Monday, March 17, 2014

IRON MAN #150

"KNIGHTMARE"
A tale of magic and majesty told by
Plot/Writer: David Michelinie | Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Bob Sharen
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Iron Man and Dr. Doom arrive in Camelot, where a group of King Arthur's knights bring them before the King himself. Arthur allows Iron Man and Doom to stay the night as his guests while he determines what to do with them. However, Doom hypnotized a courtesan, forcing her to give him the location of the sorceress Morgana Le Fay, then departs for Morgana's castle. The next day, Iron Man promises Arthur that he will aid Camelot against whatever Doom has planned.

Meanwhile, Doom reaches Castle Le Fay, where he explains to Morgana that he seeks her tutelage in the mystic arts to aid him in rescuing his mother's soul from Mephisto. Morgana agrees, if Doom will first lead her army of undead warriors against Camelot.

Soon, Doom marches on Camelot with Morgana's legion, and Iron Man stands beside Arthur and his knights in the kingdom's defense. But Iron Man soon realizes that Doom could not have raised these warriors himself, and heads for Morgana's castle. Unable to counter Iron Man's technology with her magic, Morgana retreats to another dimension, her warriors dying upon her departure.

Enraged, Doom flies to Morgana's castle. Realizing any spells he might have learned are now gone with Morgana, Doom agrees to a truce with Iron Man. The pair dismantles components from their respective armors, crafting a device to return them to the present day. The gambit is successful, and Iron Man and Doom appear on a snow-capped Balkan mountain. They go their separate ways, with Doom vowing that they will meet again.

It's only a model.
Continuity Notes: A refresher footnote at the story's beginning tells readers that Iron Man and Doom were hurled through time last issue. A second footnote in the same panel reiterates last issue's note that Doom killed Hauptmann's brother in FANTASTIC FOUR #88.

King Arthur mentions Merlin as he describes Morgana's backstory to Iron Man. However, according to the official Marvel Handbook, this is not one of the many guises of Captain Britain's manipulative Merlyn.
Morgana, Arthur's black sheep sorceress sister and the wearer of one of the Marvel Universe's most awesome dresses, has bummed around various Marvel titles for years, most frequently as an enemy of the Avengers. However, around this time she was also an enemy of Spider-Woman in that heroine's solo series. In fact, she appeared in the issues of SPIDER-WOMAN published the month this IRON MAN came out, and the following month. Having never read SPIDER-WOMAN, I'm uncertain if that title ever addressed her appearance here (though I guess since time travel is involved, it really wouldn't need to).

My Thoughts: Well, after the somewhat unnecessary first chapter to this story, we get a really solid, very fun issue. It's double-sized, but it reads faster than some of the recent single issues -- in a good way. There aren't even any sub-plots at all, but there needn't be. The story is engrossing and perfectly paced, and Michelinie has a great grasp on Dr. Doom. Witness, among other "bits", the scene where he refuses to perform "parlor tricks" for King Arthur, displaying the royal seal of Latveria and treating the king as an equal.
Some writers -- too many, in fact -- like to depict Doom as a corrupt despot who merely puts on airs of sophistication. Michelinie, like John Byrne, realizes that Doom is a classy guy. He has a real, legitimate code of honor, and he does not stray from it. He believes he should rule the world, but I don't think he tries for it out of a lust for power. He does it out of pragmatism. In his mind, he's the best man for the job, simply because he's the best man, period. Anything evil he does on the way there is a necessary step for his end desire.

Beyond that, this story pays lip service to Doom's long-term goal of saving his mother's soul from Mephisto, definitely one of the noblest aspects of the character. So noble, in fact, that Dr. Strange would ultimately team up with Doom, voluntarily, to finally accomplish the rescue mission (in the TRIUMPH AND TORMENT graphic novel, recently reprinted by Marvel as a trade paperback, for those who care).
That first balloon planted a little seed in Bendis's head... which led,
years later, to Doom traveling back in time again just to boink Morgana.
Now that I've spent practically the entire post waxing philosophical on Dr. Doom, I guess I should say a little something about the star of the book. I'm not sure at exactly what point Iron Man's well-documented frustration with magic became one of his major character traits, but it's definitely in effect here. He even gets to spout his catch-phrase, "I hate magic," when he meets Morgana.
Oh, and our hero seems to have forgotten about Bethany pretty quickly. He was mooning over her a day before (last issue), but here he doesn't think twice about romancing Arthur's generously offered female "companion" while in his quarters. But as I've noted before, even as committed as they were, Tony and Bethany never seemed to have a totally monogamous relationship. And I guess you can take the playboy out of the twentieth century, but you can't take the twentieth century out of the playboy. Or something like that.

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