Characters Appearing: Iron Man, Marcy Pearson, Mrs. Arbogast, Rae LaCoste, Spymaster (Nathon Lemon), Taskmaster, War Machine
Iron Man #254
Issue(s): Iron Man #254
His current event has him taking down a cadre of Maggia goons, but he doesn't get any info.
Meanwhile, Taskmaster is running a test on a bunch of candidates for what will turn out to be the new Spymaster role. The test seems to be decided more by dirty tricks outside of the actual contests.
And what's kind of weird is that even though there's a ranking of the candidates based on their performances in the arena, in the end it comes down to a fight to the death between the surviving candidates. So i'm not sure what the point of the previous test was. But in any event, the guy that did the most cheating outside of the arena fights winds up winning and becoming the new Spymaster. It's said he'll become Justin Hammer's right hand man.
He's given one final challenge before he officially gets to be the Spymaster, though.
First, let's get back to Tony Stark and his double-entendres with
Then we'll go to a Christmas party that Stark is throwing for orphans. Marcy Pearson has been angry at Tony's management style lately, and has been taking it out on Rhodey, which is why he's here with a different girlfriend.
The new Spymaster shows up disguised as Santa Claus, and he may be good at killing his competitors but he's less good with disguises, since he's found out by children.
Iron Man shows up to fight Spymaster...
...but has to hold back because the orphans are endangered. And he eventually lets him leave with what he came for, which is just the tree ornament.
Next issue is said to be the prologue to Armor Wars II, with the return of John Romita Jr..
But that doesn't quite happen. Next issue is another fill-in. Issue #256 does have Layton/JRJR (and maybe was meant as a prologue to Armor Wars II), but #257 is another fill-in, and when Armor Wars II finally starts with issue #258, it's with John Byrne, not Layton, doing the writing. In fact it's the solicitations regarding Armor Wars II (to retailers, not necessarily the splash panel above) that obligated Marvel to do an Armor Wars story, but i believe what John Byrne did had nothing to do with where Layton was going. There was a lot of turmoil going on with this book at this time, is i guess what i am telling you.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: I'm not worrying about lining this up with other Christmas comics.
My Reprint: N/A
More clues that Rae was supposed to be Madame Masque in one of the scans above- she tries to discourage Tony from searching for Whitney's killer and comments that Whitney was no angel herself, which apparently was supposed to be Rae rationalizing her crime.
Posted by: Michael | May 5, 2015 7:46 PM
Layton seems to have been having deadline trouble. This came out after Christmas, but it was clearly meant to be published before.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 5, 2015 7:56 PM
Years later Bob Layton revealed that, yes, in addition to planning to have Rae LaCosta be the new Madame Masque, she was also going to be revealed to be Scott Lang's ex-wife.
Posted by: Ben Herman | May 31, 2015 6:24 PM
Rae LaCoste was confirmed to be Madame Masque in IRON MAN #258.2 when we see Whitney's golden face plate in the burning remains of Rae's car. To me, at least. I know that book is considered out-of-continuity, but I thought it was a nice little Easter Egg.
I look at it this way: After IRON MAN #116, Whitney went into seclusion. She sent out her first bio-duplicate, which acted as the Director of the Maggia starting a little before IRON MAN #129. This bio-duplicate remained active until IRON MAN #238, where Rae LaCoste shot her to death, unaware of the change. Rae took over as Madame Masque and ran the Maggia past IRON MAN #252. She showed up in QUASAR #9 at the AIM Island Expo, and then she was gone. When Tony Stark was presumed dead, Rae gave up the Madame Masque identity, likely because she no longer had access to Tony and because Whitney found out about the duplicate's death and sent her second bio-duplicate to replace her. It was this second double that was gunned down by a third in Busiek's IRON MAN #10.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | September 27, 2017 10:52 AM
Then came Masque during the Crossing. That was Bethany Cabe. In IRON MAN #319, Stark noticed Bethany was keeping a close eye on him at the Starcore bash. This was due to her beginning to suspect that he was doing some illicit stuff (because he was a sleeper agent of Kang). Prior to this, Bethany and her partner Ling MacPherson got involved in a scheme run by Machinesmith, who sent the robotic Benedict after them. Note that in one of Waid's issues of CAPTAIN AMERICA, Machinesmith was shown to have the same looking coin seen in AVENGERS #399 with Benedict. During the confrontation, Ling MacPherson was killed, and Bethany fled. This is a reason why she was disguising herself as Masque. However, in IRON MAN #323, Stark found Bethany Cabe's apartment in severe disarray. It is believed, rather foolishly, at the time that it was just an illusion cast by Marianne Rodgers to mess him up. But in reality, Benedict had tracked Bethany down to the apartment and destroyed it looking for her. It's pretty obvious due to events in AVENGERS #398-399. However, Bethany wasn't there because she had left the city an issue prior and followed Stark to Avengers Mansion, where Masque had conveniently shown up out of nowhere. Stark discovered this in #322 when he learned Bethany had become suspicious of his behavior after he suddenly departed for Avengers Mansion and filed a flight plan to follow him.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | September 27, 2017 11:05 AM
After the Crossing was over, Bethany decided to keep an eye on him to see whether or not he would turn out like his older self. In order to do this, since young Tony was going to college rather than run a company, Bethany created the identity of Kris DeGann and worked her way into his circle of friends. At the same time, Bethany showed up as herself during the reading of adult Tony's will. No one was aware of what happened at her apartment because Stark never told anyone. However, Benedict was still looking for her so she needed to be careful. Note: Posing as Kris DeGann also enabled her to hide from Benedict. As Kris, Bethany was hospitalized after the fire at the fraternity, but her injuries were not that severe. When she wasn't Kris DeGann, Bethany hid with the Avengers as Masque, until Benedict finally tracked her down and kidnapped her, leaving Machinesmith's coin with the Black Widow.
