Iron Man #7-8
Issue(s): Iron Man #7, Iron Man #8
We've been seeing Whitney Frost having a little difficulty keeping her Maggia goons in line. She's been holding off an attack on Stark's factory, in part just because she was biding her time, but also because she's been developing feelings for Jasper Sitwell, the SHIELD agent assigned to guard the factory.
At the beginning of this issue, however, her hand is forced when the Gladiator shows up promising to take care of Iron Man during the attack.
Which is good because Frost's wishy-washiness was getting a bit annoying.
The Gladiator had worked for the Maggia before alongside the Masked Marauder, and the Marauder had promised to upgrade his armor but never got around to doing so thanks to a lack of trust between the two villains. But Gladiator has now found the plans and applied the changes himself, so he's powered up (of course he's powered-up. You don't expect a superstar like Iron Man to fight regular versions of cheesy Daredevil villains, do you?).
Frost correctly surmises that Gladiator has plans to take over her operations completely after this mission but she doesn't see a choice in going along with the the attack.
Meanwhile, Janice Cord finally responds to the flowers and notes Tony Stark has been sending her. She shows up with her lawyer, Vincent Sandhurst, offering to sell her father's factory. But look in their eyes... can't you tell that their relationship will be so much more than financial?
I can't. Remember, this is the first time that Tony and Janice have met. Tony saw her once before, as Iron Man, during the battle where her father died. And then Tony started sending her flowers and stuff. There was a guilt element from his side; he irrationally blamed himself for her father's death. But there's little here that's the basis for a romance. There's really not much to the character of Janice.
Anyway, they go back to check out the Cord factory and that's when Gladiator shows up and kidnaps the three of them. Stark jumps out a window so he can change into Iron Man, which of course means that Janice assumes he's fleeing and abandoning her.
Then he returns to engage with the Gladiator ("If only Tony Stark had shown even part of the courage of his bodyguard...").
The fight with the Gladiator is a distraction while the Maggia break into Tony Stark's factory, and he knows it, but Janice and Vincent Sandhurst need rescuing.
Meanwhile Frost continues to feel bad about having seduced Sitwell to get the info to break in to Stark's lab but finds herself unable to stop the attack. Her internal debate leads to an origin story.
Whitney Frost was raised by the wealthy Byron Frost, but it turned out she was adopted and is really the daughter of Count Nefaria.
Once her rich friends found out that she had mob, er, Maggia ties, they shunned her so she embraced her father's heritage...
...and took over the Maggia when he got put in jail (after Uncanny X-Men #23, i assume).
The Iron Man/Gladiator fight spills over to Stark's factory just as the Maggia is busting through, and it turns out it was a set-up, with SHIELD (or maybe just Jasper and some security guards) waiting to arrest the Maggia.
Jasper knew he was being set up all along, although he clearly still has feelings for her too and lets her get away.
Iron Man beats the Gladiator, but not before his repulsor rays are destroyed and he runs out of jet fuel.
I enjoyed the use of the Gladiator and the tie-in with previous incarnations of the "Maggia", and Whitney Frost's origin is good. But i'm not impressed with how the romances (Frost/Sitwell or Stark/Cord) are handled. The attraction in both cases is just a given without any development of the relationships, Janice is a complete cipher, and there's the secret identity angst again. A SHIELD agent and the leader of the Maggia falling for each other could have been a classic romance theme but it's just not believable, especially since the template for Sitwell is "the Ultimate Boy Scout" and there's nothing in this or previous issues that shows him and Frost actually connecting.
I know i'm going overboard on analyzing the romance side of what's primarily an action comic but these plots do take up a lot of the panels, and i kind of wanted a little more from Goodwin here.
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Masterworks: The Invincible Iron Man vol. 5 (issue #8 is an original)
Inbound References (4): showGladiator, Iron Man, Janice Cord, Jasper Sitwell, Madame Masque, Vincent Sandhurst
Inker Johnny Craig was best known for his writer/artist work at EC Comics, where he did a bunch of really nasty and gross stories. He had previously penciled issues of this title, and although you can see traces of his classic 1950s pre-code style showing through, it just didn't compare to his EC prime.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 6, 2011 10:54 PM
Marvel's Not Brand Ecch did a satire of SHIELD previously, and Jasper Sitwell was actually put in a Boy Scout uniform for it.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 26, 2013 6:12 PM
the Gladiator actually makes for a good Iron man foe. Its cool to see his wrist blades against IM armour.
Tuska draws a very pretty Whitney. I liked her origin, kindof a commentary on the vapid "jet set".
Posted by: kveto from prague | February 15, 2015 12:01 PM
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the first instance of a villain created in Daredevil appearing in another hero's book. Although I do want to stress that some early Daredevil villains can be interesting and compelling if written well; besides Gladiator, Owl, Purple Man, Mr. Fear, the Ani-Men, and even Stilt Man (ASM 237 for example).
Posted by: mikrolik | February 12, 2017 5:49 PM
The Plunderer had turned up in Tales to Astonish fighting the Sub-Mariner towards the end of its run, but the Gladiator is the first of Daredevil's actual villains -- as opposed to a guy created to battle Ka-zar -- ever showed up outside his title.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | February 12, 2017 7:26 PM
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