Monday, March 31, 2014

IRON MAN #154

"THE OTHER SIDE OF MADNESS!"
Writer: David Michelinie | Penciler: John Romita, Jr.
Inkers: Dan Green, Chic Stone, & Bob Layton
Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Bob Sharen & Don Warfield
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: On his way to the Yonkers Raceway for some horse races, Iron Man is attacked by a mysterious enemy, who escapes before he can be identified. Our hero proceeds to the races, but is preoccupied and returns to Stark International to find the complex under attack by a very insane Unicorn, who is the same villain that assaulted Iron Man earlier.

Iron Man battles the Unicorn, but uses up all his power reserves in the process of saving several Stark employees. Unicorn prepares to deal the killing blow on behalf of The Other, but Iron Man convinces him The Other has forsaken him, having returned to Russia. The Unicorn departs to travel to Russia and find his missing master, but in his unhinged state, he walks straight into Long Island Sound, apparently drowning.

Continuity Notes: A footnote reminds us that Iron Man and Bethany broke up last issue. Later, the Unicorn speaks of his battle with Iron Man in issue #113 and his subsequent placement into suspended animation. He goes on to explain that he was freed when Blacklash attacked Stark International in issues 146 and 147.

Iron Man recalls that the Titanium Man turned out to be The Other, and that he was deported back to Russia "months ago" following their battle in issue 135.

My Thoughts: The very first issue in the IRON MAN BY DAVID MICHELINIE AND BOB LAYTON OMNIBUS, #115 -- which was one issue prior to the actual start of the Michelinie/Layton run -- featured Iron Man and the Avengers mopping up after a battle with the Unicorn, who had been serving a mysterious "Other". Even though he and Layton weren't the ones who placed the Unicorn in suspended animation at Stark International, Michelinie seems to feel some responsibility to bring this one dangling thread to a definitive end.

And so in a handy bit of continuity work, Michelinie uses Blacklash's assault in issue 146 as the catalyst for Unicorn's escape. Obviously unaware that The Other was revealed while he was frozen, Unicorn goes straight into an attack on Iron Man to fulfill his master's orders. Unicorn is mentally unstable, however, thanks to the disease which led Iron Man to put him on ice in the first place. He believes The Other to be some sort of father figure he must please, and his insanity even leads him to (apparently) take his own life at the story's conclusion.


I'm uncertain if Michelinie knew his run was winding down when he wrote this issue, but it seems likely. Why else dust off a three-plus year-old plot thread this way, if not to "put the toys away" for the next writer? The departure of Bethany last issue would've been the first step in that direction, and wrapping up this one final loose end would be the next.

Unfortunately, as a result, this story reads once more as an exercise in going through the motions. Michelinie is a good writer when he has some strong sub-plots to work with, but when it comes to writing straight, soap opera free adventures, it seems he needs the help of a Bob Layton for co-plotting.

There is, however, a really neat sequence at the issue's beginning, deftly illustrated by Romita and scripted by Michelinie, in which Iron Man saves a group of bystanders following the Unicorn's initial botched attempt on his life. Even if Michelinie is possibly phoning in the plots at this point, his characterization of Iron Man presents our hero as being just as resourceful and creative as ever.


We still have two more "pure" Michelinie issues to go, followed by a story scripted by him from another's plot. Hopefully we'll see something more exciting than this was, but with only three issues to go, I'm not holding my breath.

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