Monday, February 24, 2014

IRON MAN #144

"SUNFALL"
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: Iron Man and Sunturion team up to stop Star Well I from crashing in Sarasota, Florida. Sunturion super-charges Iron Man's deflector beam, allowing it to knock the plummeting space station off course, causing it to splash down in the Gulf of Mexico. Sunturion's body dissipates in the effort.

The next day, on Earth, Tony Stark is invited by Roxxon Oil to a celebrity golf benefit for the victims in Allantown, which is being played in the media as an anthrax outbreak. Tony tells Mrs. Arbogast to decline the invitation.

Continuity Notes: Sunturion laments the fact that Iron Man disabled Star Well's self-destruct system last issue (apparently forgetting that if he hadn't, they would both be dead right now).

The opening narration tells us that the Allantown incident occurred "two days ago", meaning that only 48 hours have passed since Tony Stark's yacht was hijacked in the Caribbean in issue #140.

My Thoughts: Sunturion's sacrifice here helps to redeem him a bit for his callous disregard for the Allantown victims last issue. And the Roxxon golf tournament bit at the story's end is a great, twisted little capper, and just the thing you'd expect from such an evil organization. I doubt it will come up again, but it would be interesting to see Tony portrayed as callous for not caring about Allantown, when he's actually the only person who knows the truth.
"Sunfall" is a mere six pages long. The rest of this issue is devoted to a flashback depicting an adventure of Tony and Rhodey in Vietnam:

"APOCALYPSE THEN"
Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: Joe Brozowski | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Bob Sharen
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As Tony and Rhodey depart Stark International aboard Tony's private jet for an engineering convention in Texas, Tony dreams about the day he first met Rhodey. Back in Vietnam, having depleted most of his energy by defeating the warlord Wong Chu, Iron Man was on the verge of death. He stumbled across Lt. James Rhodes in the jungle, and used Rhodey's crashed helicopter to recharge his armor (and his heart).
Together, Iron Man and Rhodey made their way through the jungle, encountering a few Vietcong threats, including a hidden artillery base. Stealing a helicopter, they escaped to the U.S. Embassy, where Rhodey dropped Iron Man before proceeding to Saigon. Later, Tony Stark approached Rhodey, explaining that Iron Man had spoken highly of him, and offered Rhodey a job. Some years later, Rhodey accepted.
In the present day, Tony's jet arrives in Dallas.

Continuity Notes: The flashback portions of this story are set immediately after the defeat of Wong Chu, as seen in Iron Man's origin story, most recently retold by Micheline and Layton (with Carmine Infantino on pencils) back in IRON MAN #122. This story could easily be read immediately after that one and comprise one longer origin sequence.

Obviously, Iron Man's origin continues to be tied to Vietnam, which was not impossible in 1981, but would become less and less feasible with each passing year. Tony was already an accomplished inventor and munitions manufacturer in the first Iron Man story, so how old must he have been ten, eleven, twelve years later? Robert Downey, Jr. was in his mid-forties when he began playing the character, and even that seems close to pushing it for a comic book superhero.

My Thoughts: I've never read Iron Man's first appearance, so I don't know how well this newly created extension of his first adventure fits in with that issue, but, as noted above, it works just fine when combined with Michelinie's and Layton's re-telling of the same story, two years before.

I'm not familiar with Joe Brozowski, but his artwork here, polished by Layton, is very nice. In particular, the characters are quite expressive with both faces and body language.

The story, however, is kind of a let-down. I guess I expected a little more gravity from the first meeting of Rhodey and Iron Man. The problem, I believe, lies in the fact that Rhodey doesn't know Iron Man's dual identity. I can't help feeling that if he'd seen Tony unmask, perhaps without Tony knowing it,that would have added an extra element to the relationship, especially if we readers learned here that Rhodey had known all along, but Tony was unaware.

Besides that, Rhodey and Tony are great friends, but this story is about Iron Man's first meeting with Rhodey. The two have barely been more than co-workers so far in the Michelinie/Layton issues, so learning that they have a past together seems an odd decision. For all the readers knew, they had met on the same day at new hire orientation. They've never seemed especially close.

Lastly: Rhodey wins the issue again, for about the umpteenth time, when he smokes a hand-rolled "cigarette" in the jungle, and offers Iron Man "a puff". I have absolutely no idea how this made it past the Comics Code.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, "stick it up their corporate assets" got in there, too. Perhaps Tony had bribed the Comics Code to layoff?

    (Actually, with the rise of non-code, direct-sales publishers such as First Comics and Marvel's own Epic Comics line, the Code guys probably weren't sweating the small stuff as much as they had in the past. Have a puff and chill, dude.)

    —Dan

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