Wednesday, December 25, 2013

IRON MAN #127

"...A MAN'S HOME IS HIS BATTLEFIELD!"
Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: Jim Novak | Colors: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Iron Man fights off Justin Hammer's super-powered henchmen and eventually gains the upper hand when Rhodey arrives with several Monaco police helicopters. Hammer orders a retreat, and his floating complex transforms into a hovercraft. But Iron Man destroys the vehicle before it can get away. Hammer disappears in the confusion, but his forces are arrested.

With Phillip Barnett -- the man responsible for the device that had remote-controlled Iron Man's armor -- in custody, Iron Man's name is cleared and his impounded armor returned to him. However public opinion has turned against our hero in the wake of the Carnelian ambassador's assassination, driving Tony to his worst drinking binge yet, which culminates with the retirement of long-time Avengers' butler, Edwin Jarvis.


Continuity Notes: Astoundingly, there are no editorial notes in this issue, however a number of recent events are mentioned, including the murder of the Carnelian ambassador and Tony's recent drinking problems.

During the battle, Hammer reveals to Iron Man that he is the money behind several technologically-equipped villains, providing them with gear and sanctuary in exchange for fifty percent of their profits. David Michelinie has said that Hammer was create in part for just this reason -- to explain how these villains keep coming back when their equipment is repeatedly destroyed and/or impounded.

When Rhodey arrives, he and Iron Man refer to Tony Stark as a completely different person. I assume this to be confirmation that Rhodey is unaware of Tony's dual identity at this point, but there's a small chance they could be putting on a show for the villains and police in the area.

New York mayor Ed Koch appears again, retiring Iron Man's impounded armor and assuring him that no charges will be pressed for using his spare suit. And again I must wonder why the New York City authorities seem to be taking point in matters pertaining to this international incident. The same scene also features a second appearance by Stark's P.R. director, Mr. Pithins.

Bethany tries to mend fences with Tony by arranging a meeting, but Tony is blitzed at the moment and writes the address down wrong. The next day they each arrive at a different location, leading them each to conclude that they were stood up by the other. Bethany again thinks about a man named Alex, who, she reveals, she rejected when he needed her.

The issue also features Tony's drunken, verbal abuse of Jarvis, the straw which breaks the camel's back and results in the loyal butler quitting his post. Legend has it that Jarvis's resignation letter, seen on the final page, was intended to show as gibberish on-panel, but was replaced by someone in the production department with an actual resignation letter from a long-time Marvel employee. Per Comic Book Legends Revealed, the employee in question was Dave Cockrum. The Omnibus collection features the letter blurred out so as to make it illegible.

The letter's text is blurred in the Omnibus,
but legible on Marvel's Digital Unlimited service.
My Thoughts: The first half of this issue is devoted entirely to action, as Iron Man finally pays back Justin Hammer for his recent troubles. It's an extended fight scene, featuring our hero using all his various powers, including reverse magnetism and holographic projectors, to take out an army of super-villains. It's a fun sequence, but there really isn't much to say about it -- aside from picking one little nit, that is. When Hammer orders a retreat, Iron Man notes that the hovercraft-estate is making a break for international waters. Which of course begs the question of why Justin Hammer and his army of wanted super-villains weren't anchored in international waters to begin with. But this is really a minor complaint, and it could simply be explained away by overconfidence on Hammer's part.

The meat of the issue is the second half, where Tony's alcoholism finally reaches critical mass. It is Iron Man's disgrace, followed by his mistaken belief that Bethany has stood him up, which finally drives Tony to rock bottom, an overnight blackout bender which results in Jarvis's resignation.

Using Jarvis to create the moment where Tony realizes he has a problem is a peculiar choice. On one hand it works, since the butler has been a loyal and beloved part of the Avengers' cast for many years at this point. But at the same time, this is the first we've even seen of Jarvis in this run of issues. There was no previous indication that he had a problem with Tony, because they never interacted prior to one scene in this very issue. I can't help thinking Rhodey's resignation would have made more sense and resonated better.

But in any case, the alcoholism storyline has reached its apex, and the next issue will see it wrapped up (possibly a bit too tidily, but we'll cover that when we get there).

A few issues back, I commented that Iron Man's recent adventures daring back to #216 only covered about six days in his life. Since that point, his preparation for the trip to Monaco took explicitly one day, and the entire affair in Monaco seems to occur over perhaps one day more. Travel time would add roughly one more day to the total.

Following the battle scene in this issue, "several days" pass, and then two more days are explicitly shown to occur. If we take "several days" plus two to come out to about a week, then that means all the action in the past year's worth of IRON MAN issues encompasses just a little over two weeks. This is supported by Michelinie's narration on the final page, in which we're told Tony's alcoholism has been building for "the past few weeks."

Again, I'm not sure why I find this this so exciting -- but the idea that a year's worth of comics covers just a couple weeks for the character is a concept that fascinates me. It's not just the serialization aspect I love, but also the fact that narration is telling readers more or less exactly how far apart these adventures are spaced, rather than being vague about it. I'll try to keep up on this every few posts. Maybe by this review series' end, we'll have a rough idea of just how much of Tony Stark's life is chronicled by Michelinie and Layton. Or maybe next issue time will stop being referenced and we'll never know. Either way, it should be... interesting?

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