Iron Man #103-107
Issue(s): Iron Man #103, Iron Man #104, Iron Man #105, Iron Man #106, Iron Man #107
This is a five issue arc featuring a few guest stars as well as the return of several old characters. It's definitely a bit of a jumbled mess, and also highlights the high melodrama that is a Bill Mantlo trademark, but there are some interesting aspects as well.
We start with the car chase from last issue. Jasper Sitwell has been pursuing Krissy Longfellow and Harry Key, but at the beginning of this issue they use a smoke screen to give him the slip and wind up on a giant floating platform...
...owned by Midas.
Krissy Longfellow reveals that she is Madame Masque...
...and Midas shows no ill feelings about having left him to die in his previous appearance. He does, however, throw Harry Key off the island because the Iron Man suit he stole turns out to be a fake.
It turns out that he's bought Stark International. Which makes you wonder why he was bothering having Harry Key engage in industrial espionage at all.
Meanwhile, Iron Man is catching a plane home, resulting in some jokey scenes.
When Iron Man returns home, he is immediately attacked by Midas' forces. Jack of Hearts, having arrived at the factory because Stark was a trustee of his dad's estate, assumes Iron Man is going crazy and joins the fight against Iron Man.
I guess he doesn't think it's weird that the factory's security forces are wearing ancient greek uniforms.
All of this makes Madame Masque very sad.
Eventually Iron Man convinces Jack of Hearts that he's the wronged party, and so Jack of Hearts joins him in an assault on Midas. But when Midas reveals that he now owns Tony's company, and also that Krissy is actually Madame Masque, Tony stops his attack, and flies off with Masque.
Meanwhile, at the sanitorium where Marianne Rogers was being cared for, payments from Stark have been stopped and so she's declared "cured" and put out on the street.
Is this thanks to the Midas takeover? It happened that fast? Was Stark paying on a daily basis?
I also wonder why Stark put Marianne in a regular hospital instead of, say, asking for help from Professor X or SHIELD. She's clearly dangerous. Each issue of this arc shows Marianne heading towards Stark International and incidentally mind-zapping people along the way until she shows up for the final scene.
The next issue starts with Tony and Whitney Frost/Madam Masque pretty clearly having slept together.
Here it is, everybody. The world's least passionate kiss.
Tony takes Whitney to his parents home, since it's all he has (well, that and his "family fortune") since Midas took ownership of his business. Then, Jasper Sitwell shows up, jealous over Iron Man and Madame Masque, and there's a long and tedious fight.
The situation is "resolved" by Whitney telling Jasper that she's decided she loves Iron Man (it's unclear if he knows that Iron Man is Stark, but he must, right?), which should have been obvious before the fight even started. In fact it's why it started. But he can't bring himself to arrest her (she is still a wanted criminal), and he walks off dejected.
While all of this is going on, Midas is amassing his power...
...and a group of former Iron Man associates are gathering a little team.
Nick Fury shows up to explain the stakes and put Jasper in charge of the group.
He's clearly authorizing an illegal raid, something you'd think that Jasper and especially Jean DeWolff might have a problem with.
One thing i'm a little unclear on: i thought Stark was out of the munitions business. But both this arc and the previous Senator Hawk storyline show that Stark still has defense contracts. This might have been explained and i've missed it.
We learn that Midas' inside man was Abraham Klein. Midas claims to have information on his wife and daughter, who were lost in the Holocaust. In return for eventually getting that information, Klein supplied Midas with the names of Stark's shareholders, which allowed Midas to blackmail them. Why were so many Stark shareholders susceptible to blackmail?!
Tony Stark has been moping about, riding horses with Madame Masque, and actually happy to have the burden of running Stark International taken away from him (as the mind-reading Wraith learns; and also learns his secret identity). So Iron Man's friends show up and very melodramatically convince him to go up against Midas. By melodramatic i mean a lot of yelling and then Jasper actually puts a gun to Whitney's head.
But it works and Iron Man heads off to attack Midas. And his friends join him, even Eddie March, who is not supposed to be fighting thanks to a blood clot in his brain. Actually, last we saw of March he was permanently in a wheel chair; he's obviously gotten better.
Sitwell recovers his composure and joins the group as well.
Iron Man and company fight their way through an army of remote-controlled Iron Man suits.
