on the Mandarin's complex in the film!


However, I need to reiterate my thoughts from the previous issue -- as much as I've enjoyed this story as an adult, as a couple chapters in a very large book, I cannot imagine young me sticking with this title after two straight Iron Man free issues. I'm curious if sales dropped at all for this story, or for the issues that immediately followed (meaning, did any kids drop the title due to the lack of Shellhead?)

I've been letting it slide recently, but at this point I just have to comment on the awful accents Michelinie gives his foreign characters. It was kind of funny to see the Carnelian ambassador speaking like Balki Bartokomous a few issues ago, since Carnelia is a made-up nation. But the French accents present last issue and here are comically bad and borderline offensive. I don't really mind phonetic accents, but this is a bit much. Let's just stick to using "Z's" instead of "TH's" and leave it at that, why don't we?

Lastly: the cover to this issue has to be one of the most iconic images of Iron Man ever committed to paper. For decades, Marvel has used it on T-shirts, drinking glasses, and much more -- including the spine image of this very omnibus. There was even a garage model kit based on the art, which Randy Bowen liked so much that he bought the mold and produced a statue using it!


It's easy to see why the image is so enduring, too: the dynamic pose courtesy of Romita, and the slick inking by Layton combine to produce a spectacular "glamour shot" of Iron Man. Layton always did a great job on Shellhead's texture, making him shiny and glinting as often as possible, and this is perhaps his best such work. I know it's the first picture I think of when someone says "Iron Man", and I'm sure such is the case for many fans.

2 comments:

  1. "Ling McPherson" is an obscure STAR TREK reference/joke. In the episode "Space Seed", which is the first appearance of Khan, Khan is holding all the officers (except Kirk) captive in the briefing room, while his men have control of the ship. When Kirk escapes his (separate) captivity, he frees Spock (who has by then been taken away for execution) and they flood all the other decks with gas from the intruder-control system to subdue Khan's men. Shortly, Khan starts to realize that nobody is responding to his commands on the intercom, and he starts calling for his men to respond, going "Ling! McPherson! Anyone!", before the gas goes in the briefing room and he has to flee to his final showdown with Kirk.

    This is the sort of obscure trivia Michelinie loved; see also the name of Tony's yacht, which is discussed on a letters page.

    —Dan

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    1. Huh. I should've known that as a STAR TREK fan, though I've only seen "Space Seed" a couple of times.

      One thing I miss when reading all these issues in collected editions is seeing the letters pages. Most of the Silver Age Omnibuses have them, as does the SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN book, but that's about it. It would've been cool if Marvel could have fit them into the new Epic Collections.

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