Characters Appearing: Abe Zimmer, Bethany Cabe, Cal Oakley, Eddie March, Erica Sondheim, Felix Alvarez, Force, Happy Hogan, HOMER, Iron Man, Marcy Pearson, Mrs. Arbogast, Pepper Potts, Raven, Ultimo, Veronica Benning, VORTEX, War Machine
Iron Man #298-300
Issue(s): Iron Man #298, Iron Man #299, Iron Man #300
At the end of last issue, there was a collapse at a Stark geothermal power plant, and a guy fell in. This issue starts off with what feels like a "Vibro done right" (well, maybe just "done again") origin story, the difference being he's merged with some kind of entity to become Earth-Mover.
Meanwhile, Stark pushes himself too hard during a physical therapy session, and his trainer Veronica Benning breaks away from him, because she's falling in love with him. She stumbles across Abe Zimmer and Erica Sondheim, who have become an item.
Tony goes to his lab, where we meet HOMER, Tony's artificial intelligence. He's not "new" (since he's already been working on stuff) but it's the first time we're meeting him.
HOMER played a pretty big role in Iron Man's cartoon show. I had never read these issues so i didn't know what to think of him. But i must have gotten used to him, because by the time we got to the Iron Man movies, i was annoyed that Tony's AI was Jarvis, not HOMER.
Anyway, Tony has HOMER working on a new secret project. But he's contacted by a Stark employee at the geothermal site and told about the emergency, so he sends his remote Iron Man suit to investigate. He finds Earth-Mover. Earth-Mover is unable to communicate in English, and Tony assumes the worst.
Earth-Mover is just trying to tell Iron Man that it's really Ultimo who is responsible for everything.
Note that it's clearly stated that Ultimo was not created by the Mandarin, just discovered. This is in contradiction to the Mandarin's claims in Ultimo's first appearance.
Even though Iron Man was 100% in the wrong in attacking Earth-Mover, he tells Earth-Mover that they can "trade apologies" later, and then they team up to fight Ultimo. But there will be no chance for Iron Man to graciously accept Earth-Mover's apology for having been turned into a monster, because he's disintegrated by Ultimo a couple pages later.
So Tony has to fight Ultimo alone. And not only that, but he has to simultaneously deal with Veronica Benning trying to break up with him.
It wouldn't surprise me if Tony doesn't even remember Veronica's name. She's just the latest woman to fall in his lap. Not worth getting pounded by Ultimo over. But thanks in part to her distraction, the Iron Man suit is destroyed by Ultimo, and it causes Tony to pass out.
Onlookers see that Iron Man is a "robot". Meanwhile, Tony is brought to Stark's medical facility. To deal with Ultimo, Mrs. Arbogast calls on James Rhodes. He declines to help at first but changes his mind.
War Machine doesn't go directly into battle against Ultimo, who is instead engaged by the National Guard to little effect. Ultimo is a major power, and Rhodey clearly needs to call in some help. Like the West Coast Avengers, right? Nope. He calls in these guys:
Carl Walker (aka Clayton Wilson) is/was Force, if you're looking these people up in the Characters Appearing.
So what do these people have in common? Well, nothing. But if you take out Bethany Cabe, they have all worn an Iron Man suit at one point in time. A good percentage of them have health problems that should prevent them from ever getting into a suit again (my note to myself was "Half these people have brain tumors", but that's a bit of an exaggeration; let's just hope they don't all turn into Freaks), but Rhodey's idea is for all of them to wear various incarnations of the Iron Man armor to go fight Ultimo. It is an anniversary issue, after all. I guess Bethany Cabe is there because Weasel Willis from Tales of Suspense #65 couldn't be found (and of course she's been a very important and capable supporting character in this book and definitely should have been included).
Kinda sucks to be the one who gets the old grey suit. It's actually unclear who gets which armor. The one thing you might think you might be able to confirm from this variation on the classic dressing scene is that Eddie March is not in the grey suit.
But as the fight gets going...
...that turns out to not be the case.
And this guy is called Carl.
But when he ejects he sure looks like Michael O'Brien.
I'm assuming that this is Bethany Cabe, but you never know. Happy might have let himself go after giving up boxing.
Anyway, despite a good try...
...these Legion of Substitute Iron Men get decimated.
Meanwhile, it really is anniversary time.
You know, issue #200 just concluded a storyline. We don't need quite so much fanfare just because the issue number is round.
Included in Tony's coma delusions is something about his dad.
After he his little "it's all daddy's fault" or whatever moment, he wakes up and he goes to the armor that HOMER has been making for him.
He manages to get himself out of his wheelchair and into the armor.
The big deal about this new suit (beyond the fact that Tony is back in it for real, a welcome development) is that it's got a "modular component system" which means that it accepts all kinds of clip-ons.
I noted in the last review that this isn't all that new. It's also worth noting, since i mentioned HOMER and the cartoon earlier, that the toys based on the cartoon were exactly like this, with all little bits that you could clip on to the figures.
Here's the full shot of the new suit.
War Machine is still trying to hold off Ultimo. When he sees Iron Man approaching, he assumes it's Bethany at first, but then realizes his mistake.
