The Box: Protectors #5, X-O Manowar #15 & Brute Force #1

Man, what a batch of comics this week. I grew up in the age of die-cut, glow-in-the-dark, chromium and pretty much any other kind of crazy cover you can come up with. I gotta admit, there were definitely some cool ones, but Malibu’s Protectors #5 (1993) written by R.A. Jones  with Thomas Derenick artwork, was actually kind of legendary. As you can see in the picture here, it’s actually got a hole punched through it. The blood is also shiny and embossed, so that’s a lot going on.  I also thought that the hole was somehow incorporated into the story or artwork itself but that’s not the case at all, they only seem interested in mostly (not completely) avoiding characters’ heads and word balloons.

So, how’s the book? Eh. A superhero group called the Protects is going up against an armored Dr. Doom clone called Mr. Monday (?) who leads the Steel Army. A kid who took over the Night Mask identity from his dad winds up facing off against Mr. Monday and, well, you can see the cover, it’s actually a gigantic spoiler that undercuts the entire story (assuming you can really catch on to or know what’s going on).

The story doesn’t really try to bring new readers in, but it also doesn’t necessarily try to keep you out of it. It’s just hard to care, really. The names of these characters doesn’t help. You’ve got Man of War (not bad), the aforementioned Night Mask and Mr. Monday, Mighty Man, Air Man, Amazing Man, Eternal Man and Ferret. Woof. The art’s good though, Derenick’s doing a pretty serviceable Neal Adams-style riff, but he’s dealing with some pretty goofy costumes to match the names.

After my previous experience with a subpar issue of X-O Manowar, I almost threw this one right in the recycling bin, but then I noticed that Turok was in this issue. I actually liked the issue of Turok I read (the first) so I gave X-O #15 (1993) by Bob Layton and Bart Sears a read and it actually worked out that this lead right into that issue.

The issue finds X-O and Turok returning to the city after the big cosmic event I don’t seem to be privy to and don’t care enough to look up. Once there, they discover that the smart dinosaurs that Turok famously hunts are running loose in the sewers so a-hunting they go.

Unlike the other X-O issues I read, which was written by a different writer, this one doesn’t leave me confused and wondering what’s going on. X-O is from the past and has a cool suit of armor. Turok is from another dimension where smart dinos existed. They hut the dinos. I’m good. Layton doesn’t get too bogged down and offers a good solid look at both characters in a way that makes me interested in both of them.

I’m also a big fan of the Sears art. He did Justice League comics for a while, went on to do a ton of stuff for Wizard when I was a reader and seemed to have a lot of fun doing these Valiant book (he also did that first issue of Turok I dug). In this book the characters are big and mus thcly and stlyized, but it works when you consider who you’re reading about. Good stuff. I’ll keep this one around for a bit.

Lastly I came upon Marvel’s Brute Force #1 (1990) written by Simon Furman with art by Jose Delbo, a comic with an interesting history. Most people think it was a toy tie-in because Marvel was doing a lot of that in those days (and I’ll be coming across some in future installments of The Box), but the truth — as written over on Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed — is that Marvel came up with the characters in the hopes that one of the toy companies they were buddy buddy with at the time would bite. It didn’t work and the series wound up existing solely as four issues of a comic book.

So how is it? Not great. There’s a lot goin on here and most of it’s pretty ridiculous. The main bad guy sends clowns to steal a cybernetic bear, but said clowns are in the image of the fast food franchise he owns and runs. Not very smart. Anyway, the plot revolves around an environmentalist scientist who creates these cybernetic animals for some reason and then sends the remaining ones to bring back the bear. They each have a personlaity, set of skills and wacky way of viewing the world. It’s actually kind of fun. If this were a cartoon from the 80s I’d probably have a good time with it, but I think the act of reading makes me want the thing I’m exposing myself to to be better. Inetersting.

Anyway, the book is kind of like a nicer, far less violent and sad version of Grant Morrison’s Vertigo miniseries We3. I wonder if Morrison was a fan.

