Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #300

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 #300
January 1994

"Appetite For Destruction!"

Writer: Len Kaminski
Artists: Kevin Hopgood and Tom Morgan (pencils) Steve Mitchell (inks)

A few miscellaneous facts before we begin: This is Post #300 here at Witless Prattle, at least according the "New Post" command here at Blogger. I'm generally too lazy to count it myself, and in all candor, it's not like Marvel hasn't fudged its numbers plenty anyways, so, give or take one post, enjoy our #300th anniversary . . .by reading a review of Iron Man's 300th issue, which has a foil cover, which is the kind layered meta-joke that the 15 followers and other occasional visitors to this place have come to expect from me.

Okay, so, given where we left it last issue (hey, after I dunno how many of these, the posts are actually linking up! How about that?) Ultimo is loose and wrecking shit and letting people know where they are--they're in the jungle baby, and they're going to die.

I should also mention, before I flip the page, that on the inside front cover, the X-Men are fighting against boring underwear. I'm not sure that jamming Gambit, Cyclops, or Wolverine into people's tighty-whiteys is a practical way to combat it, but in the ad, Jean Grey seems down with it, while everyone else looks uncomfortable/constipated. This ad really raises more questions than it answers.

Anyways, back to the action, and it gets worse here every day. With Ultimo seeming unstoppable, Jim Rhodes suits up as War Machine and summons everyone who's ever worn an Iron Man suit ever (Including Eddie March, for heaven's sake), and Bethany Cabe (who is a rocket queen) and decides that anything goes, and they all suit up and go to kick some Ultimo ass.

Meanwhile, in Subplots Corner, Veronica Benning is still angsting over Tony, but he's been torn apart and now he's a court jester with a broken heart. Or, well, actually he's hallucinating about his past as he tries to struggle out of his coma and Veronica drones on and on and is meant to frame the story of Tony struggling through his flashbacks but really only serves to tell us exactly what we're seeing on the other half of the page anyways. The meat of this (Veronica's boring backstory notwithstanding) is that Stark, who's lately been having flashbacks about his abuse alcoholic father, finally triumphs and wakes up from his coma, full of purpose, and good thing too--we're halfway through this double-sized issue and . . .

. . .the Iron Legion are getting their collective asses kicked. Two of them go down, and Rhodes is frankly not happy with himself, because he's jerked a bunch of people around just like Stark would have and all it's done is bring them to their sh-na-na-na-na-na-na knees, knees. He and Bethany decide to take Ultimo on while the rest of the Legion get everyone evacuated.

Meanwhile, over in our other plot, HOMER (who more or less ended up being JARVIS in the movies) has competed construction on Iron Man's new armour (which was a slick bit of design which lasted through quite a lot of things other than the comics--both seasons of the cartoon and every Marvel vs. game up to Marvel vs. Capcom 2) and Stark finally get outs of the chair he'd been in every since recovering from being dead (It's so easy, y'know) and suits up. We get a rather clever bit about this new armour--being modular, instead of separate suits of armour for special roles, he can swap out different parts of the armour for different missions, as well as snap-on different guns and scanners and stuff depending on what he needs at the time (I don't think they really used this that much in practice, but good on them for trying to do something interesting with it--lord knows the next time he gets a new suit, there's absolutely no reasoning behind it save for "Joe Madureria.") It's rather cool.

Anyways, Stark takes the nightrain (well, not really, but we have a running joke today, y'know) and engages Ultimo. We get a good bit where instead of having an extended slugfest with Ultimo (which, 46 pages in, we've had already and I would say, we've got all we can get out of that by now) and scans Ultimo to figure out what he needs to do to stop him--y'know, doing stuff that makes Iron Man Iron man by giving us a look into him figuring it out on the fly rather than just having preemptively worked it all out because he's a "futurist" or whatever nonsense Marvel wants to sell us on now.

Ultimo gets defeated with some vaguely plausible science as Iron Man shuts down his nervous system with an EMP and Iron Man tries to mend fences with Jim Rhodes again, only for Rhodes to knock him on his ass, declare he's tired of being jerked around (yes, again) and to leave him the hell alone (yes, again) Stark is more than a little taken aback and prays for the thunder and the rain to quietly pass him by and offers Bethany a job as SE's Head of Security.

Meanwhile, in subplots corner, Stark tells Veronika that he's his Michelle, and Marcy Pearson and Hacker Guy are busy trying to break in to SE's computer's, which well set up "Crash and Burn" next issue, as something is watching them (it's actually VOR/TEX, who we'll deal with when the time comes) The issue closes with some backmatter about Stark Enterprises which is generally just there to let us know about the supporting cast going forward from here.

So, while this issue has some good bits, it also has a very critical flaw--Ultimo is not really that great a bad guy to hang your anniversary issue on, and while the book does the desperate battle against him justice, and allows us a few moments of awesome (the Iron Legion--seriously, Len Kaminski's knowledge of Iron Man lore is near rabbinical if he's willing to pull Eddie March out of the mothballs) but really, when you compare it to #200, which was the culmination of three years of plotlines and had a real emotional punch as well as a big actiony set-piece, it feels a bit bit thin--it's a big slugfest with a few subplots ticking over and two more starting up.

But, this is balanced out by the good bits--Iron Man is allowed to actually be Iron Man in an interesting way, the new armour is pretty cool, and it hums along so nice and efficiently that you actually don't realise how thin it is until after, and Len Kaminski has a real facility for writing Iron Man in a way that few writers in his run had (though he was doing Hellstorm as well at this time and . . .you know, I've always wondered whether the two were connected somehow, but that could just be me seeing connections where none exist) and I still maintain bringing him back for a victory lap at Marvel wouldn't be a bad thing at all. Just a suggestion that would, y'know, maybe make me buy your comics again.

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