As I have said innumerable times, I am an huge Iron Man fan despite Marvel's repeated attempts to make that impossible. Of the various runs I have read (and I have one of those DVDs that had like, 50 years or whatever of Iron Man comics, so I've read a lot) the only two that really still "play" in this day and age are Len Kaminski's run from the early 90's (what happened to him, anyways? How come he's not in the cards when they troll about for Iron Man one-shots right before the movies come out?) and Bob Layton and David Michelinie.
Layton and Michelinie have an interesting history with Iron Man. They came on after Bill Mantlo's Iron Man run in the 1970s and had what is typically considered the definitive run on the book. They managed to create a storytelling model that allowed Iron Man to be about more than "experiment goes wrong" and "Iron Man fights commies" expanded the supporting cast (which helped to extend their options insofar as plots--need a quick punch-up? How about one of the supporting casts being in trouble?) did the first "Iron Man hits the bottle" story (before this became an albatross) and, in the capstone to their run (well, they continued on after this, but in people's memory this is the cutoff point) was the battle between Iron Man and Doctor Doom in issue #150.
And then they moved on. They would return a few years later (he said, blanking on the exact number) for another run which, while not as consistently good, managed to re-establish a functional storytelling engine that worked with the changes that had taken place in the book thus far, created yet another defining Iron Man storyline (the Armor Wars) and capped it off with Iron Man vs Dr. Doom, Round 2 in issue #250.
There was supposed to be more--Layton was coming back for a sequel to the Armor Wars which would have been better than what we got (then again, so would a kick to the nuts) and Michelinie was busy on Amazing Spider-Man working with some guy named McFarlane no never went anywhere.
And then, things get a bit problematic. During the retro craze at Marvel around the turn of the century, Layton and Michelinie get brought back for Bad Blood, a mini series notable less for what happened in it (I think there was a new Spymaster and Justin Hammer died. I don't remember.) more for Tom Brevoort throwing them under a bus and calling their work "Your dad's Iron Man" (whatever the hell that means) in the name of playing up Joe Quesada's soon-to-debut run, which, you'll remember, featured Iron Man's armour coming to life because of the y2K bug.
Anyways, Layton and Michelinie have been back a couple times, and as much as it pains me to say it, to largely diminishing returns. Iron Man: The End was competently done, but felt rushed--I kept feeling like there'd been about 20 pages lopped out of it somewhere along the way and the remains jammed into a one-shot. Then again, it was a slightly re-purposed version of a proposal nearly ten years old by the time it saw print so that alone might explain a lot.
Legacy of Doom, thankfully, fares a lot better, because it has a narrowly focused remit: Tell a good Iron Man vs. Doctor Doom fight over four issues, hearkening back to their previous two encounters. In addition, it function as a sort of "middle chapter" to Iron Man's #150 and #250 respectively, functioning as the "present day" installment in the "past/present/future" triad it forms with the other stories.
It . . .sort of works, I guess, even if the parts are ultimately better than the whole. Part of this is due to how Michelinie and Layton write the Doctor Doom/Iron Man relationship--Doom continually looks down his nose at Iron Man (who was supposed to be his bodyguard, remember) and generally only engages Iron Man's aid because "I might need some lackey work done." Iron Man, for his part, does a slow burn and looks kinda exasperated.
Anyways, let's actually look at the story, shall we? While melting down his own armours, because ith the Extremis armour, keeping the old suits around is a security risk, which is funny because while this is a plausible excuse, no matter how many times his old suits get wrecked or destroyed, damn if he doesn't have giant chambers full of armour lying around everywhere, implying that Tony Stark is extremely forgetful when it comes to leaving his wearable loose nukes lying around, or (more likely) Marvel just doesn't give a shit.
While he's looking over the black box recordings of his post Armor Wars armour, he find a record of something he hadn't recalled and this frames up the flashback wherein our story takes place. While in space (I always lamented that Iron Man's space armour from this time looked so very much like he's strapped a bunch of marital aids to himself) Doctor Doom shows up and tells Iron Man to get his ass over to Latveria, he needs him for something.
They pack up and head off to Mephisto's realm, ostensibly because Mephisto has figured out how to accelerate the end of days. Man, Spider-Man's marriage is powerful, I guess. This is a complicated bluff, of course--Iron Man was traded to Mephisto for Morgan LeFay, a shard of Excalibur, and a utility infielder from Latveria's AAA team who's ready for "the show." I'm glossing over most of this, but that's because it's incidental and just there to set up what happens later.
Menwhile, Iron Man is stuck in hell, and fights a demon posing as his father, who, in my favourite unintentionally hilarious bit in this issue, called Stark a "Fancy-Boy." I have no idea what that means exactly, but man oh man, I hate them fancy boys.
So all this gets sorted out by the end of issue 2 and Iron Man is out the frying pan and into the fire because Doctor Doom now has Excalibur, is dressing in black, can cut through Iron Man's armour with contemtous ease, and is of course, now Shift-Y against orcs. When this goes badly for Shellhead, Merlin shows up for a Third Act Exposition to suggest a course of action--Iron Man should try to find Excalibur's scabbard, because while Excalibur makes you invincible, the scabbard will make you invulnerable.
Naturally, Iron Man succeeds and gets a totally bitchin' suit of magic armour (seriously, it's easily the highlight of this series and is such an effective design, as it reads visually as "Iron Man" but with some magical flavour) Kind of a shame that the scabbard doesn't make Iron Man "invincible," but that may have been too obvious, I suppose.
This turns out to be a Bad Thing, because at that moment, Eye Guy from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers shows up and begins killing people and we find out that Doctor Doom's plan was to reunite the sword and scabbard and stop Eye Guy from destroying the world. So thanks for totally assing things up, Stark
Yeah, uh, this part isn't so good. Eye Guy is not a particularly effective villain without Hulk to hit eyeball man in eye and the final conflict never really crystalises into something with the proper weight or stakes or . . .anything. The bit at the end where Merlin deletes his memory of Excalibur because Merlin knows that as time goes on he'll become a megalomaniacal asshole feels a bit perfunctory and exists more as a means to set up a story point in #250 than an organic part of the story.
That aside, there's still enough in Legacy of Doom to make reading it worthwhile.The Iron Man/Doom chemistry works great and drives the story past even the ropier plot points, Ron Lim and Bob Layton do a splendid job with the art, creating the clean, clear, shiny action that to my mind is what Iron Man always should be, and Michelenie does great in making Stark a more dimensional character. He's not a shallow asshole, aloof technocrat, or alleged futurist. Stark is fallible in this story, he gets in trouble and we're actually given the luxury of following him as he works out how to get back out of it and how rare is that in this day and age?
In short, these are four issues of solid, reliable, entertaining comics that don't try to pose as though they're above the audience, aren't full of feeble junk science culled from skimming that dog-eared copy of Popular Science, there's not an issue of people sitting around doing nothing save spouting cloned Whedon, there's nothing save a decent superhero comic that tries to hit the mark, doesn't quite, and somehow ends up still being worthwhile.
If you can find it cheap enough, why not give it a read?