Wednesday, February 5, 2014

IRON MAN #139

"CHAPTER III: FAÇADES, RUSES & MASQUES"
Writer-Co-Plotters-Artist: David Michelinie & Bob Layton
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Ed Hannigan | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Madame Masque explains to Tony that she rejoined the Maggia following their split, and that she had intended to have Bethany beaten to keep her away from Tony. As Masque finishes her story, Rhodey bursts into the room on a forklift, pursued by Dreadnoughts. Tony dons his helmet and flies Bethany to safety, then returns to the Technical Press building to aid Rhodey. Despite Iron Man's orders to return to Stark International, Bethany heads back to the building as well, intent on settling Ling's score with Madame Masque.

While Iron Man battles the Dreadnoughts, Rhodey attempts to retrieve the energizer link, but runs afoul of Spymaster. Spymaster attempts escape in the Technical Press helicopter, but Rhodey pursues in a gyrocopter and his fancy flying causes Spymaster to crash. Iron Man defeats the Dreadnoughts while Bethany confronts Madame Masque. When Bethany tells Masque that Tony almost destroyed himself with alcohol after she left, Masque flies into a rage and attacks. But Bethany dodges Masque's gunfire and disarms her. After lecturing Masque on the true meaning of love, she lets her go and reunites with Iron Man and Rhodey outside the building.


Continuity Notes: Madame Masque recalls the death of her father, helpfully identified via an editorial note as occurring in issue #116. The Dreadnought's assault on the SHIELD facility in #129 is depicted as well, though no footnote is provided. Additionally, the bum who was keeping tabs on Tony in issue #134 is revealed to be in Madame Masque's employ, though again there is no footnote referring back to the issue.

Iron Man footnotes Spymaster's theft of the energy link in issue #137, and also recalls last using the freon tube in his left epaulet way back in TALES OF SUSPENSE #82.

Rhodey believes Spymaster has perished following their aerial showdown, but the villain's hand is immediately shown rising from the water where he crashed.


In the issue's climax, Bethany reveals to Masque that she knows Tony and Iron Man are one and the same, and that she figured it out weeks ago. She trusts Tony to let her in on his secret when he's ready.

My Thoughts: First off, I'm not sure what happened, but Layton's layouts have suddenly, out of nowhere, become much more exciting and fluid. Some of the poses are still occasionally awkward, but not nearly to the extent of previous issues. I can't help wondering if he had some "ghost" help for this one, or if he was just feeling inspired. But either way, his art provides some much-needed dynamism for the final installment of this trilogy.

Also, Layton has suddenly started spotting blacks on Spymaster's costume, making a world of difference. I always thought Spymaster was a really cool looking villain, but seeing him in his appearances in this Omnibus had me rethinking that assessment. But now I realize the Spymaster I liked had a yellow and black (with blue highlights) costume, not the unattractive yellow and blue outfit he'd been depicted in up to this point. The simple addition of some extra black shadowing has changed him from silly looking to intimidating.


And then there's the story. Madame Masque's reversion to villainy is presented in a reasonable manner by Michelinie and Layton: she believes that very time she cares for someone, she is hurt. She cared for both her father and Tony, and in the end one of them killed the other. She has decided simply to "stop caring" and return to the Maggia. It's maybe a little simplistic, but when you consider that Masque is clearly mentally unstable, it's not an unnatural progression.


Beyond that, she targeted Bethany because she believes that even though she's stopped caring for Tony, no one else should be allowed to love him either. As mentally unstable as she is, this also makes pretty good sense.

So I'm satisfied with the direction Michelinie and Layton have gone with Madame Masque. She's totally insane and, though she claims not to care, she seems to still have some twisted feelings for Tony. Combined with her knowledge of his dual identity, this actually makes her a pretty compelling villain. Who knows what she could do next?

Speaking of Iron Man's secret identity, it's nice to finally have confirmation that Bethany knows the truth. And I have to hand it to Michelinie and Layton -- they were pretty subtle about it. Aside from a few cryptic thoughts on Bethany's part, there was never a clear indication of whether she knew or not. In retrospect, it makes sense, as she occasionally urged Tony to duck out of a dangerous situation to summon Iron Man, but those scenes could also have been taken at face value. There were really no clues that screamed "HEY LOOK AT ME I'M A CLUE", which feels unusual for a comic of this vintage.

Lastly, I have to comment on the way the issue is structured. All the heroes have something to do: Iron Man fights the Dreadnoughts, Rhodey gets to show off his piloting skills as he chases Spymaster, and Bethany confronts Madame Masque. This is an altogether well-plotted issue, especially as the conclusion to a story that began with a relatively weak first chapter.


That said, I still don't believe we know why Madame Masque wanted Stark's energy link, or why she sent the Dreadnoughts to that SHIELD facility. I'm curious to see if Michelinie and Layton revisit her plot. Spymaster could still have the energy link with him, so perhaps we haven't seen the last of it.

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