Trade Post: Umbrella Academy Dallas, Goon Fancy Pants Vol. 1 & Iron Man Doom Quest

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS (Dark Horse)
Written by Gerard Way, drawn by Gabriel Ba
Collects UA: Dallas 1-6
Okay, here’s the the thing. I didn’t actually read the Dallas trade, but the single issues. This is how we used to do Bookshelf back in the Wizard days. Being in the research department it fell on me to go through the massive, unorganized comic book library and dig up all the single issues from so many months back. It was terrible and dusty and hot up there, but when I wasn’t forced to dig for comics, I would do that anyway because it’s the most well stocked comic library I’ve ever seen. Anyway, I was a big fan of the first Umbrella Academy series Apocalypse Suite. Who would have thought that a rock star would write such a rad story? Anyway, I picked up the single issues as they came out, but waited to read them all at once and had a great time. Dallas isn’t an easy story to explain, but it picks up shortly after the previous story with family members going their separate ways. The main thrust of the story has to do with time travel and what happened to the diminutive #5 on his way back from the far future in the previous story. Like Apocalypse Suite, Dallas covers all kinds of territory from the aforementioned time travel to heavy-duty sci-fi killers to cartoon-headed assassins. It’s got a kind of Grant Morrison feel to it, without being as confusing. And man, Ba’s art is just sick. Way gives him all kinds of fun things to draw and I love seeing how they work together. This probably isn’t a very informative review, but if you liked the original, you’ll like Dallas and if you haven’t read either, go pick them up. Stat. Did the trade have any cool extras? I’ll get it on my shelf eventually.

THE GOON FANCY PANTS EDITION VOL. 1 (Dark Horse)
Written & drawn by Eric Powell
Collects Goon #1, 2 (Albatross), Goon #1, 3, 5, 9 (DH)
It might be hard to imagine nowadays, but even just a few years ago, Wizard magazine had the ability to help boost a book into more readers’ consciousnesses. The Goon was one of those books. It was really popular around the Wizard offices and ended up getting some pretty good coverage in the mag which helped boost the book’s sales. As a thank you for the coverage, Dark Horse and/or Powell sent the Wizard office a big box of these hardcover Fancy Pants books. I actually came in towards the end of most of this, but I benefited from it on one of my first days when a buddy handed me this volume. For some reason it took me almost four years to actually read it. I think one of the big reasons I didn’t get to it sooner is because the book reprints everything in chronological order and not as the issues came out. You can see above that the issues skip around a lot. I know some people like to read comics that way, but it puts me off going in. But, my reading experience wasn’t hindered once I actually started into this book (which Powell signed!).

As it turns out, this book is completely up my alley and awesome. The Goon killed a mobster who killed his carnie family. Now he’s got the mobster’s debt book and goes around acting like he’s working for the mobster and keeping the money for himself. He’s also assisted by his little buddy Frankie who used to be a wuss and, kind of like the kid from Son Of Rambow, now loves violence. The world is a kind of dirty, rundown version of what you might think of a larger small town back in the 40s, but with zombies. So, in addition to laying into mobsters, Goon also gets to slice, dice and punch his way through armies of zombies. I have no idea how much this book costs now, but it makes me want to get either the regular trades or the next Fancy Pants volume.

MARVEL PREMIERE CLASSIC VOL. 10 IRON MAN: DOOMQUEST (Marvel)
Written by David Michelinie & Bob Layton, drawn by Bob Layton & John Romita Jr.
Collects Iron Man Vol. 1 #149-150, 249-250
My love of Michelinie and Layton’s Iron Man is well documented in my Iron Mongering posts (find them all in the drop down to the right). As such, my buddy Ben got me this book for Christmas last year, which was super nice of him.Doomquest is definitely an interesting book, especially because the two two-issue stories have 100 issues between them. The basic idea is that the first two issues send Iron Man and Dr. Doom back into the times of Camelot where they have to deal with King Arthur and Morgana Le Fey and all that. The second two issues have them rocketing into the future where King Arthur has been reborn as a kid (as legend says will happen) along with a much hipper Merlin. This really is a wild little book. M&L nail Dr. Doom’s character. He’s just as arrogant and conniving as you would expect him to be, but in both stories he’s thrown out of his elements and has to make allegeiances he normally wouldn’t. Of all their comics I’ve read, I think this one might be the easiest to just jump right in and read because of the time travel. Aside from some stuff in the very first issue, you’re pretty much in these vastly different settings the whole time, so you’re learning things as the characters do. Well, for the most part. Iron Man 2020 kind of shows up in the future stuff. That part is kind of a combination of Camelot 3000 and any other Marvel story set in the future of the 616 where the legacies of the heroes live on in weird ways. I loved the book, but it also really makes me wish Marvel would start putting out more complete M&L runs in a Visionaries kind of series.

