Digital comics are the future of comics, so say everyone on the internet and everyone trying to justify their purchase of an iPad and leveraging that into a desperate attempt to generate content for their blogs and stuff. It is in this spirit that the management at Witless Prattle continues the following new, exciting, weirdly specific and slightly iconoclastic feature.
Iron Man #192
"A Duel of Iron"
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artists: Luke McDonnell (pencils) Akin & Garvey (inks)
The moment Tony Stark has dreaded has come. With Jim Rhodes completely irrational and out of control and endangering civilians in a fight with frankly barmy supervillain Vibro, he's forced to don the suit of Iron Man armour he'd been using as work therapy to stop his best friend.
It's not good news for Stark, who's only recently stopped drinking and identified one of the causes of his alcoholism as using the Iron Man armour as a way of avoiding his problems. To put it on again might mean crawling back into a bottle. Worse still, Rhodes' armour far outclasses his.
But there's no other option.
Stark is able to shut down Vibro while Rhodes is crawling from the wreckage of the fight and then Stark tries to talk Rhodes down from his rage. Now that Stark's stopped drinking he'd been a bit more active in helping out Rhodes when he was in a jam, which made Rhodes all paranoid that that Stark wanted to be Iron Man again. The irony of course, is Stark couldn't possibly want anything less.
Eventually, Stark shuts down Rhodes' armour and they finally talk it out. Rhodes fears Stark will take away the armour and his chance to be a hero, which is all he really ever wanted. Stark insists he really doesn't want to be Iron Man (obviously, circumstances will change that) and to prove his trust in his friend, Stark sheds his armour and un-freezes Rhodes'. Thankfully, Rhodey, having regained his senses, doesn't kill the hell out of him.
This is a pretty good issue--one of the major bits of Denny O'Neil's run on the book was contrasting Stark's use of the Iron Man armour as a crutch to isolate him from his problems and Rhodes' use of the armour to become a hero (even though, really, he already was) and his dependence on it as an amplifier for his conscience. In both cases, it's a destructive addiction, obviously.
This sets up the new status quo of the book until #200. Essentially there are two Iron Men running around in it, and the focus shifts to Stark trying to grapple with consciously or unconsciously getting back into the role of being Iron Man, a role which he's extraordinarily ambivalent about until issue #200 finally forces his hand.
It's a good issue, and while it really needs to be read in series (O'Neil built this up for three years, if you can believe it) to get the full effect, it's really worthwhile. It's also amazing to see how different Luke McDonnell's art is compared to the looser style he'd start doing in Suicide Squad a couple years after this.