Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: Iron Man #322

Iron Man #322, "The Darkest Page to Turn," Cover Date November, 1995
Written by Terry Kavanagh,Pencils by Jim Cheung and Sergio Cariello, Inked by Mark McKenna and Hector Collazo

Iron Man 322 Cover

We begin our story with Tony Stark taking a page out of the Bruce Wayne playbook by visiting his parent's graves. He apologizes for not visiting them more, when a faceless mystery blonde woman appears, and Tony for a moment thinks it's his dead mother. It's the blonde mystery girl, who seems to have about a million different outfits. Tony questions whether she's real, and she says he needs her, but before she can explain he appears to have another blackout.

Iron Man 322 Luna
Where'd future Luna get those heavenly robes?

At an abandoned airstrip, Hawkeye, War Machine and U.S. Agent go over the recent happenings, including War Machine mentioning his new war-wear, as Agent says that murder is a serious accusation.

A few hundred miles away, Iron Man comes to, wearing his armor in a shambles of an apartment. He recognizes it, and shouts "BETHANY!!!!" like he's trying out for Streetcar. He remembers the last time he went nuts and fought an ex, but realizes that this time things have gotten real.

Iron Man 322 Bethany?!
Maybe all this "mind control" is really just Iron Man being a blackout alcoholic?

We then cut to an arctic bunker, where Marianne Rodgers (the TK crazy girl from last issue's Iron Man), and Masque are watched over by Machinesmith. Rodgers talks about how it was reading Tony's mind that caused her mental breakdown, but thanks Masque for preventing her from killing anybody. She insists that they're under "house arrest," but it's not clear who put them there or who Machinesmith's boss is.

Iron Man searches his logs and finds that Bethany requested a jet to go to New York, so his response is to... go to Avengers Mansion? How many times are people gonna go back here? Iron Man thinks "what the H" as the basement door begins to open, as Neut, "master of arms," is back to embarrass and humiliate Earth's Mightiest Heroes some more.

Iron Man 322 In Your Face
Shouting "In Your Face!" really is timeless.

In a truly hilarious line, Iron Man blurts out "Iron Man in your face!" out loud while attacking Neut. Neut counters him by saying he's left himself open for "en easy shot... out of the ballpark," then backslaps himself for his use of local idioms. As if that wasn't humiliating enough, the tiny blue man leaps on Iron Man and starts pulling out gears and gizmos out of his back. In desperation, Iron Man knocks Neut's lance away, and Neut says "the pupil finally threatening to surpass his teacher," which makes no sense, as he flies off, leaving Tony semi-conscious.

Iron Man 322 Hawkeye Widow
I'm not sure why Black Widow has this shocked expression.

At the Wasp's mansion, Luna is still going on about wanting her dead nanny. Get over it, kid! Iron Man bursts in, saying he's met Gilgamesh's murderer. Wasp and Black Widow appear, and Wasp immediately reacts to being bankrupted in recent issues of Avengers by kicking the injured Iron Man out of her house. Probably reeling from a concussion, Stark confusedly tries to deny the allegation that he bankrupted her, but then recognizes some of the team doubt him and staggers out, causing Crystal to say "It's not like him to give up so easily." Maybe she didn't notice his dilated pupils and staggering around? I guess it's 1995, so we don't know that concussions are bad yet. We cut to later that night, where Black Widow is on the most 1990's computer I've seen, apparently keeping up with her espionage web ring. Actually, she's skyping with Hawkeye (how'd he get the technology to do this?), as he says he has proof of his innocence, and plays the old "we used to date" card to make sure Widow is willing to meet him... alone!


More water-treading for this crossover, although we finally do get the scene I wanted in Avengers, where Wasp gets to be upset that Iron Man's company bankrupted her. Of course, by doing the scene in Iron Man's book, she's the one that comes off bad since he has no idea what she's talking about and is too dazed to respond. Remind me again why we're supposed to be sympathetic to Iron Man? I guess because we're religious Iron Man readers?

We also at least check in on the other subplots, Hawkeye trying to prove his innocence, Marianne Rodgers and Masque... doing whatever. Why are they even in this crossover, again? Kavanagh's writing is once again at its best when it comes to providing completely insane plot developments and laugh out loud dialogue. Why does Neut attack Iron Man? What's his goal? He just beats up Iron Man for a few pages, spouting ridiculous lines, and then wanders off. Tony responds by sealing off the mansion (apparently this issue takes place chronologically before Avengers #392, so they go right back to the mansion anyway again), but... the Mansion was already closed off in Avengers the previous month. And since the bad guys of this story are obviously controlling Iron Man, why are they making him face off against their goon at all? At least this sort of addresses why Black Widow wasn't in #392 at all: presumably she's asking for directions to Hawkeye's airstrip.

I already praised Jim Cheung's art enough, but it's still head and shoulders better than everything else I've seen with the possible exception of Deodato. Unfortunately, Cheung couldn't do the whole issue, so the last six pages or so are done by a completely different art team. Cariello's work here is too brief to evaluate, but the biggest criticism is that his style is completely opposed to Cheung's simplified, manga-influenced work. Speaking of manga, I'm not sure if it's Cheung or his inker, but sometimes they make Iron Man's eyes too big, and the result is he ends up looking a bit too cartoon-y. Cheung also has that problem where he doesn't pencil in the occasional face, probably thinking someone will just add, you know, eyes at the next level of art, but nope, it's just a creepy faceless mannequin that pops up. Or maybe the mystery woman is really The Question (kudos to Steve Ditko for coming up with a costume design that didn't involve drawing a face).

In all though, this is a step up from the previous Iron Man issue, because I hated the art and the fight scene there was completely incomprehensible. An issue later, Tony still doesn't know what happened. You and me both, Tony!

No comments:

Post a Comment