Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tales From the Vault: IRON MAN #66

Hey, all you Marvel Zombies! What could possibly be cooler than a Thor versus Iron Man throwdown? If you're like me -- and I know you are, only less so -- then that sort of thing is totally the cat's pajamas. But why settle for recent imitators (like JMS's Thor #3) when you can go right to the classics? That's right, it's time for a look at Iron Man #66 in a tale someone could only call... Night of the Thunder God!

Details: This gem comes to us straight out of February, 1973 (meaning it was actually published in late 1972, but who's counting?). The art is by classic Iron Man artist George Tuska, who sadly passed away recently, and the less classic Mike Friedrich, better known as The Lesser Friedrich. Can Friedrich and Tuska deliver on the cover's promise? Well, let's go with maybe on that one.

Synopsis: Oh, look, this story turns out to be continued form the previous issue; I'm going to guess that the last issue had Thor suddenly swoop in out of nowhere on the last page. Just a hunch. It starts with Thor and Iron Man facing off, and as they do so, an onlooker shouts "Iron Man's gone nuts -- attacking everything in sight -- and Thor's vowed to stop him!" Well, buddy, I didn't ask you, but thanks for the exposition. That pretty much fills us in, but Friedrich follows this up with a brief recap of last issue: turns out Iron Man is possessed by the spirit of an evil skrull, who...

Forget it, I'm not reading the rest. More Secret Invasion crap. The pages of this comic smell like Bendis. I give up.

Wait, I see a picture of Dr. Spectrum, so I guess we'll keep going. This skrull spirit, see, was trapped inside Spectrum's power prism. When Spectrum attacked Iron Man -- I guess this was the evil Spectrum from the Squadron Sinister -- the skrull managed to break free from his imprisonment and take over Iron Man's body. Just as he was about to kill Spectrum, though, Thor swooped in and stopped him. Ah, as I thought, the infamous "last page swoop".

So, recap done, the evil skrull Iron Man tries to trick Thor by pretending he's still really Iron Man, but I guess this is the worst skrull ever, because Thor figures it out, oh, instantly. Plus, this skrull is just a giant moron in general, because he says in his recap that he attracted Thor by smashing everything in sight to show off his new form. And he is shocked that Thor has showed up because he didn't expect "to be challenged so soon" and this has disrupted his plans to dominate Earth, because even he knows that Iron Man is no match for Thor.

Man, that sounds really stupid. You didn't expect to be challenged so soon? This throws a wrench in your plans to conquer the Earth? Except, like, Earth is covered with superheroes who specifically hang around waiting to stop challenge would-be conquerors. And you just went on a giant demolition spree right off the bat. What did this guy expect would happen?

Anyway, he decides to just use his power prism to turn invisible and run away -- finally, a halfway smart idea -- except Thor makes it rain so he can see the outline of the guy, then clobbers him. Whap! Just like that, fight over. Man, that was... exactly as fast as it should have been, for once. And that means...

...time for a long flashback. We see that Happy Hogan has just revealed to his wife, Pepper Potts-Happy (er... or something), that Stark is Iron Man, and she's like, "oh, get over yourself, you jealous liar". This, of course, kind of ticks Happy off. Just then, he hears a news flash that Iron Man is fighting Spectrum, so he decides to prove to his wife that she's being a jerkazoid. He does this by opening Stark's briefcase and putting on the Iron Man armor himself. Then he flies off while Pepper shouts at him to stop showing off cause he's just going to do something dumb. Way to stand by your man, lady. Good one.

Okay, flashback over. While Thor is trying to revive Iron Man, the cops bring Spectrum over, and he's like "smooth move, exlax" and mentally seizes control of the prism again, busting himself free and flying off. Just then, another Iron Man flies in from nowhere right asThor begins kicking Spectrum's rear. This second (third?) Iron Man shows up, though, and says that this is his fight and Thor should back off. Man, I dunno about you, but I hate that sort of macho crap. "Back off, Thor. This is between me and Dr. Spectrum. Even if all of the Eastern Seaboard gets destroyed in the process, and I lose a hand, I want to prove to him that I am his superior." Dude, how about letting Thor help? Public safety ever enter your mind. After all, you know, it's THOR. He could end this fight in about nine seconds if you would let him. In fact, he just did a couple pages ago.

But, no. Thor is like "sure thing, Tony, I'll just hang out over here while you two wreck all of Chicago". So, they start fighting. Spectrum tries a couple of Z-grade Green Lantern tricks that don't work, then goes the old diversion route by creating a robot that he sends careening into a park of civilians. Frankly, it would be justice if a bunch of them got hurt, because then Iron Man could be brought up on charges of Unlawful Machismo for his decision to keep Thor on the sidelines. Instead, though, Iron Man wrecks the robot in one hit (a big splash page).

We also get this bit of inspired (or is that insipid?) Friedrich prose:

"His gaze is steel -- and some say his veins are as well... But you can well appreciate the word on the street! 'Don't mess with this man-machine!'"

Wow, really, Mike? That's the best you can give us? Somewhere, Stan Lee is weeping a solitary tear.

Finally, Dr. Spectrum actually comes up with a good idea (better than that invisibility one, even). Since Iron Man is just smashing everything he makes, he creates a big device that is intended to be smashed. When Iron Man breaks it, he's engulfed in flames. Mind you, this does nothing, but it was a good idea anyway.

Realizing he's getting his butt kicked, Spectrum whips up an airplane to fly away in, which is a bit odd since he's already flying without it. Iron Man quickly wrecks this as well -- someone call Damage, Inc. already -- and once Spectrum has safely crashed to the Earth, Iron Man stomps on the prism and destroys it. He then unmasks Spectrum, who turns out to be... an African economist named Dr. Obatu. Hmm. I wasn't expecting that.

Anyway, Iron Man rushes over to the other Iron Man, who is being tended to by Don Blake, meaning that at least one of these Avengers was doing something useful. It looks grim for... some guy named Eddie March. Yep, that Happy Hogan thing was just a red herring. Now we find out that Pepper's speech actually convinced Happy to take the suit off, but unbeknownst to everyone, Eddie March (another friend of Stark's) was running around with an Iron Man suit when he also heard about the fight with Spectrum and decided to jump in himself.

So, apparently just about everyone in America had an Iron Man suit back in 1973. Personally, this whole switcheroo with Iron Man turning out to be Happy turning out to be some random dude seems pretty cheap to me. In a thought balloon we see that Iron Man had fled to repair his armor during the fight with Spectrum and he called Jarvis and had him send Thor over to help. Which is weird, since he didn't, in fact, allow Thor to help any once they were both there.

The issue ends with Blake telling Iron Man that March might live but they need to get him to the hospital right away; we then see a closeup of the smashed power prism and some crap about Spectrum maybe reappearing at some future date.


Comments: This issue has a couple problems. Firstly, the structure is kinda horrible, with the big flashbacks interrupting the action and stuff. Slightly more jarring, however, is the fact that nothing makes a lick of sense in this entire issue. The whole Happy Hogan red herring thing, with the defeated iron Man being revealed as a random third character who hadn't even appeared in the issue yet, is worse than lazy, it's outright cheap.

Plus, the big Thor vs. Iron Man fight shown on the cover never happens, and the stand in Iron Man gets creamed in about one page. So, in other words, this is an even lamer sales ploy than most of these lame sales ploys. Blah.

My Grades: This comic gets a C-, saved only by George Tuska and the presence of Dr. Spectrum, who is really cool even when he's a lame skrull or whatever the heck was going on here. The Iron Man vs. Thor angle gets a giant F-, though, for ripping off everyone who's so much as seen the cover.

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