But while they are distracted with that, Midas comes out and turns everyone into gold.
Jack of Hearts soon transforms back thanks to his unique physiology...
...and it turns out only Iron Man's armor was transformed, so he's able to escape and assemble a new suit out of all the spare Iron Man suits that were sent to attack him.
During the subsequent fight, Abraham Klein is killed (after learning that Midas didn't really have any info on his family)...
...and Stark reveals his secret ID to Midas and decides he's going to kill him. But Midas has tricks up his sleeve.
As i mentioned above, however, all through this arc, we've seen Marianne Rodgers working her way to Stark International, intent on killing Stark. And she shows up and conveniently mind-wipes Midas instead (a little experimentation from Pollard there).
With that, she seems to have expended her mental energy as well as her desire to kill Stark. Marianne's next appearance is Iron Man #320.
Definitely a busy arc. Probably loses points right off the bat with the use of Midas as a bad guy, but dumb ancient Greek trappings aside, he's a decent candidate for staging a takeover of Stark.
The Midas takeover is interesting...
...but it's worth comparing to the later takeover by Obadiah Stane. The difference is that the takeover here happens entirely behind the scenes and therefore is a lot more abrupt and less plausible. Also, Midas immediately fires everyone and replaces them with robots, and puts in a whole new automated factory.
If he could do all that, it's not clear why he needed Stark's factory to begin with. Not for Stark's contracts, since per Nick Fury it seems Midas wasn't honoring them.
Still, i find it to be an interesting precursor to the Stane storyline.
Beyond that, it's hard ignoring the fact that the Stark Rescue Team is composed largely of Mantlo creations that don't necessarily have the strongest connection to Stark. Eddie March - not a Mantlo character - works well (aside from the recovery problem). So does Michael O'Brien as the new Guardsman. But Jean DeWolff and the Wraith have a very tenuous connection with Iron Man and Jack of Hearts doesn't have one at all. Maybe calling in an Avenger, or maybe the Black Widow, would have helped balance things out a bit.
They're also not really the right group for a covert ops mission, which is what this was supposed be. In practice, it turned out to be an all-out war on Midas, who as far as anyone could prove, legally owned Stark International. You'd think this very public attack would cause some discomfort for SHIELD.
But the worst thing about the arc is the treatment of Jasper Sitwell. He's always had a pretty distinct and fun personality, and while Mantlo was definitely inheriting some drama from the previous Madame Masque storylines, there was no reason to go this way with it and have Sitwell go completely over the edge.
Add to that a lot of Tony Stark sulking and some goofy love scenes with Madame Masque, and you have a decent idea with poor execution.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Thanks to the subplot of Jasper Sitwell chasing Krissy Longfellow and Harry Key from last issue, this is pretty much a direct continuation of the previous arc. As with all of Iron Man #95-109, takes place between Avengers #166-167. This arc ends with a number of people turned to gold statues, including Jasper Sitwell and Jean DeWolff (Jean DeWolff's appearance in Ms. Marvel #15 takes place during this arc, before her appearance here). Issue #108 begins with Iron Man and Jack of Hearts having taken the statues to Henry Pym for a cure, so none of these characters should appear elsewhere in between. Most likely a decent amount of time passes during this arc, at least a couple of days since Tony and Whitney are shown waking up together twice. Probably longer to account for the stopped payments to Marianne's sanctuary and the renovations to Stark's factory. But i've kept it in a single arc since Iron Man can't appear elsewhere during this time.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): show
I really enjoyed this arc when i first read it as a kid. Nowadays, well...
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | June 4, 2013 3:57 PM
A good idea with poor execution could almost be called a "Mantloism".
I thought IM kissing the French girl was silly...till you showed us the IM/Madam Masque metal facelock.
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | June 4, 2013 5:48 PM
Loved this arc! One of my first! Still love it today!
Posted by: Jack | June 4, 2013 8:53 PM
Somehow if it was another writer and some corporate villain instead of Midas, it probably could have been stronger. It does feel like a foreshadowing at least of what could be when we get to the likes of Obadiah Stane and Justin Hammer.
Posted by: Ataru320 | June 5, 2013 9:08 PM
Mantlo was lucky that Tony Isabella was the forgiving type.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 7, 2013 4:21 PM
Comments are now closed.
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