The Transparent Fox:
Iron Man #227-228
Issue(s): Iron Man #227, Iron Man #228
The Beetle seemed to have a good thing going with his Sinister Syndicate, so i don't understand why he's pulling this solo mission robbing a charity auction. Is he trying to stay a C-lister? (Really, i just wanted to see Iron Man try to take on the Rhino and Hydro-Man).
I see the Beetle as a capable enough guy to take on the Avengers as part of a team, but Iron Man is one of the most powerful Avengers, so i don't have a problem with this being a short fight.
It is interesting to see the morale code of this future Thunderbolt, though.
By the way, when they did this for the 1990s cartoon, they gave the Beetle a "Beatles" accent, which i thought was pretty funny (Here, at the 11 minute mark).
Hawkeye and Mockingbird call again to ask what the heck Iron Man is up to, but Tony Stark again just says they'll have to trust him. Hawkeye doesn't want to press the issue since he's uncomfortable talking to Tony while he's in his underwear.
It's also in this scene, just prior to the call from the Whackos, that it's confirmed that Spymaster stole Stark's tech while Tony was still based in New York.
Stark then gets a visit from Nick Fury and SHIELD, which is all according to his plan. Since Iron Man has gone rogue (especially after the Stingray attack), SHIELD wants to go after him. And Tony Stark is happy to help. He even gives up Iron Man's secret identity: Randall Pierce.
This is a phony identity that Stark has created (only recently, it turns out. I am surprised Stark didn't have a file like that created years ago as a contingency). Stark also tells SHIELD that he's tracked "Pierce" to a safehouse of Stark's on the East Coast, and he agrees to help SHIELD hunt him down.
The real purpose of this is to get SHIELD to bring out its five Mandroids, since they are built using Stark technology. To be clear, the Mandroids are not based on stolen Stark tech - they were designed for SHIELD by Stark - but that's where Stark is at the moment; he's trying to put the genie back in the bottle on all the tech he's created, not just that which was stolen by the Spymaster and distributed to super-villains by Justin Hammer.
Since he's on the East Coast, Tony stops in for a visit with Ling McPherson (who we haven't seen since Iron Man #151, and this is her last appearance, making this just a downtime scene with no special significance)...
...and then he sets his trap into motion. Stark has arranged things so that he is monitoring SHIELD's attack on Iron Man from a separate location.
Iron Man vs. Mandroids:
When Nick Fury is suspicious that Iron Man was obviously prepared for the attack, Tony Stark "finds" a bug in SHIELD's base that shows that "Iron Man" was spying on them.
In an epilogue "days later", Steve Rogers shows up to get a new shield from Stark.
This scene, continued in issue #228, is an expansion of the epilogue from Captain America #339.
Cap is much more of a nerd in his appearance here, talking about the angle of deflection being a millimeter off (in a blind taste test, i would have attributed that line to Mark Gruenwald).
But the purpose of the scenes are the same, with Stark coming across deliberately shady and sleazy, since he's hoping that Steve Rogers will feel obligated to him thanks to the new shield and will therefore look the other way regarding his vendetta. But when Stark targets the Guardsmen at the Vault next (it's said that it was Obadiah Stane that mass produced the suit for the government), he finds that Steve Rogers is on his case.
However, Stark is undeterred and he just comes up with a different plan, instead. He rigs up some equipment for Rhodey and puts him in a costume and, er, some whiteface, so that he can masquerade as Electro.
Electro was supposed to get transferred to the Vault (presumably from a local prison after his capture in Spectacular Spider-Man #136, but no footnote).
Some Guardsmen come along to capture him, and luckily they don't try to get him out of his costume yet, and i guess no one thinks to contact the people that were holding Electro for real, so Rhodey gets put in the Vault.
And, again luckily, since Electro's cell was designed only to keep someone with his unique physiology in, Rhodey is able to get out with ease and help Iron Man get in.
But Steve Rogers is no dummy, either.
While Iron Man fights the active Guardsmen...
...Rhodey is supposed to head to the locker room and disable all the empty Guardsman suits, but, unlucky for once, he runs into an actual guard and gets into a fight with him, and in the process he blows up their recharging generator.
Rhodey eventually takes down his Guardsmen, but Iron Man is confronted by "you".
No fight, though. Iron Man has filled the Vault with a gas, and Cap shares his gas mask with the Guardsman to prevent him from dying.
So Iron Man is able to go about his work of disabling all the armored suits. But "a bond has been broken as old as their friendship".
The implications of Iron Man and Rhodey's incursion is even bigger than just attacking the government and a shattered friendship with (the former) Captain America. Titania and a surprisingly calm Mr. Hyde were being held at the Vault...
...and the explosion caused by the generator Rhodey blew up disabled their cell doors and allowed them to break out. And that's a point Iron Man won't address as part of Armor Wars; those two villains just get to escape and it'll be up to Steve Rogers and his crew to clean up that mess.
