Thursday, June 9, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #284

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 #284
September 1992

"Legacy of Iron"

Writer: Len Kaminski
Artists: Kevin Hopgood (pencils) Andrew Pepoy (inks)

Tony Stark's dead (in case the cover with him lying in a coffin with the words "THE DEATH OF ANTHONY STARK" in big letters on the cover) and the media are having a field day with it, even suggesting he died of The Aids, and assertion which causes Jim Rhodes to destroy another television (seriously, I think he does this a lot) partly because they're full of shit and partly because he's pissed at Stark for dying on him.

Thanks to the miracle of the round-panel flashback, we're given the scoop on how Stark died on the table and how Abe Zimmer was gonna collect the body and all that. Kaminski gets mad points for me for having the guy say to Rhodes "He's dead, Jim," because even at this date, comic book death was beyond a joke, so nuts to notions like gravitas.

News spreads fast and we get a montage of Bethany Cabe shedding a tear, the Avengers flying their flag at half staff, Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts being shattered by the news, the West Coast Avengers looking concerned, Kathy Dare completely bent about it (she kinda thought she'd be the one to do it and did in fact try) the new Spymaster readying himself to take advantage of that, and even Doctor Doom toasting to Stark's memory.

Back to the sharp corners, which means we're living in the present tense. Felix Alvarez shows up at Rhodes' door and gives him a CD-ROM (ah, 1992) and an access card to be played in Stark's office. Rhodes plays the message and Stark says that while he's dead there's plenty of unfinished business that needs to be taken care of. Rhodes was promoted to CEO before Stark's death, so that's half-taken care of, but there's more.

And that's when Rhodes new Iron Man suit is rolled out. Rhodes reacts about like you'd expect--really pissed off--and curses Stark for putting him in this position. Marcy Pearson comes in and gets all pissy because she was next in line to be CEO before Stark appointed Rhodes to the position. Trading on their former romantic history, Pearson tells him to say he's not qualified for the job. If he should take the job anyway, they're through.

Rhodes decides to sleep on it and has a nightmare about Iron Man's enemies rampaging through the city and talking alternately like Conan (the barbarian, not O'Brien) and generic villains with no one to save them. Wracked by the guilt of what could happen by him giving up Rhodes takes the armour and the position, and fires Pearson.

While this is going on, they've managed to freeze Stark's body in a cryogenic chamber while they work out how to bring him back. This will figure in later on (about #290) but for now we end on this cliffhanger.

This is a pretty good issue, all told. I thought, even though Kaminski's portrayal of Rhodes sometimes lapsed into "generic angry black dude" territory, but more often than not he would give Rhodes a more nuanced characterisation of a person occasionally ruled by his temper, but most of all willing to break some stuff in the name of doing right. These next six issues featuring him as Iron Man are pretty good, frankly, and this whole build to 300, some obvious filler moments aside, is pretty awesome.

I also like how Kaminski is willing to play with the notion of comic book death. John Byrne had left him no easy way to back out of Stark's imminent death without it looking like a cheat, so he took it head on and let Stark "die" for six issues and sorted it out that way. While ultimately he resurrected Stark, the notion that Stark was gonna die at all was pretty unlikely, so he decides to have fun with it. Morbid as it sounds, when comic book death has been so devalued in point of impact you either kill too many people, kill no one, or make sport of it, and Kaminski's willing to make sport of it.

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