Iron Man #120-128
Issue(s): Iron Man #120, Iron Man #121, Iron Man #122, Iron Man #123, Iron Man #124, Iron Man #125, Iron Man #126, Iron Man #127, Iron Man #128
The rest of the series arc is all Michelinie/Layton/Romita.
Iron Man gets manipulated into fighting the Sub-Mariner.
The real enemy is Roxxon, trying to acquire a tropical island that has large deposits of vibranium.
The island is eventually destroyed and Roxxon claims no responsibility for the actions of what they say is a rogue group.
Then he's involved in a casino heist that is perpetrated by a few of his old villains.
He gets help from Bethany Cabe, who has been soliciting Tony Stark to replace Iron Man as his bodyguard.
Throughout these fights and in previous issues, Iron Man has been having armor failures.
These turn out to be the work of Justin Hammer, a competitor of Stark International that has been operating under the radar.
Hammer's technicians have found a way to control the armor. Things come to a head when Iron Man makes an appearance with an official from Carnellia, a country that Stark has just closed a contract with. Hammer forces Iron Man's armor to blast a hole through the Carnellian official's chest, killing him.
Stark turns over Iron Man's armor to the state for investigation (having removed some key components)...
...but Iron Man is allowed to stay free while the investigation is ongoing (and, somewhat incredibly, isn't even required to reveal his identity). Stark decides to investigate things personally, and he goes to Captain America for some hand-to-hand fighting training.
He eventually gets himself captured by Hammer...
...but manages to escape.
It turns out Hammer has been funding tons of minor and not-so-minor villains over the years, and a lot of them are on hand to fight Stark.
Luckily, Tony brought along a spare Iron Man suit in his suitcase.
Despite the number of villains, Iron Man is able to win the fight. Most of these guys are out of Iron Man's league.
Hammer escapes, but Iron Man is able to produce enough evidence to prove he wasn't responsible for the killing of the ambassador.
Throughout all of these issues, we see Stark turn more and more to drinking when things get tough.
This culminates in issue #128, in which Stark nearly hits bottom but is helped by Bethany, who dealt with something along these lines with her ex-husband, and Jarvis, who quits his post at the Avengers over Stark's attitude.
Jarvis' letter is the actual resignation letter from Dave Cockrum. More at CBR.
Stark pulls himself together and goes dry within the course of one issue.
We see more of Rhodey in these issues, where he reveals that he's known Stark since Vietnam. Bethany admonishes Stark for not treating him more like a friend.
And we meet Bethany's roomate and partner, Ling McPherson.
Scott Lang, the new Ant-Man, also has a brief appearance, helping Tony gather info on Hammer (although Tony doesn't know that Scott is Ant-Man).
Before things get too serious, we see the beginning of a running joke, where Tony Stark keeps causing trouble for the same woman. We'll see her again much later, in issue #137, where we'll learn she's Mrs. Arbogast's sister.
The alcoholism theme is very well handled and developed relatively slowly over time (although the scenes leading up to it definitely seem a little heavy handed in retrospect, they probably were very interesting to people reading the book at the time). It's also a unique theme for super-hero comics to be handling (or for any comics to have been dealing with at this time this was published, as far as i know). Still, the resolution comes a little too quickly and it's a little too pat. Later writers (including Denny O'Neil) have been criticized for bringing up the alcoholism again, but reading this arc now, it actually works better knowing that this isn't Stark's final triumph against his addiction. It's much more realistic to see a series of stumbles and recoveries. Nonetheless, Michelinie and Layton deserve major recognition for initiating this aspect of Stark's character. The super-hero and corporate espionage elements of this arc are also well written, and Romita's art is nice as well.
It's not an entirely happy ending, either. While Stark was otherwise occupied, SHIELD managed to buy up the last controlling shares of Stark Industries (sold by Jarvis when he was unemployed).
Quality Rating: A-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This arc and the Avengers: Knights of Wundagore arc run more or less concurrently. Issue #120 here starts with Iron Man traveling home from Europe after being dropped off by SHIELD at the end of Iron Man #119. He eventually makes his way back to the US and rejoins with the Avengers for issues #181-185 but then gets wrapped up in the Carnellian official scandal and can't participate in the mission in Avengers #186-187.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: The Power Of Iron Man TPB
Inbound References (20): show
The title to #123 refers to the James Bond novel/film "Casino Royale".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 4, 2011 2:01 PM
At the time, it was announced that Tony Stark would give up the armor for a while after that guy's death and be portrayed as Tony Stark, Secret Agent. It wasn't explained who "Iron Man" would have been, though...
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 2, 2012 1:39 AM
Justin Hammer looked a lot like actor Peter Cushing...
Posted by: Spanish Jay | November 13, 2012 4:46 PM
Cushing starred in a lot of Hammer films (as Dr Frankenstein, Van Helsing, etc), so it was probably intentional.
Posted by: David Morefield | November 30, 2012 2:51 PM
Is that mayor supposed to be Ed Koch?
Posted by: Robert | April 9, 2015 7:10 PM
This is a very nice story - it's like they finally decided that something other than Spider-Man needed a real world bit in it.
The art is interesting - I would have said this was John Byrne with an unfamiliar inker. To see that this is JRjr, the same artist who will later have ridiculously muscle-bound pencils for every character he drew, well, that just goes to show you never know what direction someone might go in.
Posted by: Erik Beck | April 15, 2015 8:52 AM
There was a mention of a "Roxxon" in the January 1979 issue of Batman. Considering that Len Wein wrote it, it's not likely to be a coincidence.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 21, 2015 10:45 AM
On that - seems like Englehart sneaked a reference into Detective Comics #472 as well:
Posted by: cullen | September 21, 2015 12:05 PM
Iron man probably wins the award for having his origin recapped in full comics the most. It feels like its every 12 issues or so.
I dislike these issues where a powrrful hero beats up a whole bunch of somebody else's bad guys. It basically neuturs those villains for future use. While villains like Discus, Stilletto, Leap-frog and Man-killer should be easily beaten by IM, others like Beetle, Constrictor (who fought the hulk) and Spymaster (who has nearly defeated IM on his own) should not be beaten easily.
Posted by: kveto | November 27, 2016 1:04 PM
And in Beetle's case, it might have contributed to the perception of him as a loser villain that arose in the late '80s and early '90s that dogged the character until Thunderbolts.
Posted by: Michael | November 27, 2016 1:09 PM
Beetle's prior appearances were none too impressive either. His plans were generally stupid, and his only combat successes were against opponents with far less power than Iron Man.
Posted by: Mortificator | November 27, 2016 3:28 PM
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