I don't know if this is intentional, but the Iron Legion, when they attacked, all just blasted Ultimo with basic repulsors. Iron Man actually uses a variety of gimmicks.
I guess that's partially to show off the new suit's capabilities, but it's not like the old suits didn't have a variety of abilities. It may be more that Tony better understands the suits' powers and has the tactical experience.
Ultimo is defeated. War Machine is unhappy to see Iron Man (the misplaced thought balloon is funny, though).
So, no reconciliation there.
Also in these issues, Marcy Pearson is contacted by a mystery person offering her a job if she'll agree to "inconvenience" Stark. She later recruits a hacker named Raven to access Stark records.
A computer predicts a high likelihood of guest star appearances.
But Tony is busy being distracted by Veronica Benning's boner innuendos.
Like the last arc, this was fun. Ultimo hasn't been seen in a LONG time (just slightly over 200 issues ago) and he makes for a great giant threat (literally). The Iron Legion is corny fun, and it's really great to get Iron Man back in the suit for real. Introducing and then quickly killing off Earth-Mover is a bit of a head scratcher and Ultimo, now that he's operating independently of the Mandarin, is a bit random. And all of the human side is pretty uninteresting - i can't bring myself to take Veronica seriously as a love interest and i have no patience for dredging up some childhood psychological stuff for Tony (he's got enough going on already). So in general this reaches the mark of Big Dumb Slugfest Fun, not anything more. But that's just fine.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: See last issue's entry regarding spacing between that arc and this one. Iron Man gets a new suit in this arc and is no longer paralyzed.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Remembering the Iron Man cartoon, I also remembered the AI; it probably is just a natural development of Tony to have something like that assisting him about now. It's stupid they went with "Jarvis" instead of HOMER, but my guess is they didn't want to keep around the concept of 'let's give Tony Stark a butler' so they just used his name for the AI to at least use something people would accept...and later to just use him for Vision.
Posted by: Ataru320 | February 24, 2017 3:25 PM
Over at the Appendix site, there's a claim that Earth-mover was supposed to return. That's why he gets a big introduction here.
Posted by: Piotr W | February 24, 2017 4:24 PM
The Simpsons has ruined the name Homer for at least a generation....
Posted by: Andrew | February 24, 2017 4:44 PM
Not only did the Mandarin claim that he created Ultimo but the Thermal Man's creator claimed that he helped in Thor Annual 15.
Posted by: Michael | February 24, 2017 8:58 PM
That misplaced thought balloon really cracked me up because by this point, the level of Rhodey's hostility towards Tony was basically undoing the work that Shaman did with Rhodey to "cleanse" him of his inner demons back in #195. Rhodey became more than just Tony's copter pilot and confidante during his run in the suit. I like them better as best friends who treat each others as equals or (at worst) competitors in the superhero biz. Granted, Tony can be a self-righteous prick, but an angry Rhodey just doesn't make up for it.
These were among the final issues I bought in real time since discovering the series in 1981 and becoming a regular reader in 1983. I liked seeing the supporting cast members from various eras being brought together much like they did around the previous two anniversary issues (#100 & #200) but I hated how Abe Zimmer put down the previous armors only to be proven right when Ultimo trashes most of them. It was painful to see the iconic Mark V brought down so fast when it should have endured under pressure as well as the Mark VII (Silver Centurion) and Mark VIII models.
My feelings about the book at the time were mostly frustrations at how Tony was designing a new suit every other couple of issues. I quit comics cold turkey in 1994 just before The Crossing happened and when I came back, things hadn't changed at all. With the movie era cementing Tony as a solid A-lister, I would guess that he's up to his 500th armor model by now, right? Geez.
Posted by: Clutch | February 25, 2017 4:51 AM
Kaminski's take on Tony is that he's a manipulator at heart. Rhodey's hostility flows from the was Tony jerked him around with a faked death, giving him the reins at Stark International only to yank them away again.
In essence, many of the things that Denny O'Neil's Rhodey *irrationally* though Stark was doing to him, Kaminski's Stark *actually does to him*. It's worth noting that the Stark-Rhodes friendship never really recovers from all of this.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | February 25, 2017 6:53 AM
Speaking of the Crossing, I have a question for Fnord: Are you going to cover it? The reason I ask is that you've said that anything that would truly deserve a rating of "F" wouldn't be covered, and I just don't see how the crossing could be anything else. It makes the Clone Saga look like a well-planned, well-executed masterpiece, it's at least as damaging to Iron Man as a character as One More Day is to Spider-Man (and maybe more so, since it basically invalidates everything but the first couple years of the character's development), and it's so atrocious that it gets retconned almost out of existence.
Perhaps slightly off-topic, but only slightly, and I am curious.
Posted by: Matt | February 25, 2017 4:52 PM
He just covered the Terrminatrix Objective. That's as bad and incomprehensible and de-canonized, but the Crossing has Deodato art.
Posted by: Andrew | February 25, 2017 8:44 PM
The Crossing is in scope and i intend to cover it when i get there.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 25, 2017 8:51 PM
Thanks, Fnord. I am eager to see what you'll have to say. I certainly would much rather read your synopsis and analysis than any part of that crossover ever again!
Keep up the great work! This site perpetually amazes me.
Posted by: Matt | February 27, 2017 4:44 PM
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