The Small Lebowski:
Characters Appearing: Abe Zimmer, Bethany Cabe, Eddie March, Erica Sondheim, Felix Alvarez, Guardsman II (Michael O'Brien), Happy Hogan, Iron Man, Marty March, MODAM, Mrs. Arbogast, Omega Red, Pepper Potts, Rae LaCoste, Roxanne Gilbert, Super-Adaptoid, Veronica Benning
Iron Man #296-297
Issue(s): Iron Man #296, Iron Man #297
We have these kinds of scenes periodically, and there comes a point where you have to wonder why Stark can't staff up his organization with people that share his values. Honestly we've seen more care put into Night Thrasher's selection of his board than Tony Stark, and this is a book that hasn't shied away from focusing on the corporate politics side of things (which is part of its appeal). Tony has a good assortment of competent friends from both the super-hero world and his own supporting cast, but his board and his regional VPs always turn out to be nameless assholes. And the conflicts with the board are always resolved with a reminder that Tony owns a controlling share of his company, so there's no real drama to them. I guess we don't see these sort of stories that often so i guess most of the time we can assume that things are operating the way Tony wants, but it doesn't speak highly of Tony that at least three people on his hand picked board of directors thought it was a good idea to sell nuclear equipment to a former terrorist organization, even if they're now claiming to have gone legit.
Tony blows off a physical therapy session with Veronica Benning and heads to AIM's island in Boca Caliente to try to negotiate back the nuclear materials. Well, not "heads to", exactly, since he's operating both his Iron Man suit and a Stark LMD remotely. Actually, that makes me wonder about something. At least within his offices, Tony isn't making a secret of the fact that he's bound to a wheelchair (or hover chair, really). But both in this year's annual and in this story, he uses an LMD that is capable of walking. So i'm not sure if he's trying to keep his paralysis a secret or not. If so, he's now got three former board members with grudges out there. Maybe he's thought to be recovering and therefore needs a wheelchair some of the time.
Anyway, the Stark LMD is greeted by AIM's leader, Alessandro Brannex, who is secretly the Super-Adaptoid. But the fact that Stark is an LMD is detected by MODAM.
The negotiations weren't going anywhere, anyway, for what it's worth.
The AIM troops blast the LMD, which Tony takes as an act of aggression (which i'm not entirely sure i agree with) and so he sends in Iron Man to blow stuff up. MODAM seems to notice that this, too, is an automaton, but instead of saying anything she engages in the battle directly (and note her stubby little hands, which we usually don't see because of the Doc Ock extenders.
I also want to call out Iron Man's clip-on guns. This will be noted as a new feature in the armor that Iron Man gets in issue #300, but obviously Tony is testing it out already.
Mixed into all of this is the arrival of Omega Red (as we saw last issue).
MODAM grabs the Iron Man armor and is able to use her mental powers to attack Stark remotely.
Stark is "saved" by the arrival of Omega Red, who knows MODAM from her prior incarnation (although any memories she had have been wiped).
Omega Red's mutant power causes MODAM to flee.
Iron Man stops him, but then lets him go. It looks like Omega is just straight up killing those AIM guards while Iron Man stands there coldly observing. I know that AIM are bad guys, but they are technically legit at this time and it may very well be that they've hired ordinary innocent people for their security team. Not that Iron Man is generally pro-killing anyway (Supreme Intelligences aside).
Iron Man negotiates with Brannex to stop Omega Red in return for getting the nuclear materials back. Meanwhile, Omega Red has hunted down MODAM. He claims her name is Olinka Barankova, and that she betrayed him years ago. He confirmed her name from AIM's own files. MODAM claims that it's standard procedure for AIM to falsify its records. He doesn't believe her, and attacks. But he's stopped by Iron Man.
Might as well throw in some anti-mutant slurs to top things off.
After Omega Red is defeated, MODAM is contacted by Brannex and told to eliminate Iron Man. Iron Man smashes the gem on her head to stop her psychic attack.
Iron Man then leaves, telling AIM that the nuclear materials had damn well better get sent back to him or he will return. And they are.
When Tony returns to his office, some of his friends take him hostage at gun point. Tony assumes it's the Controller.
But it's really a combined Welcome Back / Birthday party.
A lot of the above people will stick around and play a bigger role in the next storyline.
