Monday, May 9, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #20

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 #20

September 1999

"Cheating Death, Part 3"

Writers: Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern

Artists: Patrick Zircher and Sean Chen (pencils) Delperdang, Hunter, Mahlstedt, Stucker (inks)

Ooh, that's a lot of credits. Anyways, we join Iron Man fighting against the new and dubiously improved War Marchine, who--I said it now and I said it then--shouldn't be able stand, much less move. Jocasta, who Iron Man established a connection with when he raided Sunset Bain's company last issue, only Bain has launched a whole host of smart weapons at both Iron Man and War Machine and they're fighting them as well.

Soon enough, Jim Rhodes pops up and reveals who War Machine is, and well, the revelation that Parnell Jacobs is War Machine would mean a bit more if it didn't feel so much like a continuity implant. Anyways, War Machine argues with Rhodes and Jacob's wife Glenda while Iron Man nearly gets run over by the War Wheel Mk. 2. Iron Man destroys the wheel and gains access to the smart weapons and blows up War Machine.

War Machine ejects the ugly-ass new armor and quits the battle, Iron Man downloads Jocasta into his own computers and tells Sunset Bain to climb her thumb. It's just as rushed and disjointed as it sounds, trust me. Later on, in Subplots Corner, Tony kisses Pepper Potts (because that relationship is going forward whether it makes any sense at all) and another dead Madame Masque is found, which is a plot like which will be tied up finally in Avengers.

Man, this issue is a bit of a mess, but having read between the lies, I can only assume Busiek was under the gun with various diktats and trying to fulfil all that, tie up all his subplots and make way for Joe Quesada's frankly awful run on the book. I do not understand how the new War Machine design is supposed to work, and neither do the artists, because it changes from panel to panel, and really, as Busiek said, no one much liked it because it deviated too far from the basic appeal of War Machine by turning him into just another mech.

Sunset Bain . . .well, she never quite worked as a credible villain, did she? I give Busiek all credit for trying to build up a cast-off from Machine Man into a credible Iron Man nemesis, but it never quite came off the blocks, as it depended on a lot of implanted history between her and Tony and as a result, it feels a bit artificial.

The Jocasta stuff will eventually get messed around with and turned into a sleeper program to create a new Ultron in Frank Tieri's run later on, and uh, the less said about all that the better, really.

These last few issues you can really feel the crunch as all the loose ends get tied up--kinda--and they really suffer for it. I'm sure Busiek had a plan for all this and it was going somewhere, but it always felt to me like a lot of his ideas got choked off before he could really implement them.

Despite the legion of artists on this issue Patrick Zircher once again acquits himself well filling in for Sean Chen (though I gently tease Zircher here by saying that Overstreet defines "Rare" as a comic that Zircher did not fill in for between 1993 and the present. Honestly--give the guy his own book for once--he's solid, reliable and apparently very quick because he was the go-to fill-in guy there for awhile) and it all feels of a unified style, even though it's two pencillers and 4 inkers.

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