Iron Mongering: The Armor Wars

A couple weekends back, Em wanted to watch Iron Man again, so we did and it was great once again. I do wish the end fight would have been a little bit more awesome and well-balanced instead of so clearly one-sided on Iron Monger’s side. Anyway, it got me thinking that, over a year ago, I decided to check out various Iron Man stories and talk about whether a newbie would be able to jump right in and enjoy it or not. Well, with the news that Mickey Rourke is playing an armored version of Whiplash and pictures even surfacing, I think Armor Wars might actually be a good place for people looking to get a jump on the potential story behind Iron Man 2.

As the folks over at Slash Film have pointed out, the first two press photos from Iron Man 2 seem to be connected, with Tony Stark looking at what looks like a model of the arc reactor that Whiplash is wearing. I’m going to go one step further and guess that there might be some Armor Wars elements in the film. You see, the plot behind Armor Wars is that Tony Stark discovers that all these different armored villains (and even some heroes) have been using his Iron Man technology to commit crimes. This pisses Tony off and he goes rogue, taking out heroes and villains in a single minded attempt to neutralize their armors.

So, maybe in that first picture we’re seeing Tony discovering Whiplash ripped off his armor tech and he’s pissed. Sure, it’s an awful lot of guessing, but that’s what blog are for right?

Okay, so back to the trade. It’s written by David Michelinie, pencilled by Mark Bright and one issue by Barry Windsor-Smith and inked and co-plotted by Bob Layton. The book collects Iron Man #224-232. I’ve already gone through the basics of the story, but the devil’s in the details as Tony Stark goes a little crazy trying to neutralize the armors, he even attacks a superhero, and member of the Avengers, Stingray to do so. What I really like about the story is how nicely it fits into the overall Marvel universe. It mostly has Iron Man characters and villains, but it crosses over into other arenas when necessary, like when SHIELD gets involved or when the Avengers (the West Coast Avengers to be exact) show up to ask Iron Man what the heck is going on.

But, that being said, I don’t think this would be a difficult book for someone whose only experience with Iron Man is the movie. You’ve got Rhodey and Tony and SHIELD, elements you’d be familiar with and the villains and other heroes get explained pretty well in the book itself, but if you’re ever confused, I’d suggest hitting up Wikipedia, like when a dude called The Captain shows up looking kinda sorta like Captain America (it really is him, I promise).

So, in addition to being a compelling story, I think Armor Wars makes a lot of sense as a first look as far as comics go for new fans. It’s also a good book for current comic fans to check out if they thought Tony’s actions over the past few years seem to have come out of nowhere. This book put a few things in Civil War into context for me, though I still think no character has been screwed over and mishandled quite as much as Iron Man, though I keep hearing good things about Invincible Iron Man, I just haven’t been able to scrape the trades together.

