Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #3

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 #3
April 1998

"The Art of the Deal"

Writer:Kurt Busiek
Artists: Sean Chen (pencils) Cannon/Hubs/Parsons (inks)

When people ask me why I began the meme that Kurt Busiek's Iron Man is 90% Iron Man getting his ass kicked, I show him this book, the cover of which had Iron Man already looking like he got thrashed. And at this point, theoretically, you haven't even bought the book yet. When you open it and Iron Man is getting the shit kicked out of him in a glorious splash page, which, when you turn the page is a double-page spread of him getting blasted by three Dreadnoughts . . .look, I didn't pull this meme out of thin air.

So Iron Man is under attack by the Dreadnoughts, which, unusually for an Iron Man comic, are actually somewhat dangerous and not just something Iron Man can quickly wreck while Madame Masque looks all hot and dangerous posing with her gun and shit. The Dreadnoughts have issues from some kinda big flying saucery thing which is run by the Siege Engineers (yeah, I know) Iron Man flies back to the chalet that was destroyed to dig out some civilians and deliver them to safety. Then its off to chat with Pepper Potts at an internet cafe (oh, 1998, you scamp you) and this gives us a chance to touch of the Happy/Pepper stuff going on in Subplots Corner, which I went on at length about last week and ain't gonna waste time on here.

So Stark sits down for some coffee and exposition with Stephanie, the lady he rescued earlier and she tells him about Kapelos, who was a friend of her husband's, but she never liked him because he was kind of an asshole, a feeling more than justified when he tries to buy her husband's company and when she says no, he gets all pissed off. I should add that Stephanie is actually a returning character from an old old old Tales of Suspense issue wherein she apparently behaved like an utter psycho, but there's not much to say about that except while I appreciate Busiek's appreciation of the past, really, this could have been any character and the story would have still worked.

Anyways, a few bits of plot convulsions later and Stark comes up with a plan to lure the Dreadnoughts out to fight him. As this grinds on, we cut to the Mandarin (because this issue didn't have enough to annoy me, I guess) who apparently takes his meetings in the dark with a bucket on his head and calls his flunkies "fragile blossom." I have no words for this scene, really.

Anyways, round 2 with the Dreadnoughts. Iron Man meets them with an I-beam in his hand, and why not. He tricks them into melting it down, then throws the slag all over them and Iron Man leads them on a merry chase right back to their base where the Dreadnoughts seize up (the slag having blocked their heat exhaust ports) and presents their master with a choice--he gets some details on who's behind all this, or he'll just stay there and wait for the Dreadnoughts to blow up.

The guy relents and Iron Man flies off, and the Dreadnoughts go 'splode. Iron Man relaxes and thinks about this tying in to the larger plot of someone being out to get him and we cut to a few hours later and he even manages to get laid out of the deal. Not bad for someone who's plan was basically to turn his tendency to get his ass kicked into a workable plan. Then again, Stark is rather brilliant. The story closes with the girl Happy Hogan's been romancing looking all eeeeevil and saying how stupid Happy is because it's not like that hadn't been made explicit up to now and how they're going to take all the secrets Stark's new company will have, which, given this is issue #3, can't be all that much.

I tease Busiek all the time about how much time Iron Man spends getting his ass kicked, but fairness to him, as ropey as these issues read now (seriously HOW MANY GODDAMN PEOPLE ARE SITTING IN THE SHADOWS PLOTTING THE DOWNFALL OF TONY STARK? They add a new one every fucking issue) read now, this was as close to readable as Iron Man had been for like, three years at this point, and I was an am grateful that the book is being written with a measure of competence, but at the same time, I wish it was in the service of something more worthwhile.

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