Iron Man #230-232
Issue(s): Iron Man #230, Iron Man #231, Iron Man #232
...an armored soldier working for the US military with a suit developed by Edwin Cord. The suit has ostensibly been designed for soldiers, but in fact was created as "a ready defense against so-called 'super heroes' should they ever get out of line".
Meanwhile, Tony Stark is contemplating what he's been doing...
...but then gets a call from his programmer Abe Zimmer that he's created a tapeworm virus that will infect every computer in the world and erase any references to Stark's technology. The virus is deployed, and we see the files at Transcorp, Justin Hammer's shell company, getting wiped out. Tony also goes to his old satellite where he sets up a scanner that will detect any uses of his technology that have already been created.
This is before the internet was fully formed, and the tapeworm isn't actually called a virus, but it's definitely a continuation of Stark's path away from the side of the angels as he releases a computer program that invades other people's computers and checks for his software (a dream of copyright enforcers everywhere), let alone sets up a spy satellite that scans the whole earth for his tech.
The satellite does detect an instance of his technology in use, and it's Firepower. Serendipitously, Senator Boyton and a contingent of military brass show up at Stark Enterprises to ask Tony to advise them on how to take down Iron Man (who, remember, has been "fired" by Stark at this point and is considered a rogue agent). Same as when he advised SHIELD on the Mandarin attack, Stark is allowed to advise from a distance, and he's supposed to be in a helicopter with Rhodey when Iron Man is "lured" out to fight Firepower.
By the way, that really is a giant nuke on Firepower's back. But even beyond that, he's got a heavy arsenal ("I guess that's why they call him Firepower")...
...and the battle is reminiscent of Iron Man's fight with Stingray in Iron Man #226, except with the roles reversed.
Iron Man gets beaten up so bad that he flees back to Rhodey's chopper. Rhodey tries to tell the army that he and Stark have been taken hostage, but either the army isn't buying it or doesn't care, and they start targeting the helicopter. So the next thing we see is Iron Man leaving the helicopter again and then getting hit by the nuke.
Next issue begins with news of Iron Man's death interspersed with daytime television...
...and it turns out that the viewer is Tony Stark, who is still alive. He and Rhodey filled up the Iron Man suit with pints of his blood...
...and then sent it out remotely to get destroyed by Firepower. Tony's injuries are explained as him having been thrown from the chopper after the nuclear explosion. And now that Iron Man is thought dead, Tony is thinking back to all the harm that he's caused on his crusade...
...and has decided to give up being Iron Man forever.
But meanwhile, Edwin Cord is making a power play.
The evolution of Firepower's true dark purpose has an interesting evolution. In #230, the cover story was that it would be used for the military, but the real reason was attacking super-heroes. Now attacking super-heroes is the cover story, and crowd control is the real reason. Senator Byton's reaction seems to indicate that Cord isn't just making that up.
Now that Cord is directing Firepower, he uses him to make financial trouble for Stark.
And that's enough to get Stark to go back on his decision to give up being Iron Man. Which is telling; he could have went to SHIELD or the Avengers for help instead and kept his vow (granted it wouldn't be much of an Iron Man book if he did).
When making the new suit, he puts in a security chip that ensures that the circuitry will be destroyed if a secret code isn't input.
The new suit goes back to something a lot closer to the original, at least in color scheme.
I don't really love the yellow/gold siding, which makes the suit look much more like a super costume than a suit of armor. This change can also be seen as the final step to undoing everything about Denny O'Neil's run. But it was probably inevitable that Iron Man go back to the red and gold color scheme eventually, and that plus the sleeker design does bring us closer to the classic look.
The silver and red armor was supposed to have been a major power upgrade, and this one is another upgrade over that. It makes sense that, unlike a super-hero with "natural" powers, Iron Man would continue to improve on his armor. But it does run the risk of making him overpowered.
What's also ironic is that some of his technology is stolen from the people that stole tech from him.
Iron Man defeats Firepower. Firepower's nuke gets triggered but Stark is able to disable it with help from the new EMP tech.
Tony had told himself that he was only building the armor (which took "weeks") for the one-time purpose of defeating Firepower, but of course now that he's done he talks himself out of it.
And with that, Tony goes to sleep, and we take a break from the M.D. Bright/Bob Layton team and go to a special epilogue by Barry Windsor-Smith.
Storywise, it's a dream with Tony Stark haunted by all the deaths on his hands.
When Stark wakes up, he realizes he's still feeling guilt, and he resolves to accept that and move on.
But note that the guilt he's feeling is about the people hurt by his stolen inventions, not his killing of Gremlin or attacking Captain America or any of his actions during the Armor Wars. It seems pretty clear that despite some of Tony's statements in issue #231, David Michelinie (Bob Layton wasn't involved in #232) wasn't thinking about things that way.
