Monday, April 7, 2014

IRON MAN #156

"THE MAULER MANDATE!"
Writer: David Michelinie
Breakdown Art: John Romita, Jr. | Finished Art: Pablo Marcos
Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Don Warfield | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Scott Lang is taking inventory at Stark International's newly acquired subsidiary, the Cord conglomerate, when he discovers the Mauler battlesuit. Before he can act on his discovery, Scott is knocked out by a mercenary named Brendan Doyle, who takes the armor and attacks Stark International. Doyle is driven away by Iron Man, with some help from Rhodey, who the mercenary recognizes from their time in the same mercenary troupe.

Doyle later breaks into Rhodey's apartment and coerces him into getting them both past Stark security so he can carry put his mission to destroy all records of the development of the Mauler suit. But Iron Man again arrives to confront Doyle, and Rhodey again a aids our hero. Finally, given a choice between killing Rhodey or abandoning his mission, Doyle retreats, thus canceling a years-old debt between the two.

Continuity Notes: Lots of footnotes in this issue. At the start, we're told that the Mauler armor first appeared in DAREDEVIL #167, and that Edwin Cord sent his Raiders after Tony in IRON MAN #145. We are also informed that "MAULER" is an acronym, standing for Mobile Armored Utility Laser Emitter, Revised.

Tony has been dating a young lady named Cindy to help him get over Bethany. Interestingly, Cindy appears to have a tattoo -- which may not be unusual in this day and age, but it seems like it would've been abnormal thirty years ago.
Yvette Avril puts in an appearance, telling Tony that the final papers have been approved, and the Cord Conglomerate -- now called CordCo -- is an official subsidiary of Stark International.

Doyle visits Edwin Cord in prison, where Cord speaks about his plan to hire the Mauler out to the highest bidder in order to rebuild his fortune. He wants the Mauler's development records destroyed so the suit can't be traced back to him.

The debt between Rhodey and Doyle is not described in detail, other than that it involved Rhodey saving Doyle's life in Somalia when a mission went bad.

Iron Man uses the judo Captain America taught him in issue #125 during his second fight with the Mauler. Those lessons came in very handy, as Michelinie has footnoted them often throughout his run.

My Thoughts: Does anyone else find it odd that the creative team is being phased slowly out, one degree at a time? Bob Layton's final issue as co-plotter was #153, then his final issue with an inking credit was 154. John Romita, Jr. provided full pencils for the last time in #155, with this issue being only breakdowns. Now, this issue marks David Michelinie's last as sole writer, as next month he will provide only a script over Alan Kupperberg's plot. I seriously doubt this staggered and gradual departure of every creator is intentional, but it's certainly notable.

Anyway -- Michelinie's final outing on plot duties revisits Edwin Cord, who seemed to have a pretty definitive ending in issue 145. But fleshing out Rhodey a bit, even if it is done through the very convenient device of an old mercenary buddy who happens to attack Stark -- is a reasonable development. It's been almost forty issues since he first appeared, and while we know how he met Tony and Iron Man, and we're aware of his undying loyalty to his employer and his past as a mercenary, we really know very little about him. This issue, at least, shows us where he lives and even gives him a middle name -- Rupert (mis-spelled here as "Ruppert").


I don't know that anyone was clamoring for a wrap-up to the Cord storyline, but it really is the final dangling thread I can recall from the Michelinie/Layton run (assuming they meant to leave Justin Hammer floating around the world as a recurring villain), so if nothing else, it makes for a tidy conclusion to the collected edition. Doyle is still out there with the Mauler armor, of course, but that's no different from any other villain escaping at a story's end.

One issue left to go, with the final hanger-on from the Michelinie/Layton/Romita Jr. trio. Since Michelinie will be scripting only, I'm expecting nothing more than a filler issue... but we'll see what happens.

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