Monday, March 24, 2014


Plot/Writer: David Michelinie | Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Glynis Wein
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Iron Man scouts an East German research complex called Heaven's Hand, then returns to the Stark Inernational office in West Germany, where he analyzes his findings. The next day, inside Heaven's Hand, Bethany is brought before another prisoner -- her "late" husband, Alexander van Tilburg. The Germans explain that they faked the death of Alex, East Germany's ambassador to the United States, so that he would reveal to them any information he might have regarding American sleeper agents in Germany. But the drugs they used scrambled Alex's mind, and now the Germans need Bethany to help them inside his head.

That night, Iron Man sneaks into Heaven's Hand, then changes into disguise as an East German major. He has Bethany brought to him, then leads her to a closet for a private conversation. Bethany berates Tony, telling him that her capture was part of her plan to rescue Alex. Mercenaries were to attack the complex, but the equipment Bethany needs to escape with them is in her cell. So she convinces Tony to change into Iron Man and aid her escape.

He does so, and makes short work of the complex's German defenders. Bethany, Alex, and the mercenaries board a plane piloted by Rhodey and escape, but Iron Man is shot down by the Living Laser before he can follow.

Continuity Notes: Tony explains that he constructed the stealth armor following his detection when he approached the Roxxon space station in issue #143. However, he was wearing his other specialty suit then -- the space armor. Does this mean he eventually plans to build a suit of stealth space armor??

Stark International has a new, modern complex is West Germany, but their original location is stated to be a long abandoned factory. Tony keeps a secret "Iron Cave" beneath the structure in tunnels originally built by the Nazis.

A footnote reminds readers that Alex's deaths was explained in issue #128. When infiltrating Heaven's Hand, Tony uses the creative alias "Anton Shtark".

Bethany finally reveals to Tony that she knows his secret, and that it was confirmed for her by Madame Masque in issue 139. Tony is downright shocked to learn that she knows. The following page features a neat artistic representation of Tony donning his armor while Bethany watches, her eyes a blue color hold in the sequence's background.

My Thoughts: Tony is not especially careful with his secret identity. I can suspend disbelief for most superheroes, because they don't associate with their secret identities regularly. But the fact that Iron Man is Tony Stark's bodyguard automatically makes his secret harder to keep. So I find it a little hard to swallow that he's so clueless about Bethany knowing his secret. He doesn't necessarily need to know that she knows, but he should at least wonder about it. The moment of revelation should not take him so totally by surprise. But maybe he's just overconfident.

Considering that it features Tony's reunion with Bethany after quite a while (they haven't seen each other in person for ten issues), this story is anti-climactic. There's no feeling of urgency to Iron Man's rescue mission. It's all a lot of going through the motions. Knowing that their run is close to its end, I can't help wondering if Michelinie and Layton are burnt out on the character at this point. They've been on the series for just about three years now, after all. The other possibility, I suppose, is that they've simply run out of ideas for Bethany. They sent her away a while back and continued to produce some good stories, but now that she's returned, it's like they aren't sure where to go next with her. But I suppose next issue will provide a better answer to that question.

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