Captain America and Iron Man are two different types of heroes, but those differences have usually been glossed over in the past, and it's good to have some conflict between them. It's also very intense to have Tony Stark taking such strong actions against his own government. The real question is going to be how this affects the long term status quo of the character, but for now these are some good issues. One niggling concern remains: why is Iron Man targeting technology that the government legally acquired when he hasn't finished going for the people on his list yet. And you'd think if he were going to break the law he'd take some kind of action against Justin Hammer directly. But making these the targets does get Iron Man to the outlaw status that is the purpose of this story arc more quickly.
Oh, Stilt-Man settled out of court on the excessive force charge, if you were worried about that. That's a good scheme for him; i wouldn't be surprised if that was his primary source of income.
Quality Rating: A-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The epilogue in Captain America #339 took place "two weeks" after Fall of the Mutants, whereas the epilogue here takes place "days" after Iron Man's fight with the Mandroids. The MCP have Iron Man's appearance in West Coast Avengers #30 during Iron Man #227, before the epilogue with Cap, but i've just placed the WCA issue before this entry. We'll follow up on the Titania and Mr. Hyde's breakout in Captain America #340 and then Steve Rogers will track down Tony Stark again in Captain America #341.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: The Armor Wars TPB
Inbound References (16): show
Beetle's defeat itself might be harmless but the problem is that after this story he was treated like a D-list villain that stood no chance against the heroes. It's like the writers thought his armor was worthless without Starktech. Of course, you won't get to Fantastic Four 334 and Spectacular Spider-Man 164 for a while.
Posted by: Michael | May 14, 2014 8:51 PM
I actually never took Tony giving Steve a shield as a sign of being sleazy or trying to make it an insurance thing. I took it more as demonstrating the two as being friends to help make the back stabbing at the end all the more painful.
Okay I don't think it really played out afterwards and I'm sure Civil War was totally the complete breakup of their friendship for real!
I remember being disappointed the two did not fight but now I appreciate that it was more of a dramatic character conflict than a fist fight.
Posted by: david banes | May 14, 2014 9:17 PM
David, just to defend my "sleazy" statement, at the end of Cap #339, Tony thinks to himself "Now I'm certain Steve won't interfere with my activities -- even though my next mission will pit me against the US Government itself!".
And in Iron Man #227, he similarly thinks to himself, "My next target is a government installation. If Steve feels obligated to me, he might think twice about interfering. That's good strategy. Smart strategy. So why do I feel so slimy?".
I agree that Tony would have given Steve a shield no matter what because they're friends, but both writers set it up as a kind of bribe.
P.S. you'll get the fist fight in Cap #341.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 14, 2014 10:26 PM
Whelp...that's my foot in my mouth. I think it's time I pull out the trade and re-read it.
And an actual fight in Cap's magazine? Guess I can't complain about that one.
Posted by: david banes | May 15, 2014 12:47 AM
I remember my surprise at that brief Beetle appearance in the Iron Man cartoon only to palm slap my face when I heard the Liverpool accent. I think they were shooting for a Ringo pun but it could be any of the Fab Four.
I felt bad for the Guardsmen during this story. They put up a good fight and came away looking heroic for it. And the falling out between Tony and Steve was a pretty big deal at the time. When Civil War happened years later, I wasn't at all surprised to see them leading the two opposing factions. As mentioned here before, Tony isn't necessarily a likeable guy like Peter Parker nor is he an idealist along the lines of Steve Rogers. That's probably why he's an interesting character to read about. Certainly a flawed lead and not just because of his alcoholism or womanizing.
Posted by: Clutch | May 15, 2014 6:47 AM
Tony shocking Steve as he helps a man kind of reminds me of Steve shocking Tony during Civil War during a fake negotiation.
Posted by: Max_Spider | May 15, 2014 3:55 PM
And we finally arrive at a point where the cracks in the concept of the Vault begin to emerge. I don't know why, but to me the Vault is one of the more interesting concepts in the Marvel Universe, interesting because it seems like one of those ideas where it looked great on paper, but horrible in its actual execution. As Kurt Busiek would say years later, "The Vault is a dramatically-flawed idea -- either villains escape a lot (which is what happened) and the result is that this supposedly-cool place looks like it's made of cardboard, or they don't, in which case villains get captured and vanish from the Marvel U. forever, since Marvel time mitigates against their sentences ever being naturally completed."
Posted by: Haywerth | May 16, 2014 6:20 PM
The Vault wasn't all bad. If not for the Vault, Vance Astro would never have become Justice years later.
Posted by: clyde | May 18, 2014 6:32 PM
This was just such a great storyline. It really made Tony a more interesting character than just the rich inventor playboy. And it brought an element of real-world into the MU that hadn't been there all that much. Not to mention setting the stage for the central conflict of Civil War almost 20 years before it happens.
Plus, of course, the end result will be Tony back in red and gold like he should be.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 30, 2015 7:54 AM
Tony's hair is a crime against humanity.
Posted by: MindlessOne | May 18, 2017 10:45 PM
"Not to mention setting the stage for the central conflict of Civil War almost 20 years before it happens."
That's a good thing, Erik Beck?
Posted by: Jon Dubya | May 19, 2017 12:53 PM
@ Jun Dubya -
I think it's a good thing for story-telling.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 19, 2017 5:11 PM
sorry - Jon Dubya - normally don't correct typos, but I do when I mis-type someone's name
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 19, 2017 5:12 PM
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