Monday, February 10, 2014

IRON MAN #140

"THE USE OF DEADLY FORCE!"
Writer-Co-Plotters-Artist: David Michelinie & Bob Layton
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorists: Ben Sean & Bob Sharen | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Tony has taken Bethany, Rhodey, Ling, and Dr. Ehrmann down to his private island in the Bahamas to facilitate Ling's recovery from her recent beating. As the group relaxes and frolics, nearby a cruise ship is hijacked by an armored villain his lackies, the latest in a string of similar takeovers.

The next day, while Tony and Rhodey go SCUBA diving, Tony's yacht is taken by those same hijackers, their leader revealed as the Force. Bethany manages to throw Tony's briefcase into the sea, but Force's men hurl a pair of concussion grenades along with it. Rhodey is knocked out shielding Tony from the grenades, allowing Tony to change into Iron Man unobserved.

Iron Man leaves Rhodey on a life raft, then goes after his yacht. But his flight is intercepted by the Force's men, aboard flying jet-skis. Iron Man defeats the goons, but the yacht has vanished.

Back in the U.S.A., the citizens of a small town called Allentown, Iowa all drop dead at the same time.
Continuity Notes: Two footnotes this issue, one of which reminds us of Ling's beating in #137, and the other informing us that Force's only prior appearance was in SUB-MARINER #60 (Namor had a series that ran at least sixty issues??).

Tony's yacht is named the Throatwarbler Mangrove, which is a reference to a Monty Python sketch from 1970. Funny, I never took Tony for a Python fan. The issue also reveals that Tony owns an island with a villa in the Bahamas.

Dr. Ehrmann is given a first name, John. He has taken time away from his position as the director of Stark's health services department to personally oversee Ling's recovery.
Rhodey makes time with a maid at Tony's villa, prompting Tony to believe his playboy attitudes have rubbed off on his friend.

Bethany spends some time wondering whether she should tell Tony she knows he's Iron Man, or if he would resent her for knowing.
Force notes that he is working for a mysterious employer, who wants Tony's yacht because it's "perfect" for some undisclosed purpose.

As she struggles with Force's minions, Bethany recaps how she became a security specialist: when her husband died, she swore to never be dependent on anyone again, so she "studied with the best cops and street fighters on the East Coast". Incidentally, she's wearing a bikini for the entire fight (and almost the entire issue).

My Thoughts: This is the first issue of the Michelinie/Layton run to benefit from an increased page count. Marvel's comics were all seventeen pages of story for years, but around this time, the number of ads dropped and the stories were lengthened. This issue runs twenty-two story pages, and Michelinie and Layton don't miss a beat in utilizing the extra space. We have time devoted to the R&R of Tony and his friends, the reveal of Force, and a spectacular aerial battle between Iron Man and Force's men. Previously, an issue might have contained two of those things at most.

Layton's layouts continue to impress. With more pages to work with, he's able to use some larger than normal panels, such a half-page splash revealing Force, and some big, roomy panels for the aerial battle, as well. There are, as noted last issue, some awkward shots, but when he's drawing Bethany in a bikini in every other panel, they can be easily overlooked.

I'm unfamiliar with Force, other than that he shows up briefly in the "Armor Wars" storyline some years after this story. Here he seems like a generic armored bad guy. I'm not even sure yet what his gimmick is supposed to be. I'm more interested in his mysterious master, and curious if it's someone we've seen before. He seems like the type who might work for Justin Hammer, but I can't see any reason why Hammer would want Tony's yacht.
Lastly, the issue features an exciting sequence where Tony changes into Iron Man underwater. The words and pictures combine to do a much better job here than they did when Tony was hurled from the Helicarrier in issue #118. I actually got a sense of urgency from Tony this time, so kudos to Michelinje and Layton for improving on their previous less-than-suspenseful scene.

2 comments:

  1. The original "Prince Namor, the Savage Sub-Mariner" series (1968-1975), usually called simply "Sub-Mariner" was the continuation of Subby's adventures in Tales to Astonish, just as Iron Man continued Tony's stories from Tales of Suspense. The two characters even shared a one-issue split book (Iron Man & Sub-Mariner) the month that their co-stars kicked them out of the old split books (which then became Captain America #100 and Hulk #102) before Tony and Fishface debuted with #1s of their own the next month.

    Namor's original series ran 72 issues; his 1980's/1990's series (entitled "Namor" to distinguish it from the older "Sub-Mariner" series) ran 62 issues. So he's hit the five-year mark not once, but twice.

    —Dan

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    1. Huh, I forgot that Namor's nineties series ran that long. Probably because in my head, it just sort of ends when John Byrne leaves (even before that really, when Byrne starts scripting for Jae Lee, who I've never been fond of).

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