Monday, February 3, 2014

IRON MAN #138

"CHAPTER II: FAÇADES and RUSES"
Writer-Co-Plotters-Penciler: David Michelinie & Bob Layton
Finisher: Tom Palmer | Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Ed Hannigan
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Tony and Rhodey arrive at the hospital where Ling is still in critical, but stable condition. Tony attempts to send Bethany back to Stark International while he investigates Ling's beating, but Bethany and Rhodey go against orders and accompany Tony. Together they break into the penthouse of Harmon Taylor, the man Ling had been guarding, to find Taylor dead and replaces by Spymaster. With surprise on his side, Spymaster knocks our heroes out with a gas grenade and absconds with Bethany and Tony's briefcase.

When they come to, Tony and Rhodey search for clues. Tony finds a check written to Taylor from a company called Technical Press, which Tony knows to be a front for the Maggia crime family. Tony and Rhodey head to Technical Press's headquarters and infiltrate it, and no sooner are they separated than Tony finds the Director's office and his briefcase. He has just finished donning his armor when the Director, revealed as Madame Masque, arrives with two Dreadnoughts and declares her intention to kill him.

Continuity Notes: Tony realizes Technical Press is a Maggia front when he sees that the company is a division of Williams Innovations, the company which once belonged to Avenger Wonder Man, a.k.a. Simon Williams, but which, according to an editorial note, was taken over by the Maggia in MARVEL PREMIERE #55.

Additionally, two footnotes point to the previous issue, referencing the Stark International employee appreciation party and the theft of the energizer link, now confirmed to be the work of Spymaster, impersonating Ted Calloway. But unlike Calloway, who Spymaster merely knocked out and tied up, his target this issue, Harmon Taylor, was killed.

In a couple references very much of their time, Steve Martin writes a ticket to Tony for parking his helicopter outside the hospital, and then later, when he and Rhodey burst into a roomful of Maggia goons, Tony sheepishly announces himself as the "Land Shark."

My Thoughts: I've gotta say, Michelinie and Layton were not shy about keeping Tony Stark out of his armor during their run! This issue ties with the Justin Hammer finale for the least Iron Man yet, with Tony donning the armor -- not even including the helmet -- only for the final page. And yet again, I must add that while I have no problem with, and actually enjoy this sort of thing once in a while as an adult, I can't imagine many kids were thrilled to pick up an IRON MAN comic that featured no Iron Man action to speak of.

Also -- I'm usually pretty good at suspending my disbelief, but the fact that Tony and Rhodey are running around, infiltrating Maggia HQ, and Rhodey doesn't once stop to ask why they aren't using Iron Man, is just a bit hard to swallow, considering that Tony's solution to pretty much every single problem he encounters in this run is to "summon" Iron Man.


And by the way -- I can't believe were this far into Rhodey's existence and he doesn't know his boss's dual identity yet! I have no idea when he learns it, but I'm beginning to wonder if he even finds out in a Michelinie/Layton issue, or if Denny O'Neil did the reveal during his run, given that that's when Rhodey first dons the armor.

Otherwise, it's nice to see Madame Masque revisited. We last saw her at the conclusion to issue #116, the second Michelinie/Layton story -- published two years prior to this issue -- and making her the longest running loose end in the run since The Other/Titanium Man was tied up a few issues back.

Issue #129 saw one of Masque's Dreadnoughts searching for... something... at a remote SHIELD facility, and now this story arc has her hiring Spymaster to steal an "energizer link" from Stark. Clearly she has some technological plot in the works. I'm curious if it will be resolved next issue.

Masque's demeanor seems to have changed a bit, too. I know nothing about her as Tony's girlfriend, Whitney Frost, but I do know that when last we saw her she still cared for Tony even though he had caused her father's death. But now she has outright declared her intention to kill Tony. Hopefully this change of heart will be explained next issue as well.

Lastly -- Bob Layton's uninspired layouts are given a much-welcome polishing this issue by the great Tom Palmer. I swear, Palmer can make anyone look outstanding. I would never have thought him a good pairing with Layton, but their collaboration here is quite impressive.

1 comment:

  1. "Candygram for Mr. Mongo" is a 1970s reference as well. It's what Cleavon Little says to approach the brutish Mongo (Alex Karras) in the parody Western "Blazing Saddles", before knocking him out.

    And, now that I think about it, it's what the Land Shark tries to use as an entrance line in the classic SNL "Land Shark" sketch. So a reference to a reference, as it were.

    —Dan

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