Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #18

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 #18
July 1998

"Machinery of War Part 1: Sunset Intrigues"

Writers: Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern
Artists: Sean Chen (pencils) Larry Stucker and Eric Cannon (inkers)

We start with Iron Man hauling off the unconscious carcass of Fin Fang Foom who he fought last issue and meeting up with Sunset Bain who turns out to be able to get the navy to subcontract out for her when it comes to hauling dragons around because comic books and also shut up.

Cut to later, when Stark is meeting and greeting at his housewarming party and . . .runs into Sunset again. This turns into an excellent time for him to flash back to War Machine trashing the Astrodyne company and as he mulls over a connection between War Machine and Sunset. They're about to kiss when they're interrupted by a midget (which I don't know about you, but that happens all the time to men when I'm about to "get busy") setting up some "Eighth Day" stuff (ultimately seen here) and Sunset looks pretty annoyed because she's been snatch-patched by a dwarf with a monocle.

Meanwhile, in Subplots Corner, someone's dug up a grave. Yes, that's all. We cut back to Stark and Pepper Potts who are chewing over the Sunset Bain problem. Stark has to work for her to find proof that War Machine's working for her (never mind all the other crazy shit she's probably up to) and, feeling a little restless, he calls never-quite-gets-there-and-will-be-killed-off-later Rumiko Fujikawa, who tells him if her wants her, he knows where to find her. Stark mopes and stares at champagne bottles and resolves to be strong.

Because this issue isn't unfocused enough, cut to Warbird fighting Sapper and Golden-Blade, two of the most Chris Claremont-y villains you ever did see, and as Iron Man soon discovers (man, he's really taking his time with this Sunset Bain thing, isn't he?) she's been drinking. Warbird starts yelling and Iron Man ends up getting attacked trying to talk her off the ledge, because this same scene has now played itself out multiple times and it gets no better the more we go to the well.

Meanwhile, Jim Rhodes has Parnell Jacob's wife with him and that's a great time for War Machine, now looking . . .odd (seriously--I continue to have no idea how the upgraded War Machine armor is supposed to do simple things like bend at the waist) and he's ready to beat the tar out of Iron Man, but Sunset stops him because we have decided nothing really interesting or germane to Iron Man can happen in this issue.

While that's going on, the fight between Iron Man. Warbird and Sapper and Golden-Blade is going about as well as you expect--namely, Warbird makes Sapper explode and we cut to awhile later. Warbird breaks down and finally asks for help, which feels a little forced, but the hope that this running plot which has never ever worked will ends makes me too happy to really complain about it anymore.

Our final page this issue features ol' lard-butt War Machine finally taking off to do something and Sunset Bain monologuing to herself about how pleased that her utterly incomprehensible master plan is taking shape. She goes into a secure chamber containing the head of Jocasta (which she got a few Iron Man Annuals ago) which apparently Tony Stark is going to make work somehow, and this issue is finally, mercifully, over.

Wow, so if you must look on this issue (and I recommend you don't) look at it as that place where failed subplots go to die. Literally everything in it is a blind alley that ultimately goes nowhere. Sunset Bain's plan only now makes even the merest kind of sense, and this is after 18 issues or so of her hanging in the shadows being so inscrutable that the notion that she has any kind of easily graspable plan at all is a step in the right direction because it means she'll quit being inscrutable and thank God. Thankfully, the hard-on Marvel had for making Sunset Bain a Big Deal finally abates and I think she's quietly wished into the cornfield in Taskmaster three years or so later.

The Warbird alcoholism plot sorta progresses--finally--as Warbird hits rock bottom in the way so many alcoholics do--by zapping an alien cyborg. Unfortunately it has none of the impact that Stark's descent into alcoholism did because we're never given a sufficiently visceral connection with the pain that leads Warbird to drink, and frankly, there was plenty of gold to be mined there--I'm not sure why it wasn't, but instead of this we just get a riff on "Warbird, you're a drunk." "Am NOT!" "Are TOO!" for like 12 issues or so and it just never works.

I said everything I wanted to say about War Machine's new design when I reviewed issue #20, so I'm not gonna beat that dead horse. Busiek has mentioned there was substantial editorial influence at this point, and that may have cause the somewhat ham-fisted tying up of subplots this issue, and it may not, but I try to give him the benefit of the doubt about it.

That said . . .you know, just because the latter issues of Ms. Marvel gave us Rogue, Deathbird, and Mystique doesn't mean every damn Ms. Marvel villain is worthwhile. Sapper and Golden-Blade are frankly kind of pointless armored guys used perhaps because they were expendable and combustible.

I should also make mention that Sean Chen does great work here, and despite my antipathy for Sapper and Golden-Blade, they look really cool and the design of the rigging to haul Fin Fang Foom away in the opening is pretty cool and looks plausible. Whatever happened to Sean Chen anyways? I kinda lost track of him after his Wolverine run.

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