Iron Man #171-175
Issue(s): Iron Man #171, Iron Man #172, Iron Man #173, Iron Man #174, Iron Man #175
There's a little part of me that wonders if it was deliberate to choose one of Marvel's few black super-villains as Rhodey's first villain (especially odd since it's the first time we've seen Thunderball without the rest of the Crew), but there's no comments regarding ethnicity in the story.
Iron Man is able to defeat Thunderball thanks to getting super-charged at a power plant (but Roger Stern apparently took exception to the one-punch defeat and 'explains' it in Amazing Spider-Man #248).
Daredevil's former girlfriend Heather Glenn has a cameo in #171. She accompanies Tony Stark to a party, but he gets drunk and passes out and she leaves with someone else (It's Tarkington Brown, from Daredevil #195). She's a drinker too.
The same story introduces Clytemnestra Erwin ("Cly"), sister of Morley Erwin, the scientist who's been helping Rhodey get the hang of his Iron Man suit.
Rhodes and the two Erwins are intending to start up a small business since Stark Industries is going downhill.
Next, Captain America locates Tony and tries to get him to accept help, to no avail.
Iron Man helps Captain America rescue Tony and a number of other drunks from a burning building. The fire was caused by Firebrand...
...who wants to wipe out all the old slums so the city will have to build newer, better buildings.
Cap calls Firebrand a crackpot relic of 10 years ago, and Firebrand retorts that Cap is a 40 year old relic.
Firebrand is able to escape while Cap and IM deal with the fire. Tony Stark slips away in the confusion.
Then Obadiah Stane officially takes over Stark's company.
Stane's men are able to locate Stark to bring him to the new Stane International so Obadiah can gloat.
While most of the high level employees of Stark International resign(except Vic Martinelli who, due to his criminal background, doesn't have a lot of employment options)...
...Stane makes an offer to Iron Man, suggesting that it was Indries Moomji who induced Stark to start drinking again, and that if Iron Man were to locate and return her, she might be able to get him to stop. It turns out that Indries is part of a freelance espionage group called the Sisterhood of Ishtar. Rhodey takes Stark to his mother's house to detox...
...and then heads after Indries.
He fights his way through a number of traps at the headquarters of the Sisterhood...
...including an inter-dimensional vortex...
...and makes it to Indries.
She reveals that she had been trained since childhood, and surgically altered, to be a perfectly alluring female.
But she doesn't have magical powers and can't fix Stark's alcoholism. So Rhodey lets her go. Meanwhile, Stark escapes Rhodey's mom's house.
Stane tries to claim Rhodey's Iron Man armor, but Rhodey refuses...
...and also makes sure that Stane can't get his hands on any of Stark's back-up or prototype suits by launching all of them into the Atlantic Ocean.
He gets into a battle with one of Stane's Knights.
After the Knight is taken care of, there's a three way race between Iron Man, Nick Fury, and a group of rogue Atlanteans led by the Warlord Krang to retrieve the suits.
Rhodey doesn't trust Fury and doesn't want SHIELD to have them, but the two team-up to fight Krang.
After fighting off the Atlanteans, Rhodey is able to slag the armored suits.
Really good plotting. The dialogue has a slightly stilted feel to it, but overall this is a good run aided by the fact that it feels like a lot of significant stuff is going on.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: Issue #171 takes place concurrently with Daredevil #195. In 1988's Nick Fury vs. SHIELD #3, it's implied that the Nick Fury that appears in this issue is really an LMD under the influence of the Deltite. But that's not actually confirmed (Fury could have been lying to Tony Stark), and the MCP lists the real Fury as appearing here.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (16): show
The title to #171 may refer to the old blues song popularized by Janis Joplin while she was a member of Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 25, 2011 11:34 PM
Firebrand, as written by his creator Archie Goodwin in IM #27, is probably one of the most interesting "villains" ever. But in every subsequent appearance (by other writers)k, he sucked
Posted by: kveto from prague | February 13, 2012 11:40 PM
I first encountered Firebrand in Kurt Busiek's IM run and he seemed like an interesting, non-typical villain due to the political angle. So i've always gotten my hopes up when he appeared in other books, but yeah, he's generally written as a complete whacko, which misses the point.
Goodwin's Iron Man run is one of the gaps in my collection that i want to fill, but i shall not be swayed from the righteous path of 1985 at this time.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 14, 2012 9:09 AM
Ok, I haven't read Busieks take on Firebrand. I imagine he'd handle him with more panache.
Posted by: kveto from prague | February 15, 2012 4:53 PM
I'm just here since I learned this is where it turns out Steve's dad was a drunk. I liked Firebrand a lot with his first appearance or so but then they just wrote him like crap, an interesting character with an intresting contrast to Stark.
"You're a ten year relic."
Posted by: david banes | April 29, 2014 9:12 PM
The Firebrand from Busiek's run was a totally different character, if I remember correctly. His character was gone too, as he just seemed like one of IM's high-tech villains.
Here's my favourite Iron Man run now. This is where I started reading Iron Man, as my cousin started buying Iron Man. I was starting out solely reading X-Men, and he was solely read IM, and I'd read his comics. Good times, good times.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 29, 2014 9:31 PM
Rhodey's dialogue with Obadiah is probably his best scene as Iron Man. Very much in charge and competent. O'Neil handled it very well.
Posted by: Chris | December 16, 2016 12:41 AM
Firebrand is captured in #172 after Iron Man (Rhodes) drags him through the East River, and is last seen being handed off to the cops; he'll turn up next, utterly out of character, as a business agent for supervillains in the Scourge finale in Captain America #318-19 or so. Perhaps this humliiating defeat is what convinced him to do something else, so he did a lot of networking in jail?
I;d expect more from Denny7 O'Neill writing an "evil radical" character, but my understanding is that most of the villains-of-the-month in O'Neill's run were suggested by editor Mark Gruenwald so that the stories could have their requisite fight scenes. This probably also explains why O'Neil doesn't do more with Thunderball in #171.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | January 29, 2018 5:28 PM
O'Neil's run on IM, like his run on ASM prior to this, is very lacklaster when it comes to good villains and engaging plots. He almost seems bored with it. He is much more interested in characterization, and in this run exploring alcoholism (which is based on his own struggles with alcohol). O'Neil, during this time period, seems interested in his long term plotting and exploring that, and not so much on the single issue stories with supervillains. This also shows up in his DD run around this time.
Posted by: Chris | January 29, 2018 5:53 PM
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