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 3: Michelinie and Layton Pot Luck

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’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.