Thursday, May 19, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #281

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 #281

June 1992

"The Masters of Silence"

Writer: Len Kaminski
Artists: Kevin Hopgood (pencils) Bob Wiacek (inks)

Tony Stark is dreaming and apparently has the worlds most sarcastic narrator (No, really: "Oh-oh. The giant machine has wrecked everything. Wow. Symbolism." Len Kaminski is just awesome, you know) so we can once again touch on the mess John Byrne made of the book's status quo: namely, he left the book in a state where there was no option but for Tony Stark to die.

So as this is a fait accompli, Stark gets busy making some arrangements: some for his company to continue in case of his death or incapacitation, some allowing his armour to be controlled remotely, because he's going to die, and no mistake (yeah, hindsight, I know)

Meanwhile, someone else is making arrangements too: a cabal of baddies including but not limited to HYDRA, Roxxon Oil makes plans to attack and pick Stark Enterprises' bones clean, but never mind that shit, here's Mongo. Oh, no--I mean, before that can happen, reports of a nuclear reactor failure in Japan lead us to cut to the head of Akane Fusion, who, his honour impugned (one gets the idea, reading early 90's comics that the Japanese are forever getting their honour trampled on and swearing ridiculous yet vaguely plausible for comics books vengeance) enlists the Masters of Silence--Inzauma, Kaze, and Kaminari ("Lighting," "Wind" and "Thunder"--but they're not those other guys.) to go kill Tony Stark.

Naturally, this leads to a fight between the Masters and Iron Man, and Iron Man gets wrecked, because the Masters have countered all his weapon systems. Stark blows up the armour and taunts the Masters via hologram before he blows up.

Stark glues a widget onto his chest to keep him alive a bit longer while he constructs a new suit of armour to take on the Masters. Since the Masters are protected from his usual stuff, he decides to festoon the new suit with guns, rockets, more guns, more rockets, and a lightsaber. The Masters had better watch out . . .'cause he's a war machine.

Lot to look over in this issue. For one thing it's the end of the post Armour Wars suit, which had been around for like, 50 issues or so by this point, and really played up that sometimes you get Iron Man armour that looks really good when one person draws it . . .and utterly ghastly when everyone else tries it on. By the end, damn near everyone drew it with these chunky gloves and boots that make it look like he was walking around with buckets on his feet, and any of the sleekness had pretty much gone.

But it's replaced with the War Machine suit, which for all it's 90's-ness, really works in terms of Iron Man's history. For one thing, its armament echoes the weapons he swore off making back in the day, and it looks forward to the Iron Man 2020 look a bit--it literally looks like an opposite number for Iron Man in ways that all the other opposite numbers for Iron Man (that is, about 95% of his rogue's gallery) really doesn't. I was really pleased with how they kept (er, generally) the notion that he was a dark twin of Iron Man-first, with Jim Rhodes using the armour in ways that Stark never would, then with his return as a villain in the Busiek era.

Never mind that in general, it's just damn fun to see Kaminski trying to extricate himself from the plot problems John Byrne left the book in with an amused sort of verve is rather awesome, and I quite that he gives everyone in the supporting cast something to do, which helps sell the scope of the problem quite a bit better.

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