Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Gettin' Hammer'd: Demon in a Bottle, part 2
Iron Man # 127 (October 1979)
"A Man's Home is his Battlefield!"
Writer/Plot: David Michelinie
Pencil Art: John Romita Jr.
Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Karen: This second issue in our review starts us off right with a great cover, with Iron Man pounding his way through a dozen or more villains. The inside is more of the same. Hammer throws a ton of minor leaguers at Shellhead, and he proceeds to tear them apart. When Discus -yes, Discus - attacks Stark, he's as incredulous as the reader: "Oh come on! I'm Iron Man, remember? My whole gamut of powers began with reverse magnetism..." Iron Man almost gleefully tears through second stringer after second stringer. When he tore the wings off the Beetle, I had to laugh. These pages were flat out fun.
Doug: The entire time I was reading this, I was thinking of the Scourge storyline that began in Iron Man #194 and ran through Captain America and other titles several years after this. It was repeatedly occurring to me that what Scourge did was a public service! Wow, was there some chaff in the Marvel Super-baddie Universe!
Karen: Just as it looks like IM has things going his way, Hammer pulls a trick out of his hat: he starts moving the island! It turns out his massive floating home is also equipped with huge jets that lift and propel the island across the sea, headed for international waters. Desperate to prevent Hammer from escaping with the evidence that will clear him of the murder of the ambassador, Iron Man launches himself straight at the center of the island! This splits it in two, and as it begins to sink, Stark somehow locates the computer programmer who engineered his frame-up.
Doug: The panel where Shellhead has the guy suspended way, way up in the sky over the ocean was very reminiscent of a couple of Batman scenes: in The Dark Knight Returns, when Batman holds a stooge out over a gargoyle above the Gotham City skyline, and in the 1989 Batman movie when Michael Keaton holds a mugger over the ledge of a rooftop and utters the famous line, "I want you to tell all your friends... I'm Batman!"
Karen: Once the evidence and the programmer are turned over to the authorities, Iron Man is soon cleared of the murder. However, an encounter with a small girl, who runs terrified of the killer of "that nice fat man on TV", puts Tony into a tailspin. He still harbors guilt over the death even though he was not responsible for it.
Doug: Michelinie and Layton have done a nice job addressing the psychological aspects of Tony's illness. The incredible high, the over-running self-confidence during the brawl on Hammer's island transitions immediately to the scene you mention. It's a quick bottoming out. I also thought it was a nice line, bringing home again Tony's mental state, that every time Tony sleeps he sees the ambassador's face. Good, thorough, writing.
Karen: Tony begins drinking heavily. He misses a date with Bethany, but assumes she stood him up. In a drunken stupor, he picks up a floozy and actually brings her to Avengers Mansion, where he angrily yells at the faithful Jarvis. The next day, a hungover Stark is shocked when Jarvis resigns! He is left staring at a bottle of whiskey.
Doug: The mood swings, the violence (if only in speech), the unreliability, placing blame on others -- deflecting that accountability to self and others, the repetitive behaviors, the down-spiraling self-destruction... for a funny-book, this storyline is very mature. It's a lesson for young readers, and I hope it changed a life along the line or at least served as a warning in its time. Powerful stuff. This is really one of the notable storylines of the Bronze Age, and its creators are to be praised for attacking such a sensitive subject.
Karen: I enjoyed pretty much everything about this book - there's really nothing to complain about as far as I'm concerned. We get some great action in the beginning, some character development, and some foreshadowing of what's to come. I should also point out that Tony's troubles have been building longer than just these two issues we've reviewed - we just didn't want to review 6-8 Iron Man books to the exclusion of everything else!
Doug: I agree. Each of these issues have been interesting in that they are essentially two-in-ones. In #126, we had the long recap of the previous issues, and then the time on Hammer's island. In this issue, it was the finish on the island, and then Tony's issues with the bottle. In each case, it's been an effective storytelling method.
Karen: We know what's coming. Stark faces his greatest enemy -himself!