Armor Wars is now over, at least as far as my trade paperback is concerned, but as long as Justin Hammer is still out there it seems like this storyline isn't fully resolved. As i've said throughout, this is a great storyline - a great premise, lots of great battles and a major morale dilemma for Tony Stark that pushes him down a dark path. And it's well written and nicely illustrated. The question going forward, especially considering Michelinie & Layton are on the title for another 20 or so issues, is how well the long term implications are handled. Does Iron Man ever have that ethics talk with Cap? Does he interact with any other heroes who know what he's done, and do we see what they think of him? How does Stark reflect back on this period? It's an impressive accomplishment to wring a really great and fresh storyline out of a character that's been around this long, but in an ongoing shared universe, if everything just immediately reverts back to the status quo when it's over, it seems a little cheap. There's definitely some movement in the right direction in these issues, but it arguably doesn't go far enough. We'll see as we go...
Quality Rating: A-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This arc takes place over a period of "weeks" especially as Stark builds the new Iron Man suit. But the dream sequence in #232 takes place directly after Stark falls asleep in #231. I've pushed this back a bit in publication time to allow for Iron Man's appearances in X-Factor #32 and Nick Fury vs. SHIELD.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: The Armor Wars TPB
Inbound References (13): show
The idea that Firepower was built for use against civilians was based on the FEMA conspiracy theories. The theory was that US troops would be sent to Central America, riots would break out and FEMA would use this as an excuse to toss leftists into concentration camps. These basically drifted from the Left to the Right when Obama took over.
Posted by: Michael | May 28, 2014 9:57 PM
I'm not sure if it's directly related to Firepower, but the FEMA Camp thing goes back to the King Alfred Plan.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 28, 2014 10:14 PM
This is the year of magic technology worms isn't it with the X-Men having one that erases their images whenever they pop up.
I really liked this story, I figured it'd just be a bunch of style while Demon in the Bottle would be the substance story. I got these together as a trade and I was surprised Armor Wars had a lot more personal conflict than just armored battles.
Posted by: david banes | May 28, 2014 10:43 PM
Is that Jem singing, "here's a story about the man named Brody"?:)
What a great story arc! Some fantastic art too!
Posted by: JSfan | May 29, 2014 10:07 AM
I like Cord's style. He acts more like an actual suit than the more polished Hammer, yet he is equally ruthless.
These issues would mark the end of M.D. Bright's run on the series before Jackson Guice steps in. Bright moves over to G.I. Joe while also working on Green Lantern over at DC Comics.
I was never a fan of the Silver Centurion armor, mostly due to the bulkier design, the switch from gold to silver, and the "Transformer" backpack as it was called back then by some detractors.
I was happy to see a return to the sleeker, more familiar look with the debut of the Neo-Classic armor, but it wasn't a huge surprise. Marvel Age ran an article around the time of issue #200's release showing a couple of proposals for new armors by artists such as John Byrne and Bob Layton. Marvel eventually went with the Silver Centurion but if memory serves, Layton's 1985 contribution is nearly identical to the model he goes with here now that he and Michelinie are back on the book.
Posted by: Clutch | May 29, 2014 10:35 AM
JSFAN- Firepower shows up two more times - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firepower_(comics)
Posted by: clyde | May 29, 2014 10:39 AM
Hey, Clyde, thanks! Firepower seems like he could have been one of Iron Man's most deadliest foes.
Posted by: JSfan | May 29, 2014 10:45 AM
I think he has an easier time with armored foes than ones with true powers. He obviously has the smarts to surpass someone with technical abilities. However, true super-powers are harder to adapt to.
Posted by: clyde | May 29, 2014 12:43 PM
Interesting. I never thought of it that way. Sort of makes sense. Just as well I don't write for Marvel. :P
Posted by: JSfan | May 29, 2014 1:59 PM
Ahh, the end of the silver centurion armour. A pity. I prefered that to the red and gold. It appeared a bit bulkier, more like an "iron man" should look (slight throwback to the original). I always thought iron man's costume should be clearly different from the other skin-tight costumes of heroes. No reason for iron man to have "muscles" visible in his armour. It that respect, firepower strikes me as a more realistic set of armour. thats what a real version of an armoured suit would look like.
yeah, Tont pretty much went down the villains path with this one. but I always liked IM as a grey area hero.
Posted by: kveto from prague | May 29, 2014 2:39 PM
Great ending to a great story. However, I would have liked it that some new addition to the rogue's gallery could have come out of it somehow. Perhaps if Firepower had been built out of the compiled remnants of non-Stark armored technology, and Edwin Cord became a prime IM villain behind it.
The only thing I don't like is that for such a drastic change, the story seemed to have very little legs. In terms of the number of armored villains, distrust of Stark, his role in Avengers, etc. very little happened in other titles. John Byrne's WCA run is about the only one that took the idea and ran with it, but after his departure even that was abandoned. Some bad editorial decisions there.
Posted by: Chris | June 11, 2014 10:11 PM
Shouldn't this issue be taking place either before Solo Avengers 2 or after Solo Avengers 9? Unless that's just Hawkeye's LMD in this story while the real Clint is in Europe...
Posted by: Michael | June 29, 2014 3:49 PM
Whoops. my bad, I thought this was Iron Man 229. Sorry.
Posted by: Michael | June 29, 2014 3:50 PM
Is it my imagination, or did Cord just suddenly start looking exactly like Jack Kirby in these issues?
Posted by: Andrew | June 10, 2017 9:27 AM
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