Iron Man #225
Issue(s): Iron Man #225
It's also said that an added bonus of this storyline is that it allowed Marvel to "help trim down the number of armored characters that some felt were beginning to over-populate" the Marvel universe. In that regard it's similar to the Scourge storyline and other efforts during the Shooter era to do away with some of the peripheral characters and concepts at Marvel, but in this the story was least successful. It does almost (but not quite) see the end of the Mauler and the Raiders, but mostly it tackles characters like Stilt-Man, the Beetle, the Controller, the Crimson Dynamo, and Titanium Man. And while Stilt-Man may be silly and some might say the same of the Beetle, there was no way the rest of those characters were going away permanently. Which is fine. For story purposes i'd rather see Iron Man going up against those characters than, say, the Seekers or Chance, even though it's those latter day armored characters that i'd rather see disappeared.
The story was still a success in its two primary goals: 1) "a rip-roaring adventure, with Iron Man pitted against some of the most unique and powerful villains in the Marvel universe" and 2) "the emotional conflict" of Stark feeling the anguish of his inventions used for evil and instead of only fighting when threatened, deciding "to go LOOKING for trouble", which winds up putting him in conflict with friends and other good guys.
The run kicks off with this $1.25 double-sized first issue, which gives Michelinie, Bob Layton, and M.D. Bright time to set up the premise and have Iron Man face off against two villains (granted, one of them is Stilt-Man). But actually this storyline began with the previous arc, which had Force defecting from Justin Hammer and turning himself in to Stark. Stark noticed some familiar things about Force's armor while he was examining it, and this issue has him giving it a closer look, where it's confirmed that some of the fundamental circuitry is Stark's design. Force had been given a new identity at the Stark subsidiary Barstow Electronics, but Stark now risks compromising his new identity by going back to Force and demanding to know where he got the suit. Force confirms what we already knew from last issue, which was that Force designed the crude prototypes of his armor himself, but the more advanced stuff was given to him by Hammer.
Stark later calls Force at night, basically harassing him after this stuff was supposed to have been put behind him.
The very idea that Stark is responsible for the villainous actions of Hammer's minions drives him to distraction...
...causing him to screw up a publicity event at a military show (as an aside, i want to note that even as Stark makes it clear that he still doesn't design weapons for the military anymore, he is still doing a lot of work for them, including designing an attack warning system that sounds a bit like a lower scale version of Reagan's Star Wars program. As per the standard anti-Star Wars arguments, that's a potentially slippery slope - if you've got an impregnable defense, you are more emboldened to attack - but as Stark says, "Defense contracts are tough to come by when you refuse to manufacture munitions. But they're essential to the growth of a young company like Stark Enterprises.").
Stark goes to the computer programmer Abe Zimmer, from Stark's Accutech acquisition, and pairs him up with electronics expert (and secret Ant-Man) Scott Lang. Stark informs Lang that their activity isn't strictly legal, putting Lang, a former criminal who has put that life behind him so that he can raise his daughter, in a tough spot. But Lang is also trying to start a new company and he needs Stark's business. So he ultimately accepts.
Zimmer and Lang manage to hack a Justin Hammer shell company called Transcorp...
...and they find that Hammer got Stark's designs from the Spymaster.
One thing that annoys me a little about this story is that there's no mention of the Spymaster's more recent attempts to steal Stark's technology in Iron Man #210. We'll learn in later issues that Spymaster stole Stark's technology before Obadiah Stane dismantled his old company, which means that he already had valuable data that he could have sold to AIM instead of embarking on a new mission in issue #210. One could possibly come up with explanations for this - perhaps Spymaster's agreement with Hammer was that he would deliver the technology without making copies - but it should have been dealt with in the story.
Stark starts working the list. He starts with Stilt-Man.
He then tracks down the Mauler, but gets no resistance from him.
And finally, he hunts down the Controller.
The interesting thing, which is possibly an indictment of all super-heroes, or at least those with Avengers-level resources, is that Stark doesn't have much trouble locating any of these guys. The Stilt-Man, ok, sure, maybe you don't bother hunting him down if he's on the loose; you can leave that for the police. But the Controller? He's extremely dangerous and in a way that affects the lives of many innocent people, as we see here where he's brainwashed another army of followers. If Iron Man was able to locate this guy so easily, he or perhaps someone else in the West Coast Avengers should arguably have done so sooner and not just because Stark now feels personally responsible for him.