One other thing I wanted to mention, and it’s really more of an oddity, is the size of the trade I read. I got it along with an original Guardians of the Galaxy trade in a Swap from Sequential Swap (seriously, you should all join this rad service) and both of them are kind of a funny size. You can see a scan of the cover itself, which I believe is different than the current trade cover, below followed by a scan of a regular sized comic overtop of the trade. As you can see, the trade is a little shorter and a little longer than your average comic, so they had to shrink and maybe stretch the pages when they reprinted them. Or maybe they’re just shrunk. I didn’t really notice anything while reading it, I just thought it was odd. Checking the date, this trade was created in 1990, back when there weren’t a lot of trades being produced, just the big, big stories like Armor Wars… and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Iron Mongering Part 4: The Many Armors of Iron Man

2008-11-11
2:54:44 pm

As I’ve mentioned in previous Iron Mongering posts, I really want to see a Michelinie and Layton Essential, Visionaries or even an Omnibus or two. Many Armors is nothing like that. Instead it’s a grab bag of issues by different creators introducing various Iron Man armors (a space armor, the stealth, etc.). Sounds like it could be fun right? Well, it really isn’t unfortunately.

My biggest problem with the book (which collects Iron Man #47, 142-144, 152, 153, 200, 218) is that, like with Demon in a Bottle there is no indication as to what’s been going on with Iron Man around the time these issues came out, so you’re just thrown in and have to figure it out on your own. And while the stories themselves may be kind of interesting, I really felt like I was missing a lot.

Generally I don’t like trades like this with various issues from various teams about various stories, but the ones that I think did it best was the Green Arrow/Black Canary For Better Or For Worse which did the above, but also included little prose paragraphs before each story to explain what had happened in the years between the stories. Maybe if MAOIM did that for a later edition it would be a more enjoyable book, but as it is, it really isn’t. It does REALLY make me want to see some Michelinie and Layton trades collecting their epic runs. I’ve got my fingers crossed. Maybe in time for the Iron Man sequel.

Oh, which reminds me, reading the first issue in this trade, which retold Iron Man’s origin spurred me on to watching the Iron Man DVD, so, that’s a least a point in the plus column. That movie’s rad.

Iron Mongering Part 3: Michelinie and Layton Pot Luck

2008-06-04
3:00:47 am

As those of you who have stumbled across this here blog probably realized, last week was absolutely dead in my little corner of the internet. That’s because we were working on finishing the next issue of ToyFare (or “closing” as we call it) before Wizard World Philly which was last weekend. I had a pretty good time, you may have read some of my toy-related stories on the main page or even seen some pics of me hosting the First Annual ToyFare Hall of Fame Awards or on the TTT panel which was a lot of fun (huge thanks to anyone who found their way here because of that panel and thanks to Ben and Justin for hyping it). So that leads me to what will hopefully be the first of a few posts this week, another installment of Iron Mongering.

Instead of just picking up another trade, I decided to read some books I had in my “to read” pile (a pile that, I’m sure like most of yours, keeps getting bigger and bigger). A few years ago a buddy of mine by the name of James Walker was getting rid of a bunch of his comics and I grabbed a small stack of his Iron Man comics, which I sat down and read tonight. And awayyyyyy we go:

Iron Man #218-220, 223, 228 (1987)

Written by David Michelinie and Bob Layton

Drawn by Bob Layton, Mark D. Bright

Featuring Iron Man, Rhodey, The Ghost, Spymaster, The Captain

Okay, so even though these aren’t consecutive issues, I really dug reading through this hodgepodge of issues from Michelinie’s second run on Iron Man. I’m not sure what came before #218, but I feel like I was able to grasp what was going on pretty well. And I think this is a one-off story anyway, but basically Iron Man has to use his deep sea armor to grab a cannister full of some WWI biological weapon that sank on the Titanic.

As with the Demon in a Bottle trade, I really enjoyed these issues. The art by Layton and Bright still looks crisp even after being around in single issue form for 11 years. Michelinie’s stories still have their very literary feel and he easily catches readers up to what’s happening in each issue with no more than three panels, so kudos to him for that.

