Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #313

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 #313
Feb 1995


Writer: Len Kaminski
Artists: Dave Chylstek (pencils) Andy Lanning (inks)

How ironic that on the heels of one of the most cretinous, most mendacious scenes in modern comics (which was naturally hailed as brilliant by people who should--and don't--know better), this issue comes up.

It's New Year's Eve, and in the wake of VOR/TEX taking over his body and forcing him to get stupid drunk, Tony Stark goes to an AA meeting to deal with the psychological fallout of the experience. We flash back to when Howard Stark, his father offering him his first drink in the name of "making a man out of him" We'd hit on this previously in Kaminski's run--here we're just explicitly drawing a line of causality to it and his later problems with alcohol. We touch on "Demon in a Bottle" and the Obadiah Stane stuff and we flash back from there to a conversation he had with Jim Rhodes where he talks about what happened, says it sounds like the ravings of an alcoholic (VOR/TEX, I should mention, was an artificial intelligence program that took over Stark's nervous system and . . .yeah, it sounds pretty crazy, but on the scale of that and hiding your armour in your bone marrow, I'd say it's a push, really) Stark gives Jim Rhodes the specs for his War Machine suit so he can make repairs on it (which was the cause of their big set-to before the Mandarin story) and they part as friends.

Cut from there to Stark apologising to Mrs. Arbogast, who dresses him down for it, not the apology, but for not opening up to his friends and leaning on them when he needs to (yes, this was highlighted in Kaminski's final issue, now that you mention) and Arbogast tells him that the next time he needs help and doesn't ask, she'll kick his ass. See, I like her so much better than Pepper Potts.

Back to the AA meeting and Stark finishes up, feeling a little better about things. He comes across Happy Hogan outside, who confesses that his father, and him as well, were/are alcoholics, and lets him know he understands where he's coming from. Stark goes home and watches a movie featuring Wonder Man and berated himself for letting him die in Force Works, when Bethany Cabe shows up to make him feel better. They tease getting together, but that ain't gonna happen for another six issues when Stark's acting grossly out of character anyways and anyway, everyone knows Pepper Potts is Stark's one true love, right?

This isn't a bad issue--lamentably in the age of decompression you don't get these kinds of issues where you pause and catch your breath and take time out for a quiet character study like this anymore, but then, given that 90% of the issue involves the supporting cast and they don't have those anymore, it's even more of a rare bird. It has some ropey bits--Dave Chylstek's art isn't a good match for a script that's so much talking heads and given his heavy use of blacks, you kinda get the feeling he'd have been a better fit on another book that better suited his proclivities. But he does as well as he can with it, and Kaminski turns in another winner of a script and shows he understands Stark as a character the way that having him chug a bottle of wine to get Odin's attention, let's say, doesn't.

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