In any event, while Stark is dealing with the super-villains, he has his legal team pursuing matters against Transcorp. But his illegal method of getting the info, plus the fact that, for secrecy, Stark never patented his inventions, makes that a slow and difficult process. Stark expresses frustration at the speed that the legal justice system works, and decides that he's going to work outside of it.
We'll see throughout this that James Rhodes remains loyal to Stark as he continues to go further and further down a morally precarious path, and that does bring him into conflict with his girlfriend, Stark's PR exec, Marcy Pearson.
Rhodes is pretty much the only person Stark relies on, though. With a story like this, you start to ask why Iron Man doesn't go to the Avengers or anyone else for help, but that is all dealt with in-story, and we'll have tie-ins with other books - mostly Captain America - in a way that's fun for this project. It's also worth noting how economical this first issue is, with so much progress already made, in terms of setting up the plot, in terms of character work, and with three of the villains on the list already being crossed off. It's a double-sized issue, but even taking that into account a lot is accomplished in a relatively small amount of space, and not in a way that feels like a super-compressed Silver Age story. It's nicely done by a talented team who deserved the attention that this "event" got them.
Quality Rating: A
Chronological Placement Considerations: Despite being an "event", not all of the issues need to take place in direct succession. The MCP has West Coast Avengers #26-28 taking place after this issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: The Armor Wars TPB
Inbound References (14): show
Layton has said in interviews that he was planning to reveal that Spymaster had implanted a monitoring device inside Stark's body during issues 138-139 that enabled him to monitor everything Tony did. That raises the question of why the technology that he sold to Hammer stopped before Stane's takeover and of course makes the problems with issue 210 that you mentioned even worse.
Posted by: Michael | May 5, 2014 10:31 PM
I'm not really speaking directly to your comments on the Beetle, but I've always like that IM's villains have trouble adapting. Iron Man is always updating his technology. So, Melter was one of IM's biggest villains, at first. By the 1970s, Melter wasn't really a challenge for IM anymore. The villains weren't able to keep their tech as up to date.
Iron Man did act pretty bad in Armour Wars, but Stark was always a bit less than noble as a hero. I found that interesting about the character. Not everyone is Spidey or Cap, and Stark is driven by a lot of self-interest, unlike most other heroes.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | May 5, 2014 11:20 PM
Yeah but that was classic Bettle that got beaten during Demon in the Bottle, he got new armor in the 80s that looked more like a Beatle.
Now I like Bettle and even Stiltman. I need to re-read this arc because I love it a lot, much better than I thought it would be. I'll save for what I expected for another issue.
Posted by: david banes | May 6, 2014 2:32 AM
Looking things over on the site, the Beetle does seem to go up and down regarding his depiction and the evolution of his tech. His first incarnation was tough (even with his first issue having him yell out "I WIN AGAIN!!" over and over even with losses like he's Ozymandius or something) but the tech falls behind. Then the second version is tough again...until this sort of makes him fall behind until he becomes Mach 1. I think I sort of get the point that's coming across: while Abner Jenkins has the technological knowhow, he doesn't really upgrade or improve as often as you'd expect at this point; maybe the Armor Wars segment ends up having him embarrased to the point of no recovery prior to the Thunderbolts scheme...
Posted by: Ataru320 | May 6, 2014 8:58 AM
One thing that makes Iron Man interesting for me is that he's only really a good guy because he happens to fight on the right side (which makes him more realistic than many heroes). Let's face it, how often have you sat back and said Stark would make a good villain? This story line examines how Tony is willing to break the rules to make up for himself (very typical big business behavior, the rules are only good when they are in our favour)
Posted by: kveto from prague | May 6, 2014 3:59 PM
Although the Tony Stark as a villain idea brings back far too many bad memories of Marvel's Civil War...
How funny that pretty much every corporate CEO at Marvel is a villain, except Tony Stark. He's always fighting ruthless, conniving competitors, like Justin Hammer.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | May 6, 2014 6:11 PM
Yes something like Armor Wars would have made a fantastic movie, but we sort of got that in Iron Man 2 and I think that is the weakest IM movie. Iron Man 3 is pretty fantastic and almost as good as the first movie.
