Iron Man #2-4
Issue(s): Iron Man #2, Iron Man #3, Iron Man #4
Without taking anything away from the groundbreaking Stan Lee, Goodwin is a better writer in a basic way - less bombast and deliberate corniness, more natural dialogue, somewhat less melodrama.
That said, i can't say much for the plots of these earliest issues. But the stories are made more tolerable by Goodwin's writing.
Issue #2 is a good example. It features a crazy rival industrialist sending a robot out to defeat Iron Man.
Kind of a bland plot and nothing too original. But Goodwin does a good job of selling the idea that the man, Drexel Cord, really is legitimately crazy and not just Silver Age kookie.
I don't expect a sensitive depiction of the problems of the mentally ill. But i like how Goodwin shows his daughter, Janice, being overwhelmed by her father's mania and unable to do anything to stop him...
...so she sensibly goes to Stark's factory and reports things to SHIELD Agent Jasper Sitwell, who, also refreshingly, takes her seriously.
Drexel is killed by his own robot.
I don't really love how Goodwin telegraphs the fact that Janice Cord will be a love interest going forward. They barely interact in this story, but Iron Man feels bad that he isn't the one escorting her away.
The next story has Iron Man in really bad shape after the fight with Drexel Cord's robot. His armor needs a charge but even after charging it he realizes that something's wrong, and it turns out that his heart is more damaged than ever and he needs a better suit of armor to keep himself alive.
Stark is in no shape to build a new suit himself, but luckily Happy Hogan knows his secret identity, so Stark directs Happy on the construction.
The new suit uses integrated circuits instead of transistors (which he describes as "outmoded") and is therefore more powerful but also lighter. No visible changes to the armor, though.
The problem is that Happy had to rush the use of a colbalt [sic] bombarder to finish the armor in time...
...and that exposure transforms Happy back into the Freak.
This is what i mean about the plotting. Even if turning Happy into the Freak was ever a good idea, doing it a second time just to give Iron Man someone to fight certainly wasn't.
Another improvement on the armor is that its thermocoupling element allows it to convert heat into usable energy.
Iron Man fights the Freak for the rest of the issue...
...with Pepper wondering as usual why Stark himself doesn't come out to help his friend, or even how he could allow his friend to wind up in this situation.
When it's all over, Happy doesn't remember the incident (i suppose he must remember that he helped Stark and then passed out, but not that he turned into a giant monster and chased his wife up a building).
Issue #4 has Goodwin back on a somewhat better track, bringing back an established (albeit goofy) villain, the Unicorn. The Kremlin has brainwashed him and used a machine to increase his vitality (in a scene Goodwin nicely parallels with Stark's curing of Happy) at the expense of his life expectancy.
However, it turns out the brainwashing didn't really take, so the Unicorn turns on the Soviets and then heads to a science conference where he intends to either kidnap someone and force them to fix his health issue or at least ransom them for a lot of money.
The Unicorn totally ashes a couple of guards when he shows up; i don't care what he says in the dialogue.
Tony Stark is also at the conference, and he puts a stop to the Unicorn.
In the end the Unicorn goes over a cliff, and Iron Man's not sure if his flying belt was working or not. But when he can't find him he figures it doesn't matter since the Unicorn will die soon anyway.
Iron Man's helmet is shown to be a flexible mask, which is really weird and there's no explanation for it yet, but i assume it's because the integrated circuits allow the armor to be thinner.
I said above that there was somewhat less melodrama, but we have Stark feeling guilty over the death of Drexel Cord and over Happy turning into the Freak. Neither were Stark's fault (Stark told Happy not to increase the "colbalt bombarder"). There's also the secret identity angst with Pepper during the Freak fight.
Craig's art is simple, perhaps crisper and better suited for fight sequences than Gene Colan's, but feels somewhat a step backwards. For an EC horror guy, i would have expected a more menacing robot or a freakier Freak but i suppose there are Code considerations.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place after Avengers #52. These are three standalone stories but Iron Man is shown returning from Cord's factory at the beginning of issue #3, and Stark is still curing Happy at the beginning of issue #4, so they run together.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Masterworks: The Invincible Iron Man vol. 5
Inbound References (12): show
I definitely agree with you on Stan Lee's early writing. The melodramatic stuff was present along with some corny superhero self promotion. "They'll have the Avengers to deal with!"
Posted by: Mike | August 10, 2014 11:17 PM
I really liked the Unicorn in these issues. He shouts, he blasts things with glee... He's quite manic and aggressive, like a technological berserker. Iron Man's Sabretooth?
Posted by: Piotr W | February 26, 2017 5:32 PM
Ah the infamous Iron Man armor/ Mask looking like fabric at times. From what I gather the idea is the armor would Polarize when it was powered by a magnetic field. The Mesh would solidify and, boom, solid armor. In light of some materials developed since, it was an innovative idea.
Posted by: Will Gillies | December 16, 2017 9:42 PM
One thing that's easy to miss with Goodwin is his careful setup of long-term plot elements. Pretty much ever story in the first 20-odd issues of his Iron Man run plays off of either Drexel Cord's mismanagement of his company and Janice's efforts to rebuild it, the Unicorn's alterations, or the Maggia/Whitney Frost stuff.
For example, the Gladiator, Midas, and Minotaur stories in later issues all tie into the Witney Frost plotline; Cord comes up again as Stark's hiding place in issues 10-11 and there's a subplot with Cord's lawyer that builds tot he Controller plot in issues #12-13, after which Cord becomes the basis for the Alex Niven/Crimson Dynamo plotline; and the Unicorn's new motive to save himself stuff pops up again in issues #15-16.
It's all a bit more efficient, if a bit less wildly prolific with concepts, than Kirby or Lee style plotting and scripting. Fewer new elements are introduced, but those that are introduced are explored quite a bit.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | April 13, 2018 7:18 AM
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