Friday, June 3, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #172

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, exciting, weirdly specific and slightly iconoclastic feature.

Iron Man #172
July 1983

"Firebrand's Revenge!"

Writers: Denny O'Neil
Artists: Luke McDonnell (pencils) Steve Mitchell (inks)

Tony Stark, drunk as a skunk, has broken in to a museum, put on a suit of medieval armour and is waving a sword around in ways that drunk people just shouldn't be doing. He spends some time in the drunk tank and then is bailed out by Vic Martinelli and goes immediately to the nearest liquor store, as the Tony Stark Tries To Drink Himself To Death Tour '83 kicks into high gear.

Meanwhile, Jim Rhodes tests out the Iron Man armour with creative use of baseball equipment and after a couple panels chewing over the situation with Stark, gets called in with Martinelli and the rest to do something about Stark--Obadiah Stane is inches away from acquiring all of Stark International's debts, and if he does that, he owns the place. In addition, he's filed a mountain of civil lawsuits to further hem them in. They have one shot--a writ that will keep Stane at bay for a little but, but Stark has to sign it and get it notarized by five that day.

They've gotta find Stark, and Iron Man decides to call in Captain America to help look for Stark, who is stewing over reading him the riot act over in Avengers and generally feeling bad about how fucked-up Stark is now. His search catches the attention of one Gary Gilbert, better known as lifetime third-stringer Firebreand (I should add this is the last important thing he does until the Scourge kills him in about three years) and soars off to start some shit.

Meanwhile, Cap has found Stark and unfortunately, he's not Mr. Compassion and Stark doesn't feel like listening all that much anyway--he's so deep into his depression that he's basically trying to commit suicide by other means. Cap understand that--his father was an alocholic--and he says "a man has to want to be helped" and to let him know when he's ready.

Then he stalks off--or he would, if Firebrand hadn't taken that opportunity to start torching the building. Cap rescues Stark and Iron Man helps put the fire out and then goes after Firebrand, whom Iron Man just tosses into the ocean (sadly not after sticking him in a drum filled with fat Lithuanian midgets) Iron Man and Cap attempt to resume the search, but Cap doesn't see the point in it because Stark's so determined to destroy himself.

Oh yes, and also because it's past 5, the writ is useless, and Obadiah Stane now owns Stark International.

So, this was a real thigh-slapper, eh? Stark's resolved to kill himself--as slowly as possible--his friends are giving up on him, and he's picked the worst time conceivable to do all this, as he now lost control of his company as completely as he's lost control of himself. Things are BAD and getting worse.

On the plus side, Firebrand gets his face punched in. That's always nice.

Well, it's not an easy issue--none of the second act of the Stane arc are, really--because we're gonna follow Stark all the way down the gutter and then bounce lower, and then it's a slow climb back to normalcy, about 27 issues from now. O'Neil is in top form here, writing an unflinching document of one man's self-destruction, and Luke McDonnell does his usual excellent job on pencils. It's still strange to me to see the transition in his style from Iron Man to Suicide Squad, because in Iron Man he's very keen on using shadowy panels and off-kilter "camera" placement, and in Suicide Squad his style is a lot rougher and more immediate. They're both good, mind, it's just you don't expect to see such a complete stylistic flip.

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