Wednesday, April 2, 2014

IRON MAN #155

"THE BACK-GETTERS!"
Writer: David Michelinie | Pencils: John Romita, Jr. | Inks: Dan Green
Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Bob Sharen | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Gerrard, the son of Stark International's P.R. director, Artemus Pithins, is beaten after hours at his high school. The next day Mr. Pithins confides in Tony that a number of students have recently been hospitalized at the school, including a group who took some bad drugs and a young man who was run over by a car. Pithins asks if Iron Man might attend the upcoming career fair, and Tony agrees.

At career day, Gerrard is cornered again by a group of students, but his father comes to his aid. The students inform Pithins that Gerrard distributed the bad drugs on behalf of the student who had been run over, and these students want revenge. Pithins convinces them to forego violence and talk their problems out instead.

Meanwhile, outside, Iron Man stops a runaway tank, present for career day, which has been activated by a clumsy student, from demolishing the school.

Continuity Notes: Reconstruction of the Stark International complex, following Blacklash's rampage in issues 146 and 147, is finally complete. Among the enhancements are a brand new penthouse for Tony (still stocked to the brim with liquor for some reason).

Tony once again mulls over his break-up with Bethany in issue #153, and then a moment later Mrs. Arbogast congratulates him on his successful acquisition of the Cord Conglomerate.

We learn this issue that Mr. Pithins is married to a woman named Margaret, and they have a son, Gerrard and daughter, Denise. He lives in the suburbs of New York's Nassau County.

My Thoughts: Two issues ago gave us Bob Layton's final outing as co-plotter, and the previous issue was his last on inks. This issue marks John Romita, Jr.'s final work as penciler, though he will provide breakdowns next month. And this issue may be the purest looking Romita Jr. of the entire run. With Dan Green inking him instead of the heavy-handed Layton, this looks like a typical John Romita, Jr. eighties comic, along the lines of his AMAZING SPIDER-MAN or UNCANNY X-MEN. Depending upon one's tastes, as Romita seems to be a "love him or hate him" artist, this could be either a good or a bad thing.

Does this shot look
poorly done to anyone else?
Readers may recall that Green also inked Romita for the very first issue in this run, #115. There, the work looked sloppy and unfinished. Here, the pairing is smooth and aesthetically pleasing. Green may not give Iron Man that slick sheen that Layton provided, but his work here is so far ahead of issue 115 that it's impossible to complain. For whatever reason, I think this issue looks mostly very good. I am not a fan of the Romita Jr./Green pairing on UNCANNY X-MEN, but it's just fine here. There are a handful of panels which are somehow off, but overall it's not really a step down from Layton.

And if the artwork brings to mind Romita's Spider-Man, that may be in part due to the fact that the story feels like more of a fit for that character as well. Spidey crashing career day at the local high school is an idea that practically writes itself. Iron Man crashing career day seems like overkill for the character, but in the end Pithins handles his own problem while Iron Man tends to that pesky runaway tank.

And speaking of the tank -- really? A kid falls into it and it starts up and begins driving around?? I'm about 99% certain tanks don't work that way. Jim Salicrup should've walked down the hall for to Larry Hama's office for some advice while assembling this issue.

And beyond the problematic tank, there's this weird bit where Iron Man lectures a general (generals show up at career fairs?) about the sanctity of life. "Human lives may not mean much on a battlefield, or in your strategy rooms," he admonishes, "but in the real world they're more precious than any hunk of metal you can name!"

Putting aside the fact that a battlefield is quite possibly the most real place anywhere in the "real world", where does Iron Man get off lecturing this general he's just met, who is showing some understandable concern that the tank he brought to a career fair (!) has been totaled, about the value of human life? This feels like a message Michelinie wanted to convey, but without the proper means to do so, he shoehorned it into an otherwise totally unrelated story, which took me straight out of the comic.

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