Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Review: Iron Man #323

Iron Man #323, "Innocent Eyes," Cover Date December 1995
Plot by Terry Kavanagh, Script by Dan Abnett, Pencils by Hector Oliveira, Jim Cheung, and Yancey Labat, Inks by Mark McKenna

Iron Man 323 Cover

After a bit of time off pursuing other projects, I'm back, and I'm ready to review more Iron Man comics! We begin our story on a yacht just outside San Diego, as Iron Man stands over a bunch of unconscious goons in off-brand SHIELD gear. Narration reveals that Iron Man intercepted a transmission "foolishly sent via the internet," and after a 9 second fight, everyone on the deck was out cold. But that 9 second fight is just the beginning, as Iron Man senses a signal arrow approaching him from, shot by a man "too honorable" to shoot him in the back. It's Hawkeye! And he seems pretty mad that Iron Man framed him for murder! Hawkeye says he wants the truth, as to why Iron Man frames him, while Iron Man's narration says he's been expecting this since he "found" the evidence that pointed to Hawkeye. I guess Iron Man still doesn't know he's being manipulated? Iron Man just stands there while trick arrows are bounced off him, narrating that being shot "doesn't even deserve the courtesy of flinching." He advises Hawkeye to just start talking, and stop shooting. After Hawkeye accuses him of a frame-job, Iron Man says he doesn't believe Hawkeye is a killer, and that the situation is "desperately" wrong. He says he wants to find the truth, and the two shake hands.

Iron Man 323 Masque Bethany Cabe
So were they... both wearing that?

Elsewhere, in a bunker, Marianne Rodgers and Masque are still under house arrest. Machinesmith says his mystery boss will be there soon, and in the meantime Masque cooks up some pasta. Machinesmith has to leave the room, and as soon as he's gone, Masque unmasks to reveal... Bethany Cabe! It's a Stark ex-girlfriend reunion! Machinesmith radios in to... Iron Man, who says to keep taking care of the two of them.

Iron Man 323 Luna
I find Quicksilver's face at the top more disturbing than the murder.

At the Wasp's mansion, Hawkeye and Iron Man set down in a Quinjet, causing the team to rush out to meet them. They're relatively friendly to Hawkeye, but Wasp thinks "the nerve of Stark" after her hissy fit last issue. She's still mad about being bankrupted? Let it go already. Back at the bunker, Machinesmith notices Marianne's inhibitor device is missing, and before he can shoot Masque, Marianne knocks the robot out. It was... Bethany? Somehow they switched clothes and also faces? How would that fool the robot, anyway?

Iron Man 323 Mantis
Mantis's outfits were always dumb, but this is ridiculous.

Back at Wasp's mansion, the team goes over all their recent mysteries, when Hawkeye finds Luna sobbing in the hallway. Vision suggests using an "image inducer" on Luna, but Crystal objects. Tony volunteers, but we don't get any images of his murders. They try the inducer again with Luna, and it shows him blasting Yellowjacket. Hawkeye looks at Tony and asks for an explanation, but Tony just says he never meant for them to know, but that they all must die. We close on eeevil Mantis, at her space lair, as she smiles to herself even as Iron Man's repulsors are apparently going off, all while wearing a truly absurd outfit.

You've Got Mail: the letters page says Iron Man has 16 different girlfriends to this point. Readers are generally pretty unhappy with Joe Madureira's design of Iron Man's armor, complete with goofy gauntlets.

Review: After months of going in circles, we FINALLY get Iron Man revealed as the killer, and we get a pretty decent cliffhanger, although it means another issue that's more set-up than pay-off. Despite the idea of Hawkeye vs. Iron Man being the apparent selling point, Iron Man treats Hawkeye like a total joke, and the rest of the issue is this stupid subplot with Iron Man's jilted exes and Iron Man trying to figure out who killed those people that Iron Man killed. That aside, I'm just relieved that after months of nothing happening, we're finally into the next act of this crossover.

Art-wise, I still have a soft-spot for Jim Cheung, as he does a bit more than half the issue, with an assist from Yancey Labat and Hector Oliveira. I'm not familiar enough with either of their work to tell you who did what, but it's obviously worse when they're doing the pencils. All in all, this issue is kind of a disappointment from its Hawkeye vs. Iron Man premise, but it ends up being pretty decent, thanks to a strong ending.

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