Iron Man #33-35
Issue(s): Iron Man #33, Iron Man #34, Iron Man #35
Brodsky's short run isn't really considered one of the greats, but i was pleasantly surprised by it, and without a doubt, the Spymaster, introduced here...
...is one of Iron Man's most enduring second-tier villains.
In this arc the Spymaster is working with a group called the Espionage Elite.
Spymaster cuts them loose during this arc...
...and they only have one appearance outside of these issues (in a Marvel Super-Heroes special in the 90s), so i'm not listing them as Characters Appearing. But they're actually pretty cool too; each has their own specialty and i could see them being used in an Ocean's Eleven style story.
Both Kevin O'Brian...
...and Jasper Sitwell...
...help Iron Man against the Espionage Elite, but despite O'Brian getting knocked out multiple times, it's Sitwell who is seemingly mortally wounded, causing the Iron Man/Spymaster rivalry to get personal.
That said, the plotline gets a bit derailed here and it's only a coincidence that Iron Man gets another shot at the Spymaster. It turns out that the Spymaster is working for the Zodiac, and now they want him to go after Daredevil.
Meanwhile, Madame Masque, wearing a really short skirt and an impossibly realistic rubber mask over her metal one...
...winds up bumping into Daredevil...
...and both of them wind up getting captured by the Spymaster.
Also meanwhile, instead of hunting down the Spymaster, Iron Man is helping SHIELD (speaking of short skirts, here's what the ladies of SHIELD are wearing this season)...
...investigate the Zodiac Key, which nearly possesses Nick Fury. Ever see Iron Man use his repulsor beams to create an invisible box before?
The Zodiac show up to get the key back...
...and they are able to defeat Iron Man and Nick Fury when Kevin O'Brian lends an unwilling hand with the Key.
All are brought back to the Zodiac's lair, for a storyline to be continued in Daredevil #73.
Despite the tangential plotline in issue #35, it's actually not a bad story at all, and everything is still relatively normal so far. Don't worry, though.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Continued directly in Daredevil #73.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
yeah, i like the first issue with the focus on the espionage elite. as you say, it reads more like a spy/heist film than a superhero comic.
Unfortunately, Jasper Sitwell gets taken out to make room for Kevin (ugh) O'brian
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | February 23, 2013 9:57 AM
Anything with Madame Masque and Daredevil is good!
Posted by: Suzanne | March 5, 2013 4:29 PM
Anyone else think that Farley London of the Espionage Elite is modelled on Leonard Nimoy?
Posted by: Piotr W | June 6, 2015 11:02 AM
Not only modelled on Leonard Nimoy, but the character being a magician and master of disguise means he's an expy for Nimoy's character in Mission Impossible.
Posted by: Harry | June 6, 2015 1:16 PM
Allyn Brodsky's script in issue #34 drops a number of hints that Spymaster is an old foe of Iron Man in a new guise. On page 10, one of the Espionage Elite is surprised to see Spymaster use a ray emitted from his forehead to cut a hole in the floor, and Spymaster responds, "There is MUCH about me you do not know."
Later, on page 18, Spymaster notes that he "swore to destroy" Iron Man "months ago" and, later, remarks, "I forgot myself in the dream of REVENGE ACCOMPLISHED." During his battle with Iron Man, he uses his forehead blaster ray and a belt with flying jets.. He also takes a punch from Iron Man and, at one point, says that Iron Man's damaged armor "illustrates [IM's] inferior powers."
So we have someone who wants revenge on Iron Man for something that happened "months ago," shoots blast rays from his forehead, wears a flying jet-belt, has espionage skills, and perhaps has super-powers of some kind.
There are two candidates this points to: the obvious one is the Unicorn, a former Russian agent whose main gimmicks at this point are his flying belt and forehead-mounted zap ray and hates Iron Man. And in his previous appearance in issue #16, he flees while noting that "My revenge must take a practical turn." and swearing to destroy Iron Man when he returns.
But Spymaster also uses a gun that shoots electrified discs in issue #34, which resembles the gimmick the Black Knight used on Iron Man back in Tales of Suspense #73. So perhaps the idea is that Spymaster is using a bunch of old Iron Man villains' gimmicks. That, plus his desire to claim superiority over Iron Man, might also point to Alex Niven, the former Crimson Dynamo.
In either case, it does seem that Brodsky intended Spymaster to be an old enemy of Tony Stark's. This is lost in the handover to Gerry Conway, where Spymaster's motive abruptly changes from some sort of delayed revenge scheme to just being a hireling of Zodiac. And it's further buried by the Michelinie-Layton team's revival of the forgotten villain about a decade later, where they give him a very different (and more compelling) personality.
In continuity terms, I suppose that the Spymaster's appearance in The Iron Age might retroactively explain the revenge stuff from this comic.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 18, 2015 9:39 AM
The entire Espionage Elite team appears to be an "homage" to the IMF, although only Farley London seems like a direct analogue (although if you swapped their ethnicities, the strongman and electronics expert would be obvious counterparts to Willie and Barney).
This issue would have been written between seasons four and five. There wasn't a regular female cast member in season four and the announcement of Lesley Ann Warren for season five probably wouldn't have been known before the script was turned in, so it's possible that "Marya Penskiyov" is a direct nod at one of the female guest stars from season four. I'm not enough of an MI geek to know for sure, though.
"Philips" wouldn't seem to have an analogue either, but the similarity in name to "Phelps" seems a bit more than coincidental (the actual "Phelps" role would be played by Spymaster here). Philips' "all-around" role is probably inspired by the various guest stars that weren't part of the main cast.
Posted by: Dan H. | October 18, 2015 11:29 PM
You know, Whitney, you could just wear that rubber mask over your scarred face, without the usual metal one underneath. Only need one or the other to cover things up; this is rather belt-and-suspenders, it seems.
Ah, well. Never a big one for logic, our Giulietta. At least she and Tony aren't kissing with their masks on, as Mantlo will have them doing, down the road.
Posted by: Dan Spector | February 16, 2018 5:39 AM
I haven't read the issue, but the panels Fnord posted could easily be interpreted as Madame Masque taking off the rubber mask and replacing it with the metal one. Nothing in them explicitly shows the metal mask being underneath the rubber one.
Posted by: Tuomas | February 18, 2018 2:57 AM
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