Friday, May 20, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #195

Digital comics are the future of comics, so says 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 #195

June 1985

"The Thing Most Precious"

Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artists: Luke McDonnell (pencils) Akin & Garvey (inks)

Iron Man (Jim Rhodes, this time) flies in to Lance Storm's home town of Calgary (dramatic pause) Alberta, Canada, looking for Micheal Twoyoungmen, also known as Shaman of Alpha Flight. Yes, this is what you think, and yes, it's gonna be pretty cringing stuff. Shaman squeezes his head and Rhodes freaks out because he's not some dude in a loincloth spouting myths and bullshit--let me tell you something Hoss, his visions are strong.

Yeah, enough Thunderheart references--Rhodes is there to finally cure his headaches, and Shaman says it's a problem with his soul and it's going to require well, essentially a vision quest to solve.

In the B-Plot, Hawkeye is trying to cheer up Stark, who lost his suit or armour in the ocean. We get a couple pages of Stark saying he's never going to put on a suit of armour again (again) and how when he was drowning last issue the armour was dragging him down, just like it always had (in case the metaphor wasn't painfully obvious already) Hawkeye suggests he build a suit for the West Coast Avengers--Stark wouldn't have to wear it, but the WCA could use it as backup. Hawkeye is rather pleased with himself, because he's certain Stark will end up being Iron Man again because the temptation will be too great. It doesn't exactly play out that way, of course . . .

Over in Subplots Corner, Bethany Cabe is visiting Calfornia and for what feels like the 9 zillionth time gets attacked by thugs from Obadiah Stane and beats the crap out of them. Stane and his mystery partner (OK, it's Madame Masque) grind their teeth over Cabe getting away and the Enforcer getting killed by Scourge last week. Stane insists that Stark is a pathetic drunk--I'm sorry "pathetic, dribbling, drunk"--and there's no way he's got his shit together.

Back in the A-Plot, Shaman and Rhodes head off on their vision quest. Said vision quest seems to consist of Shaman dropping him in Steve Ditko-land and telling him it's dangerous and there's not really much he can do. We get a couple pages of Rhodes doing his Iron Man thing, and he says he's getting tired of Shaman's "fortune cookie routine."

I know how he feels.

Anyways, this is just a tortured metaphor for something which had been made clear a few issues ago--Rhodes felt worthless unless he was Iron Man, he saw it as his only means to really be somebody, and when he got the Iron Man armour, he felt like he'd finally made it. But subconsciously he felt unworthy of it, hence the headaches. The Iron Man armour disappears and Rhodes is back in Calgary (dramatic pause) Alberta, Canada again, finally at peace with himself, if a little discomfited by what he's learned about himself.

Man, this issue. Like McDonnell gives it his all art-wise in his final issue of Iron Man, but this story makes my head hurt. Even in 1985 "guy goes to see Wise Indian and get his head together" was a dead-horse cliche by this point and reading 26 years later really hasn't helped it any. While I guess we did need a moment where Rhodes' issues with Stark were made explicit and finally resolved, one wishes a better way had been found besides this. This is a bit of a recurring problem in the #190s--Denny O'Neil has all his major threads tied up--Stark's back on the wagon and finding his way to being Iron Man again, Rhodes has settled his issue with Stark, and the two of them are building a new life in California while Stane moves into his endgame.

The problem is, since the final showdown with Stane can't happen until #200, that means we spend about five or six issues treading water with one thing or another until then, and times like this, it really plays up how thin on the ground meaningful continuing plots points were during this time.

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