After that, Masque, Bethany, and Kris DeGann were never seen again. Life moved on for Bethany, who much, much later reappeared in Pak's WAR MACHINE title.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | September 27, 2017 11:14 AM
In AVENGERS #399, Masque mentioned Benedict was responsible for the death of someone she cared about; so if Bethany was Masque, as I believed her to be before the bio-duplicate stuff came out, it seems reasonable to believe that her friend and partner Ling MacPherson was the victim. A clue that I believe Kavanagh planted to show Masque was really Bethany.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | September 27, 2017 11:18 AM
Basically, I believe Rae was Madame Masque from IRON MAN #238-252 and QUASAR #9. She killed the first bio-duplicate of Whitney Frost and later gave up her role after Stark's supposed death. After that, it was all bio-duplicates, including Masque, as revealed by Busiek in AVENGERS #31-34.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | September 27, 2017 11:26 AM
When Masque unmasks as Bethany, it's right after we are shown she has shapeshifting abilities to disguise herself as Marianne. I never took it to mean she was actually Bethany - it's an odd time to properly reveal that twist after demonstrating shapeshifting powers - and why would Bethany suddenly have shapeshifting powers? (then again, why would Whitney?). The shapeshifting powers are never referred to again. Classic The Crossing stuff.
I've always preferred it as Whitney, tbh. Her joining with the Avengers is like the only legitimately worthwhile element of The Crossing. Daft powers aside, I felt it was the best Whitney had been written since Mantlo's run (Michelinie clearly didn't like her). I feel Busiek's retcon was a combination of his and Brevoort's general hatred for The Crossing/90s/because they can and trying to make it so Black Widow wasn't being that irrational (and apparently a traitor) in those final issues.
Posted by: AF | September 27, 2017 11:31 AM
It's possible Bethany had an image inducer.
However, I also think it's possible Masque was meant to be someone else. Kavanagh certainly didn't intend on her being a bio-duplicate, as that was Busiek's doing. Although I don't have an idea who else it could be, it's possible whoever it was replaced Bethany somewhere between IRON MAN #313 and #319. Bethany was acting suspiciously as she watched Stark during the Starcore bash. Tony himself pointed it out in his narration. Plus, after she decided she and Tony should just be friends, she's all of a sudden with him again just before she vanished.
Kavanagh said in an interview in an issue of MARVEL VISION, which I still have, that Masque was going to be in IRON MAN "in one form or another". With her odd shapeshifting power (or image inducer), I take that to mean she was there posing as another character and we didn't know it was her. Kris DeGann was there from #326-330 and Bethany was in #327-328.
It's all fascinating to me, as Madame Masque is a favorite character of mine.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | September 27, 2017 2:29 PM
I never liked Busiek's lazy retcons of Madame Masque and the Crossing, especially since the Crossing was easy to figure out with all the clues scattered throughout the issues. We even lost Moonraker as a viable character because of that.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | September 27, 2017 2:30 PM
As we saw in Mantlo's run, Masque isn't/wasn't the outright villain she's been like since and her being on the side of angels again in The Crossing rang true to the character for me (and it's the only time, barring House of M: Masters of Evil mini, where I've felt she is the same character) and I liked that she hung around afterwards. Like Avengers Forever, Busiek and Brevoort just aren't interested on building on comics they don't like, they want to toss it out fast as a statement.
I wouldn't be surprised if every writer had a different idea who Masque was. That was the state of The Crossing, I mean one of my favourite examples of miscommunication and The Crossing is if you look at Avengers #393, you can clearly see "Swordsman" is Black Knight - they don't even bother removing the Black Knight insignia in some panels (c.f. http://68.media.tumblr.com/7408dcd204472cfbffb1f7af47d4e5da/tumblr_o0sg47GEjV1rvm5qqo1_1280.jpg)
Posted by: AF | September 27, 2017 3:52 PM
@AF- we saw Masque demonstrate shapeshifting powers in the Iron Man: A Look Back In Armor Special.
Posted by: Michael | September 27, 2017 7:58 PM
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