This was fun. MODAM may seem inherently silly even to people that like MODOK, but she's a credible threat here. And i like the use of Omega Red; it's good when the X-corner of the Marvel universe isn't so silo'd.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: As noted in the entry for the last arc, the last few pages of that story may be considered a flashforward that takes place just prior to these issues (with Iron Man's Infinity Crusade and a few other scattered appearances in between). Otherwise you can assume that Iron Man learned about the AIM situation but didn't have time to act on it until now, and Omega Red similarly waited for his moment to strike.
At the beginning of this arc, Tony is testing out his new armor (his last suit was destroyed fighting the Technovore in the last arc), and his though bubbles give the impression that this is the first time that he's trying it out. But since last issue was a tie-in with Infinity Crusade, that's impossible even ignoring any other stories i may try to fit in between (like Terminatrix Objective or Iron Man annual #14). So i'm assuming that the test is just the first time he's given it a full rigorous field test but he's needed to use it prior to that.
At the end of this issue we see a collapse at a Stark geothermal power plant, in a set-up for the next issue. Tony Stark is alerted to that collapse in the middle of issue #298. So definitely a little time passes between the end of this arc and the next one. But i don't think it should be a lot of time. The MCP actually put the annual in between #297-298, but i don't think there's enough time for that so i'm placing the annual prior to this, and i'm placing Iron Man #298-300 in a separate entry directly after this one.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
The board members selling nukes to AIM is just a symptom of an overused plot device- a former employee and/or lover of Tony turns against him. The problem with this is that womanizers and successful businessmen usually can read people better than the average person. And Tony usually can read people pretty well. But this kind of plot has been done so many times Tony looks like the worst judge of character in the world.
Posted by: Michael | February 24, 2017 8:37 PM
Nice to have Steve Mitchell back on the book. He inked most of the O'Neil/McDonnell run which finally got me hooked as a regular reader starting with issue #170.
Posted by: Clutch | February 25, 2017 3:56 AM
In response to Michael's point, I think writers can just about get away with it if they emphasize that Stark tends to run his company in absentia because he's too busy running around as Iron Man or chasing the next Big Thing. But that's probably influenced by the movie version's personality, and is anachronistic when applied to older stories.
Part of the issue is that writers, especially in the older stories, tend to both misunderstand how corporate governance work -- like the whole bizarre Simon Gilbert plotline in the 1970s that makes no sense if Stark is the majority shareholder all along -- and that, prior to the 1980s or so, writers also had the view that the hero of the book should be "good" as they defined good. So Stark tended to take on the views of the writer, even if that didn't fit with much else about him.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | February 25, 2017 7:02 AM
...Wasn't MODAM Katherine Waynesboro?
Posted by: BU | February 25, 2017 4:29 PM
Nope. Kate Waynesboro was Ms. MODOK :) And she got de-MODOKed almost immediately.
MODAM is an AIM agent and she first appeared as SODAM.
Posted by: Piotr W | February 25, 2017 5:09 PM
Here's her bio on wiki -
Posted by: clyde | February 25, 2017 7:07 PM
What that bio doesn't show is when it is revealed that MODAM is SODAM. That hadn't happened by these issues (unless i've missed it). I realized that when i went to comment on Omega Red's (disputed) claim about her identity and how it contradicts the (also disputed) idea that SODAM was Maria Pym (nee Trovaya).
Posted by: fnord12 | February 25, 2017 8:49 PM
One of the issues of the Official Handbook has a MODAM entry that claims that SODAM became MODAM, and that it was revealed in a Quasar issue (almost certainly #9).
Checking that issue's entry, I guess it was not made explicit. The main piece of evidence beyond the Handbook's entry itself is the fact that whoever we thought to have been Maria Pym appeared in Solo Avengers as SODAM just over a year before Quasar #9 and has not been mentioned since. So it is all circunstantial, apparently.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | February 25, 2017 10:34 PM
@Luis Dantas: That was my understanding as well, that it was never actually established in any stories that SODAM became MODAM, and it was only stated in the Handbook of the Marvel Universe.
As I've probably mentioned, I had dropped Iron Man several issues earlier, but I came back for this two part story. I was interested in seeing Iron Man fighting Omega Red, who at the time was a fairly high-profile X-Men villain. In the 1990s there was very little overlap between the Avengers and X-Men titles, which made stories such as this one more distinctive due to their rarity. I enjoyed these two issues, just not enough to start reading Iron Man regularly once again.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 26, 2017 8:10 PM
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