Monday, December 30, 2013

IRON MAN #128

"DEMON IN A BOTTLE"
Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Bob Sharen
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Following a well-meaning drunken escapade in which, as Iron Man, he makes a bad situation worse for the local authorities, Tony Stark finally acknowledges his drinking problem. With the help of Bethany, Tony goes through several days of detoxification. Eventually feeling himself again, Tony apologizes to Jarvis, but learns in the process that the butler has used his two shares of Stark International stock as collateral for a loan, which now puts the majority share of the company up for grabs.

Iron Man intimidates Jarvis's sleazy loan shark in an attempt to get the stock back, but learns that SHIELD has already acquired them. His company now lost to him, Tony nearly turns to the bottle once more, but ultimately forsakes it, choosing to remain sober and face this new challenge head-on.

Continuity Notes: No editorial notes in this issue, for the second month in a row. However, some tidbits are revealed:

Bethany at last explains who Alex was -- her husband, a German diplomat. She tells Tony that she watched him pop pills until the day he died in a car accident while driving under the influence.


Jarvis is revealed to be the holder of those two stock shares Tony was worried about back in issue #124. The reason for his loan is an operation his mother needs. I know Jarvis's mother has featured in a handful of his sub-plots over the decades, but I'm uncertain if she's ever appeared on-page.


Michelinie is still writing Iron Man's adventures as if they're occurring in real time, with Tony noting that Jarvis has been employed by the Avengers for "almost 20 years." This seems a dubious timeline, as, if that were true, Tony would likely be in his fifties by this issue.

My Thoughts: As noted above, this issue marks the end of the "Demon in a Bottle" storyline. Tony's alcoholism is wrapped up in a tidy little package, with a one-page montage of Bethany helping him through it, followed by a brief temptation to close out the issue.

On the one hand, this seems like far too easy an ending to the struggle, but at the same time, the fact that any mainstream superhero comic was even willing to tackle alcoholism in 1979 is impressive. So on that merit, I give the simplicity of the finale a pass.

It should be noted that Denny O'Neil, the writer who succeeded Michelinie and Layton with issue #158 (and a recovering alcoholic himself), did indeed feel that the story had too neat of an ending, so he revisited it during his lengthy run with a long-term saga that saw Tony truly hit rock-bottom, losing his company, his fortune, and even his identity as Iron Man, becoming a destitute vagrant. The first half or so of the story was recently reprinted in the IRON MAN: THE ENEMY WITHIN trade paperback, the first entry in Marvel's new "Epic Collection" line.


So now, with "Demon in a Bottle" done, we're moving back into a run of issues I've never read. I have no idea how the "SHIELD controls Stark International" storyline will play out, but I look forward to learning.

Incidentally, we're just about a third of the way through the Michelinie/Layton run at this point. Obviously they had no way of knowing exactly how long they'd be on the title when their tenure began, but it will be interesting to see if this structure perhaps coincidentally holds. Meaning, will issue #146 culminate another long-running plot-line? I'm thinking not, but I'll try to remember to watch for that.

1 comment:

  1. I don't believe Rhodey finds out that Tony is I.M. until the Denny O'Neil "Iron Drunk" extended storyline. And yes, as ragged as that one was, this was tied up wayyyy too neatly, IMO.

    —Dan

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