Which brings us to #219, which not only debuts a brand new villain but also strips Tony of his Magnum-like haircut and replaces it with a weird Jerry curl. How ’80s. This issue sees the first appearance of techno corporate espionage villain The Ghost who can either become invisible or become intangible, both of which make him a powerful and dangerous foe for Iron Man and Tony, which leads into #220 another great issue that pits longtime IM villain Spymaster against new kid on the block the Ghost while Tony stands there, seemingly helpless. Of course, Stark’s not really helpless as he uses Rhodey’s gun to keep Spymaster from shooting a strange spinning disc blade in the Ghost’s head. Which is great because SPOILER the Ghost ends up killing Spymaster by rematerializing him in the middle of a wall. Ouch. Even though I’ve seen this kind of move before, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it kill anyone, which was a pretty big surprise.

Unfortunately, I don’t have #221, which finishes the story, so I don’t know how things were left between the Ghost, who really wanted to pop a cap in Tony’s ass and the Man of Iron. So, moving on…

In #223, a character I’ve never heard of called Force leaves Justin Hammer behind and goes to Tony Stark for help getting out of his armor, which Tony as Iron Man gladly does. The dude inside of Force offers to give Tony everything he knows about Hammer’s operation, but instead Tony sends him to jail where Beetle, Whiplash and Blizzard (all three in trenchcoats and hats, you know how much I like that!) show up to kill him. I found this pretty interesting because I’ve basically thought of Iron Man as a huge jerk since I had to read every Civil War tie-in during WizardUniverse.com’s old Civil War Room column. Here I got to see Tony doing exactly what he thought was the right thing and it completely backfired in his face. Not sure what happens after that cause I don’t have the next issue, but #228 was pretty rad too

Haha, okay, I actually started writing this after reading everything but #228, so then I got to this part and I realized that #228 (which is the issue where Tony gives Steve Rogers, now going by The Captain, his new shield) is part 4 of Armor Wars II, so I’m going to hold off on this one until I can get the rest of the issues.

These few issues of Michelinie’s Iron Man that I’ve read bring me back to my earlier days of collecting comics. I used to pick up random books in the cheap racks of cons back in the day and if I liked them I’d go a little crazy and buy every issue in that particular series (which is why I’m about 7 issues away from owning every post-Crisis, pre-JLA Justice League book that came out). Now, I’m not feeling like I need to buy every Iron Man comic in existence, but I am feeling that old urge to pick up all of his and Layton’s issues. Before I go too crazy, I’m definitely gonna check and see what’s available in trade. All I know for sure are Demon in a Bottle and Armor Wars (which I want to read now more than ever). I’ll keep you posted on how that works out for me.

Iron Mongering Part 1: Demon in a Bottle

2008-05-13
1:37:41 am

Like everyone else in the world, I really dug the Iron Man flick, but it got me thinking: What are some great Iron Man stories out there? Everyone’s always talking about Armor Wars and Demon in a Bottle, but I’ve run into some trouble getting into comics from back then, what with the huge text blocks and “I’m saying what I’m doing” dialog. So, I went up to Wizard’s comic library (a truly magical place) and grabbed a big stack of trades, old and newer, and will post my thoughts as I read through them. Huge spoilers ahead. Sorry about the smaller images below, I’m still trying to work this whole thing out.

First up, Demon in a Bottle (1979)

Collects: Iron Man #120-128

Written By: David Michelinie

Drawn By: John Romita Jr., Bob Layton & Carmine Infantino

Featuring: Iron Man, Namor, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Bethany Cabe, Jarvis, Captain America, The Avengers, Justin Hammer, a slew of villains and booze

First, a quick bit of background on my comic-reading past. I grew up a DC guy, so most of my Iron Man knowledge stemmed from the short-lived ’90s animated series, whatever random Marvel books I’d pick up from time to time and what I read in Wizard. Like everyone else, I’ve heard a lot about Demon in a Bottle, but never really took the chance to read it until now because I kind of figured I knew everything that happened and didn’t think I’d like it.

Well, I was wrong. Though the trade is a bit difficult to jump into (there’s characters I’m not familiar with and the book starts with the last 5 pages of issue #120), it didn’t bother me all that much because it reminded me of what it was like when I first started reading comics. I had no idea what was going on and loved trying to figure it out.