Posted by: david banes | May 6, 2014 6:43 PM
Great issue and the start of a great storyline. I don't think the "event" is all that unusual except that the storyline itself was sequentially numbered (part 1, part 2, etc.) rather than just happen. Typically, it was a specific story that generated buzz for a talented creative team. Would Simonson's run on Thor have gotten off so strong if not for losing the hammer to Beta Ray Bill? Did Miller's DD really skyrocket before the appearance of Elektra? Even the X-Men needed the Dark Phoenix storyline to "come out" despite high quality work done years earlier by Claremont, Cockrum, and Byrne.
I think Spymaster was handled well. It would have been nice to integrate #210 more within this issue, but not essential. Even if Spymaster stole technology years ago, it doesn't mean he wouldn't want the brand new tech, or to find the secrets of stuff he didn't find years ago.
If I had any problem, it's that after the arc is done, so little seems to have been done with the ramifications. Armored villains appeared just as frequently, and mostly with the same level of power. If references were made to the events here, there were few and far between (except in IM and during Byrne's WCA run).
I don't have the same problem as FNORD12 with Stark's ease of finding the Controller. It is not an indictment of the Avengers. Things happen at the speed of plot. If this is really a problem, time to move onto other hobbies. There just needs to be a certain amount of plausible deniability, or a caption comment, or something else minor, and everything except the most egregious plot holes.
Posted by: Chris | May 6, 2014 9:45 PM
I think part of the problem with finding the Controller, among other things with this arc, is a sudden nudge towards ramifications/this is what should have been done.
I mean yeah it would have felt a little more kosher if Stark wanted to call in the Avengers but how often have the FF, Avengers, Spider-Man, X-Men tried calling for back up that would really help but they're always out on a mission? Besides Stark did have a strong sense of 'got to do this myself.' Not that other characters or readers can't have a beef with that.
Posted by: david banes | May 6, 2014 11:13 PM
There's an implicit deconstructionist criticism when a super-hero book goes pro-active, which is that OTHER super-heroes are ineffectually just sitting around waiting for villains to attack. That's what i'm reacting to here. Michelinie's "go LOOKING for trouble" line in the intro is showing that we're starting to go down this path (i don't think we're really there yet; Stark's "pro-activeness" is deliberately very narrowly focused here).
If you read the actual comics, it's not really a fair criticism: the Avengers, Iron Man, etc., tend to roll from one from one crisis to another and rarely have free time to go hunting down villains.
But Michelinie & Layton don't show Iron Man putting any effort into hunting down the Controller; it's just said that he was spotted in southern California, and i get the impression that if Stark didn't have a personal vendetta he wouldn't have bothered to do anything about it. But once you introduce the idea that the heroes could locate roaming villains (also Stilt-Man and the Mauler, in this issue) relatively easy, it feeds that pro-active criticism.
What's funny about this, at least in mainstream Marvel books, is that the genre conventions are so strong that even when a book claims to go pro-active, it rarely actually does. But more on that when we get to X-Force.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 7, 2014 8:18 AM
I was going to save this for later but I also found it a little funny how when Stark attacks Sting Ray there is suddenly the actual weight of attacking a government agent. Where are before the issue was usually sorted out or Sting Ray would have gone 'hm I can tell Iron Man is really noble at heart and not against the U.S. of A. No need to report this.'
Attacking big government things over a misunderstanding or a rogue agent seemed to happen all the time too with little consequences.
Posted by: david banes | May 7, 2014 1:00 PM
Fnord, you'll have a chance to comment on how pro-active books really aren't that before X-Force, when you get to the X-Men in the Australian period.
Posted by: Michael | May 7, 2014 7:56 PM
Loved this storyline - I don't get why they didn't stick with Stark Wars.
Remember PPTSS #58-60? That's when we were first witness to the new Beetle armor. I don't believe it was mentioned that Hammer had anything to do with the basic redesign, and he did pose quite a challenge to Spider-Man, even with the Gibbon's interference. Of course, he was up against Tony in one of his most powerful incarnations, so maybe Abner could have picked a better time to commit a crime at a Stark event.
They really should have drafted M.D. Bright to pencil or at least lay out #250. Would have looked as good as JRjr's #150.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | May 6, 2015 8:02 PM
I was reading this and thinking, "wait, doesn't Scott get captured because of the gas?" It took me a few minutes to remember that I was thinking of the What If issue in which Tony loses the Armor Wars.
This is my favorite appearance of Stilt-Man. Love Tony punching his one leg out from under him.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 22, 2015 9:11 PM
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