Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: Iron Man #321

Iron Man #321, "Psi-Fi," Original Cover Date October, 1995
Written by Terry Kavanagh, Penciled by Heitor Oliveira and Marcos Tetelli, Inked by Mark McKenna

Following the thrilling conclusion to Avengers: The Crossing, you'd expect the ramifications to be felt pretty deeply in a comic starring a guy we just saw murder people. But, as the saying goes, expect the unexpected.

Our story begins with Hank Pym and Tony Stark experimenting on the mystery door opened in Avengers #391, and presumably also during the Crossing. The two scientists try a number of things, all the while discussing the Avenger's latest troubles, but don't make any headway. Meanwhile, in the presumed-abandoned mansion proper, an absurdly proportioned female silhouette is seen. The scientists give up their pursuits, as Hank casually mentions he's suffering from headaches, and Tony jokes about stealing his ex-wife.

I assume that "krakk" is her spine fracturing.

In Los Angeles, Suzie Endo lands on a Stark Jet and calls Tony, who says he'll meet with her soon, but he's on the East Coast. A different mystery woman watches as Endo makes her way off the runway. Stark then makes a couple of phone calls: one to Force Works mystery man Moonraker, to let him know that he'll be returning to the team with someone he wants them to meet. He then calls Janet's mansion and Hercules picks up, speaking in more or less his old "Hercules" voice that's been abandoned for months in Avengers. Hercules mentions a warning from a young blonde woman, which Tony gasps at. Apparently last month in Iron Man, he was also visited by a mystery blonde woman, before experiencing a blackout. His phone calls made, Tony proceeds to continuously hit "enhance" on a blurry security feed of Marilla's murder. Tony doesn't recognize his own armor until he finally shouts "It can't be! It can't be!"

Relatively normal Suzi Endo.

A clearly rattled Tony wanders into the mansion and finds Hank Pym, apparently dead. In a daze, he's attacked by the mystery woman from within the mansion, who reveals she's reading Tony's thoughts. He identifies her as "Marianne Rogers," and we learn that she was an ex who was committed to an asylum, but also had mutant powers of telepathy and telekinesis. After a brief fight, Marianne looks to stab Tony through the eye with a TK-enhanced sharp piece of wood, when she's shot in the back by another mystery woman, who identifies herself as "Masque" and bears more than a passing resemblance to old Iron Man ex/villain Madame Masque. Our story ends with Hank Pym waking up, unharmed, to find an empty mansion and clear signs of a struggle. He wonders "what happened here?!"

Hercules has been out in the sun too long.


Close your mouths, guys.

I try to keep things pretty positive on this site, notwithstanding making fun of the excesses of the 90's in a fun way, but believe me when I tell you this comic is godawful. Fans hoping for some insight into Tony Stark's state of mind won't get it, and for a long time literally nothing happens. This whole issue feels like it was designed to introduce the months-long build in Avengers and other titles to the Iron Man book, but why? Who's reading Iron Man when it's this bad, but not Avengers? It also sticks in the subplot involving Suzie Endo, which is pretty bad timing considering there's a big crossover and this feels like something that could've been held off on for a few months. The one big fight is between an unarmed Tony and newcomer Marianne Rogers, who inexplicably has Jean Grey level powers. I guess we're supposed to wonder who's side Tony's on, since Marianne is shouting like a lunatic how he's the real monster. The whole deal with Hank Pym being found dead doesn't make sense, except maybe a symptom of Tony's mental illness? Which is still baffling, since Hank asking "what happened" makes it clear that all the other events excluding Hank's death really did happen.

Marianne clearly doesn't take those anti-psychotics that make you retain weight.

The art, not surprisingly for a comic drawn by two different people, tends to vary wildly in quality. Sometimes the faces look normal, sometimes Hercules looks like he is made of wax and has melted. The women, and there are several, all seem to be slowly turning into bird-like creatures. Suzie Endo is the most "normally" drawn one, since she's just wearing a business-y outfit, but Marianne Rogers, a dangerous lunatic who has recently escaped an asylum, is wearing a dress that might just be a sweater that covers her butt? The important thing is she is flying around not wearing pants and is absurdly sexualized for a character that doesn't really need to be (unless Tony Stark only dates absurdly proportioned women). The end result of the mixing of decent art with bizarre parody is the book just doesn't look good, and when combined with the nonsensical writing, this ends up being the worst issue of the Crossing event so far.

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