Keeping that in mind (and knowing that not everyone likes to read comics the way I do), I wanted to offer a little background info that might help new readers. Up to this point Bethany Cabe (first appearing a few issues earlier in IM #117) was a lady that Tony Stark was eying after his break-up with Madame Masque. At the time this book opens, he’s got no idea that she’s really a bodyguard for hire. Also, at this point in his history, the world doesn’t know that Tony Stark is Iron Man, they think Iron Man is Stark’s bodyguard. That should be about enough to get you through the trade until the big origin recap.

Like I mentioned, the book opens with the end of #120, showing us a battle between Iron Man and Namor. The ensuing fight with Roxxon Oil over a Vibranium-filled island is an interesting one, beautifully and crisply drawn by JRJR, but it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the rest of the story. This brings up another aspect of the book I liked, it reminded me how comics used to be written. Nowadays we’re so used to six-issue arcs with set beginnings and endings that it can throw us off when we’re offered a glimpse of an older story like this. Michelinie wasn’t worrying about six issues here, he had a whole tapestry of stories and subplots weaving in and out of each other that probably started years earlier and went on for plenty after. Sure, the Namor section of the story isn’t necessary, but it does lead to Tony’s recollection of his origin and the eventual reveal that someone is messing with his armor.

Many armors of Iron Man

I really thought that I would get bored with a 12-page recap of Iron Man’s origin, especially having just seen basically the same story on screen a week before, but Michelinie’s text boxes read like a novel and guest artist Infantino’s art on this issue really captures the drama and action of his origin. In the end, the story still feels fresh after almost 30 years.

As a bonus (for me at least), the origin story included two of my favorite visuals in fiction: a splash page that encapsulates a character’s costumes/history and a character wearing a trench coat even though it’s the most conspicuous fashion choice of all time (especially if you’re a dude walking around in a suit of armor).

Iron Man in a trench coat

Okay, so after ol’ Shell Head remembers how he became a man of armor (while flying his way home) something crazy happens: his suit malfunctions, sending him flying erratically through the skies, even through the offices at Marvel. As staffers huddle in fear one calls out “Gee, Jim [Shooter, EIC at the time], I uh, realize guest stars help sales–but in editorial meetings?!” There’s even a little sign on the wall that reads “Kill All Inkers” signed by Stan. It’s a great little in-joke for fans, the kind of thing I imagine Marvel did all the time back in the day.

Tony regains control and heads back to his lab where he tests out his armor in a pretty amazing sequence mixing elements of Kirby and Steranko drawn by JRJR, who absolutely kills his issues.

Finding nothing wrong, Tony heads to a casino with Bethany Cabe only to be interrupted by Blizzard (who comes in wearing a trench coat and a wide brim hat), Melter and Whiplash. Tony suits up and makes short work of the villains only to be chastised by Bethany for not guarding Stark.

Upon returning home, Tony gets a request for Iron Man to represent Stark International at a ceremony and meet with ambassador Kotznin to which Tony agrees. He then has a drink, tries to design some sciency stuff, gets fed up and suits up as Iron Man to patrol the area.

Later that night at the ceremony, everything seems to be going fine until the mystery villain works his technical mojo, causing Iron Man to blast a hole straight through the ambassador’s chest. Man, what a great scene. I remember this being referenced back when I read Avengers, but had no idea it was coming up and was blown away (like the ambassador, heh). Even today the murder of an innocent man at the hands of a hero strikes a chord. These are men and women who have sworn to help humanity often at the detriment of themselves and, when something like this happens, even if it’s not their fault, you just know that it leaves a hole inside of them that will take years to heal. Michelinie wasn’t pulling any punches and will continue to lay it on pretty thick for our armored hero, but never shows him completely beaten because this is the kind of guy who’s gonna keep fighting until his dying breath.

