Wednesday, February 12, 2014

IRON MAN #141

"THE CARIBBEAN CONNECTION"
Plot/Writer: David Michelinie | Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letterer: John Costanza
Colorists: Nel Yomtov & Ed Hannigan | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Iron Man searches the sea, but finds no sign of his stolen yacht. He returns to the raft holding Rhodey and changes back to Tony Stark just in time to be picked up by the authorities. Meanwhile, Bethany is taken before Justin Hammer, the mastermind behind the missing yacht. Hammer explains that he has been contracted by an American businessman to deliver a great deal of opium to the U.S., and he intends to use the various yachts hijacked by Force for that purpose. Before having Bethany locked up, Hammer reveals to her that they are aboard his new headquarters, a massive, shark shaped submarine.

Elsewhere, Tony has reconfigured Iron Man's sensors to detect heat signatures beneath the ocean's surface. He suits up and heads out, soon locating Hammer's sub. Force intercepts Iron Man, leading to an undersea duel which sees the armored Avenger using all his energy reserves to defeat his foe. Iron Man storms aboard the submarine and uses its power source to recharge his armor, then seeks out Hammer. The power fluctuations caused by our hero allow Bethany and captured passengers from various other stolen boats to escape their cells.

Iron Man confronts Hammer, but the villain triggers the submarine's self destruct system. Iron Man races to save Bethany rather than capture his enemy, allowing Hammer to escape. Our hero finds no sign of Bethany before the sub detonates, but when he returns to the surface, he finds her, along with the other hostages, aboard the captured yachts, having commandeered them during the sub's destruction.

Back at Tony's villa, our heroes enjoy some R&R while they recover. Meanwhile, in the United States, Nick Fury and SHIELD investigate Allentown, Iowa, where the town's two hundred residents are confirmed deceased.

Continuity Notes: The issue's first footnote states that Rhodey was knocked out by a concussion grenade last issue. A second note reminds readers that Ling MacPherson was beaten by the Maggia in issue #137.

Aboard Hammer's sub, Bethany mentions Hammer's role in killing the Carnelian ambassador and driving Tony to alcoholism, with a footnote pointing to issues 124 - 127. Hammer notes that Iron Man destroyed his last headquarters in #127. Hammer also explains that he recruited Force following the villain's defeat at Namor's hands in SUB-MARINER #68.
A footnote in the brief Allentown scene tells us that at this point in time, S.H.I.E.L.D. stood for Supreme Headquarters of International Espionage/Law Enforcement Division, which really doesn't make any sense. I believe it was usually parsed as Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage/Law-Enforcement Division.

My Thoughts: This has to be one of the most Bondian issues yet from Michelinie and Layton. Set entirely in the Caribbean, which could draw comparisons to DR. NO or THUNDERBALL, and featuring a villain with a massive underwater base a la THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, the whole thing feels like an intentional tribute to the Connery and Moore Bond films. Bethany even spends the entire issue in a bikini, the pampered prisoner of Justin Hammer, not unlike Tiffany Case in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER or Mary Goodnight in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. I could keep going and say that Hammer's plan to distribute opium to the U.S. might even remind one of Dr. Kanaga's heroin trade in LIVE AND LET DIE, but I should probably quit before I start grasping.
(And by the way -- Hammer says that he was contracted by "an American businessman -- who shall remain nameless" to deliver the opium to the U.S. Is this an enormously veiled reference to the Kingpin? He was making his return in Frank Miller's DAREDEVIL around this time, and he has long been known as a "humble importer of spices". The reference seems way too subtle for a Marvel comic from 1981, but I can't help feeling that's what Michelinie is going for, here.)

The return of Hammer is a welcome development. The guy is a great foil for Iron Man, ever cool and unwavering under pressure, with seemingly infinite resources (seriously, this is the second massive headquarters he's lost, and he doesn't seem the least bit perturbed). His schemes tend to be more about intrigue than those of the typical Iron Man foe, and his personality seems to bring out the best in David Michelinie's scripting (I love how he refers to Iron Man as "the Iron gentleman").
It's great to have John Romita, Jr. back as well. As I said last time, I thought here were some decent fill-ins while he was gone, and Bob Layton certainly grew as a penciler in that short period, but Romita's Iron Man just looks so graceful in everything he does -- something none of the artists during his sabbatical managed to convey. And as always, Layton's inks over Romita's pencils are spectacular. The band is back together for another fifteen issues or so, and I look forward to seeing what they have in store.

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