Monday, February 17, 2014

IRON MAN #142

"SKY DIE!"
Plot/Writer: David Michelinie | Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Bob Sharen
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Tony, Bethany, and Ling return to Stark International to find a horde of Stark employees awaiting Tony's attention for various matters. Among these issues is the fact that a SHIELD unit, led by Nick Fury, has moved into Stark's analytical lab complex to investigate the mystery of Allentown. After making a date with Bethany for later that night, Tony speaks with Fury and learns the fate of Allentown. SHIELD has deduced that the town's citizens were killed by a bombardment of microwave radiation from outer space.

Leaving Fury and his men to their investigation, Tony returns to his office, where he is greeted by Senator Mountebank, who tries to persuade Tony to cover up the Allentown situation. Tony kicks Mountebank out and returns to work. Meanwhile, Stark's director of communications, Mike Trudeau, receives a call from a mysterious employer, ordering him to shut down SHIELD's investigation. Trudeau steals the recently rebuilt Jupiter Landing Vehicle and attacks the lab complex. Iron Man defeats the JLV and has Trudeau taken into custody.

Realizing more is going on than he'd initially realized, Iron Man dons his prototype outer space armor and flies to Allentown. Tracing the microwave radiation to its source, he flies into space and finds an enormous Roxxon space station orbiting the Earth.

Continuity Notes: Narration states that Tony and friends were in the Bahamas for one week. Several of Stark's recurring employees, including Vic Martinelli, Mr. Pithins, and Mrs. Arbogast, appear in the opening scene. Scott Lang shows up later as well, when Trudeau steals the JLV. And Trudeau himself first appeared at the employee appreciation party in issue #137.

A footnote informs readers that Senator Mountebank was last seen in issue #117 at the Carnelian ambassador's reception, where he badgered Tony over a defense contract. Tony refers to the party as having occurred "last year", which doesn't quite seem to fit with the timeline as scripted by Michelinie. He's been a bit looser with it recently, but it still can't have been more than a few months since issue #116. Possibly the calendar changed recently in-story, so when Tony says last year, he merely means last calendar year and not a year ago.

When Bethany and Ling return to their office/apartment in Manhattan, Bethany is shocked to find a letter to her in the mail, addressed to her married name, Mrs. Bethany van Tilburg.
Trudeau's mysterious phone call comes from someone named Mr. Hale. Given the appearance of the Roxxon space station on the story's final page, this has to be Jonas Hale, the devious Roxxon executive who masqueraded as a special forces captain in issues 120-121.

Another footnote reminds us that Iron Man scrapped the Jupiter Landing Vehicle in issue #116, when Madame Masque used it against him -- meaning it took over two years of publication time for Michelinie and Layton to return to it.

This issue marks the first appearance of one of Iron Man's specialty armor suits. I believe these were the brainchild of Bob Layton, and while he started the character off with a practical number of specialty suits -- space, undersea, and stealth -- later writers and artists would beat this horse to death, resuscitate it, and then beat it again, even harder and more brutally.

My Thoughts: One of the things I really like about this run is the sense of continuity. Michelinie and Layton remember things. This issue finds them revisiting the Jupiter Landing Vehicle they had used as a a throw-away obstacle for Iron Man over two years previously. Same goes for Sentator Mountebank, a random, one-off character who they most likely had no plans for past his initial appearance as a small annoyance for Tony.

Beyond that, there's the touches like the Stark employees that frequently show up. As I've said before, I'm not terribly familiar with Iron Man prior to this run, but I get the impression this was the first time S.I. had a group of regularly seen department heads. None of them get any major page time, but appearances by recurring characters like Pithins and Martinelli are welcome for the sense of continuity they add to Tony's life.

This is primarily a sub-plot issue, as we see the Allentown story, teased in the past two issues, develop to the point that it will be the main conflict next month. Plus there's the matter of Bethany's letter, which I'm guessing portents another globe-trotting adventure for Iron Man in the near future.

Lastly -- Senator Mountebank bears a striking resemblance to Donald Menken, a very minor character drawn by John Romita, Jr. in his AMAZING SPIDER-MAN run with Roger Stern. In fact, they're nearly identical. Makes me wonder if Romita based this appearance on someone he knew.

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