The Transparent Fox:
Marvel Super Heroes #13 (IM/Hammer)
Issue(s): Marvel Super Heroes #13 (Iron Man / Justin Hammer story only)
Greg LaRocque is credited as penciler on the first story but just breakdowns for the second. Armando Gil & Bruce D. Patterson do finishes on the second story; it's mostly by Gil but with two pages by Patterson. That might be a reflection of how far along this story was before it was stuck in a drawer. Gil and Patterson were both doing work for Marvel in 1993 (Patterson, the regular inker on Alpha Flight, moreso than Gil). Greg LaRocque hadn't been seen on a Marvel book for a while.
The story starts with Iron Man roller-skating through Stark International's headquarters, to the dismay of Mrs. Arbogast.
It's because Tony Stark is late for a test flight.
But the test pilot turns out to be a traitor working for Justin Hammer.
Hammer wonders why Stark's supposed bodyguard, Iron Man, isn't around. Stark says that Iron Man is also an Avenger and therefore has other responsibilities. But Hammer takes Stark's suitcase (which has been determined to have some kind of high tech device in it) and has the pilot steal the experimental plane, leaving Stark stranded on a tropical island.
It turns out, however, that this is a sting operation. The suitcase actually contains a homing beacon. And James Rhodes has been following in a helicopter with Stark's Iron Man armor.
The plane can be operated by remote control, so it's brought back to Stark headquarters after ejecting the turncoat pilot. The homing beacon brings the coast guard to Hammer's yacht. Hammer himself escapes and is brought to another yacht. Iron Man was planning to go after him. But an earthquake on the island forces him to turn his attentions there, protecting the locals (about 75% of whom are sexy ladies) from an avalanche and a tsunami.
After saving the locals, Iron Man rebukes himself for doing so grudgingly. He was focused on getting Hammer, and therefore resented wasting time saving people's lives.
He realizes that was wrong of him, although it didn't result in any tangible negative results. In fact, Iron Man used up most of his suit's power during the rescue effort, and he uses up the very last bit during an aftershock.
The next story (which would have been the next issue) opens with Iron Man still stuck on the island. (The two scans below are the ones that were finished by Patterson, for what it's worth.)
Christopher Priest has spoken out about the depiction of non-white characters in comics, including, for example, the depiction of the starving Africans in the Heroes For Hope one-shot. So it's a little surprising to see these island natives being depicted in a very old school stereotypical way. I do wonder if it was something that Greg LaRocque inserted. Stark's monologue barely acknowledges their behavior and instead focuses on continuing to recriminate himself. What looks like a scene suggesting that Stark was going to be offered a bride is ignored completely.
Stark leaves his armor on the beach so that its solar panels can recharge, but he's also hoping that Rhodey will disobey orders and return to get him. And Rhodey does indeed get impatient when Stark doesn't return, and goes after him. But Hammer and his goons return to the island before Rhodey gets there and before the suit has fully recharged. Stark hides on the island, but Hammer threatens to start killing the islanders if Stark doesn't give himself up. So Stark comes out wearing only his underwear. Hammer's goons also find the Iron Man armor. Hammer puts two and two together and gets three, assuming that Iron Man is also on the island somewhere. And he's happy to leave "Iron Man" stranded on the island while he kidnaps Stark.
Stark manages to escape by jumping off of Hammer's yacht. He's attacked by a shark, but Stark bites back!
He then manages to climb back on the yacht and get the drop on all of Hammer's goons.
He forces them onto an inflatable raft and then gets them to scream.
Using that as a distraction, he sneaks below deck where there's one goon left guarding his armor. Stark hopes the guy is as dumb as he looks.
How dumb is that?
Holy crap, that is dumb.
Once he's back in his armor, he's able to deal with the rest of Hammer's goons.
Unfortunately "Hammer" is really a body double.
The real Hammer has the yacht blown up. Iron Man escapes, but i guess that'd be the last we saw of Smithers even if this story hadn't been inventory'd. Stark deplores the disrespect for human life, but again berates himself for his attitude towards the islanders.
We see the real Justin Hammer at the end.
I'm reviewing this after just finishing the regular comics for 1993, and it's just striking how much content there is in these two "issues". The story is definitely inconsequential filler, but it manages to have a ton of minor scenes in it that make it a much more satisfying read than comics from the early 90s. Just little scenes like Iron Man roller-skating through the office, Stark biting the shark(!) and storming the yacht, and even the subthread about Stark berating himself over his attitude towards the native. Things like that either wouldn't have existed at all if these comics were done in 1993 or they would have been depicted in huge splash panels that made the scenes feel rushed and out of place. It's a testament to Greg LaRocque's layouting skills that there's room for all of this, but it's not like LaRocque would have been unique in that regard in the early-mid 80s when this was likely penciled. A seismic shift occurred, in a large part thanks to the artists that left to form Image. Since Justin Hammer is in this story, my immediate comparison point is to the Amazing Spider-Man run by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane. Michelinie was a writer from this era, and i imagine that, at least to start, he wrote plots that were similar to the plot of these issues. But McFarlane's style would have made all the nuance here impossible. This perspective probably makes me appreciate this story much more than i would have if it had actually been published as a couple issues of Iron Man back in 1982-83.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: A footnote says that this story takes place before Iron Man #167 (which is when Iron Man starts drinking again). Iron Man #164-167 is really part of the same arc, so i've placed this prior to all of that.
The other Iron Man story from this issue is covered in a separate entry.
Continuity Insert? Y (inventory story)
My Reprint: N/A
Man, what a great comic. Stark biting the shark and storming the yacht is badass without having to look "extreme" as was the norm for the early 90s. An excellent story by Priest and I've always, always loved Greg LaRocque's work. This little inventory gem has 80s Shooter era written all over it. I'm tracking down a copy now 'cause if you started reading Iron Man then as I did, no collection should be complete without it.
Posted by: Clutch | April 4, 2017 6:17 AM
Justin Hammer looks less like Peter Cushing and more like a yuppie scumbag. I guess this was a holdover of the story originally being penciled in the 1980s, since in those days that was a common shorthand for "corporate evil."
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 4, 2017 11:56 AM
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