All of this leads into my personal favorite issue of this story, #125. The issue opens on a shadow-covered Iron Man, again drawn beautifully JRJR, contemplating all that’s just happened. He’s able to convince the cops to let him go as long as Stark brings the armor to them for safe keeping by telling him that the armor malfunctioned. Afterwards, Tony goes on a bit of a bender, looking a lot like the famous cover that this collection gets its name from. We then see Tony showing up at Avengers Mansion where he asks Captain America to give him some fight training, which is a great scene because Cap’s got no idea that Tony and Iron Man are one in the same. We’re treated to another fantastic montage scene (one that was referred to a year ago when Cap and Iron Man were having their troubles during Civil War). What I love about this scene, besides the art, is that it just makes sense. I’m a big fan of the idea that these characters don’t automatically know how to handle themselves. Even after being a superhero for years, Tony’s always relied on his suit to help him, but what he’s got coming up, an assault on the man he only knows as Hammer, will require his prowess, not Iron Man’s.

He also knows how to get help from his friends in the superhero community. Tony sets up a meeting with Scott Lang, the new Ant-Man, who then uses his shrinking abilities to visit Whiplash in jail and get more information on Hammer. I don’t mean to keep gushing about this issue, but I love the sense of this being a shared universe that you get just by reading this one comic. Not only do you have the Avengers seeing the news of Iron Man’s accidental murder, but Tony training with Cap and getting help from Scott. These are the kinds of stories that make reading comics in a shared universe fun.

im125cvr.jpg

I also love stories in which the hero has to operate in his civilian identity, but is still a badass. Ed Brubaker did a great job with this in his first year on Daredevil, starting with Matt Murdoch in prison and then sending him to Europe. In this issue we’re treated to Tony Stark playing James Bond and not just in the bedroom. Tony follows up on the info he got from Scott and heads to Monaco with his buddy James Rhodes at his side and flying his plane.

Tony and Rhodey go on to run across some hoods that they, at first, easily dispatch, but end up with Rhodey unconscious on a beach and Tony in the clutches of Justin Hammer, the man who’s been screwing with Tony this whole time. But who is this guy? Well…no one, kinda. I mean, he’s a pretty big deal rich dude, but he’s the kind of villain that’s been waiting in the wings for his moment to attack. Kind of like what’s happening with Morrison’s current Batman run (maybe).

So, now that Tony’s in his enemy’s clutches, what happens next? Tony pulls some more James Bond-like maneuvers (electrocuting his guard and using a grappling hook belt he got from Scott Lang) to get his armor back, just in time for Hammer to unleash a legion of super-villains like the Constrictor, the Beetle, Porcupine, Discus, Stiletto, Leap-Frog, Man-Killer and more. Iron Man rumbles pretty mercilessly, but awesomely, with the villains, then goes after Hammer himself (did I mention they’re on a big boat-like island?), who’s escaped, leaving Tony to return home, get skunky drunk, snap at Jarvis and receive Jarvis’ resignation the next day.

All of which leads us to the issue you’ve seen the cover of a hundred times, but (if you’re like me) never actually read. Yup, the famous “Demon in a Bottle” Tony-looks-like-hell cover.

I gotta say, this is my least favorite of the issues. Not because it’s a poorly written or drawn, but because it just seems a little too cut and dry. Sure, plenty of writers have gone back to this aspect of Tony’s personality, but this issue really seems to steam through his ordeal with booze. Even the emotional and heartbreaking scene with a drunken Iron Man crashing through his office window, things just go by too fast for me. It turns out that Bethany had a husband who was addicted to drugs and doesn’t want to see the same thing happen to Tony, so she helps him through his withdrawal (again, drawn in agonizing detail by JRJR). Our hero also patches things up with Jarvis, finding out that the faithful butler’s mother is sick and to help offset the costs, Jarvis sold his shares (there’s a subplot running throughout the whole story that S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to buy a controlling interest in his company). Tony tells his long-time friend that he’ll pay for everything and goes on to deal with the rest of his life, including a battle with self-control over a bottle of booze that he wins. End of story.

Okay, I don’t want to end on such a downer note. Again, I really liked this book and think that, given an even bigger trade that shows more of Tony’s battle with his new found bottle demons, I wouldn’t feel the way I do. Jeez, this was a really long post. Too long? Let me know.