Monday, January 6, 2014

IRON MAN #130

"THE DIGITAL DEVIL!"
Writer-Co-Plotters-Artist: David Michelinie & Bob Layton
Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Ben Sean | Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Tony Stark travels to his company's Hong Kong office to investigate some unusual but mundane computer glitches, but upon his arrival, he learns that four of his own scientists were just murdered by "something". As he investigates, Tony witnesses two more men killed by a glowing green dragon. After fighting the dragon off as Iron Man, Tony recruits the aid of an employee named Soo Lin Chu, whose grandfather is a Chinese occultist.

Soo Lin's grandfather explains that the monster is an ancient Chinese spirit, drawn to this plane by Soo Lin's late fiancé, who was also a Stark employee, but who hated the company. He was the first man killed by the creature. With the aid of Soo Lin and her grandfather, Iron Man thwarts the demon's attempt to cross over fully into our world.

Continuity Notes: This story is the follow-up to Mrs. Arbogast's comment last issue that something was amiss at Stark's Hong Kong branch. Briefly at the issue's start, Tony wishes Bethany were present, which seems to indicate they're officially involved; however that doesn't stop our hero from flirting with Soo Yin, even though her fiancé's corpse is still warm.

Throughout the issue, Hong Kong is depicted as a mystical land of rickshaws and peasants. I'm pretty sure that was no longer the case by 1980. Maybe in parts of the island, but probably not in the city proper. I could be mistaken, though.

My Thoughts: Ugh. I seriously don't even want to write about this issue. It was awful. But when you take enough swings, you're bound to strike out eventually. And the Michelinie/Layton team has had a pretty good average up to this point, so you can't fault them too much for the occasional stinker.

But, that aside, this story is just terrible. It's filled with stereotypes and the "mystery" of the ancient Chinese spirit is incapable of holding interest. It starts out strong, with the massacre at Stark's complex and the creepy dragon, but by the end it's an incomprehensible mess. Soo Yin's fiancé hated the company he worked for, so he learned Chinese magic to summon a demon which would destroy Stark's building. But when his vocal cords were crippled, he programmed the necessary incantation into a computer. That last bit does nothing for the story. It's just thrown in for the heck of it.

On the artistic front, this is Layton's first turn as penciler on the series, and it's not bad. The storytelling is perhaps not as fluid as Romita's, but it gets the job done -- and the inks are as crisp and slick as ever. I got the feeling, however, that Layton was trying to cram a lot of story into these seventeen pages, because he uses tiny panels throughout, making for a somewhat claustrophobic reading experience.

A ten-panel page!
And that's all I got. This story is best left forgotten. It may be by the series' regular creative team, but it reads like a sub-par fill-in issue.

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