Iron Man #120

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When the Comic Code came into existence any chance for comics to tell stories that dealt with real life issues went flying out the window. While the intent was to keep children from reading stories that were inappropriate for them, there were some topics that could have been beautifully adapted using characters children could relate to to teach them lessons about the dangers of stuff like drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s when Stan fought for and won the right to publish the Green Goblin Reborn! story that dealt with the dangers of drug use did stories begin to incorporate real life issues in the story.

We get to the late 1970’s and end up with the Demon in a Bottle story from Iron Man issues 120-128. It details Tony Stark’s battle with the ultimate bad guy he would ever face. Booze. He’d fought some dangerous people before but when it came to alcohol, it was the one demon that almost put an end to him.

I really enjoyed how this issue gets the ball rolling in regards to his drinking but they don’t hammer you over the head with it. In fact, I do believe all of three panels end up dealing with his drinking for this issue. Again, there are nine issues in this particular story so it would not have been a good idea to hit us over the head with a moral lesson from page one.

We open with Tony on a plane heading home. He’s ordering his third martini when a tank breaks off the wing of the plane. (They make it make sense in the story. Trust me.) Tony switches into his Iron Man gear and gets the plane to safety only to discover that they are near a military base on an isolated island. The passengers are saved but Tony is enlisted to stop the Sub-Mariner from trying to keep an old coot on the island that the military did not want. Tony tries to talk to him but Sub-Mariner, who is not known for being the most controlled character in the Marvel Universe, starts a fight. Tony, a little drunk and pissed over past events, decides he doesn’t want to talk. During their fight, the old man shoots Tony and the fight ends in the water where the power to his suit goes out and the last panel shows him drowning.

I have a general idea of the overall story but I haven’t read all the issues yet. (Thank you Marvel Unlimited!) What I loved about this issue was that, despite it being 18 pages, it felt like a full, self contained story with enough of a hook to get me to read issue two. Like an old time movie serial, I felt quite satisfied at the end of the story that I felt an honest conclusion to what I read but I also had plenty of seeds for future parts of the story. I want to know what happens next and that is a great feat.

Now one aspect I didn’t care for was the fact that Tony still had not revealed to the world that he was Iron Man. Think about it. The story opens where a billionaire is riding in first class on an airplane that crashes into the ocean. One of the first panels has a flight attendant carrying magazines with Tony’s face on the cover. Others in first class would probably have a better chance of recognizing him than others in coach due to the likely hood that one, they read the news more and two, they’re more likely to dabble in the stock market and will know who the CEO of a major American corporation is. It is just plain silly to think that people would not notice that he was not a part of their group that was saved from the crash. And hell, during the crash, he grabs a briefcase and heads for the bathroom, kicking an old lady out. Wouldn’t she put two and two together and deduce that the guy that shoved her out of the restroom when she was dropping a deuce was Iron Man?

The movie with Robert Downey Jr. had the right idea with revealing his identity by the end of the movie.

It just makes sense for the character to be open. For someone in his position he would have a much better chance of doing everything he does without too much flack from the government since his company helps out as much as they do with the military industrial complex. I get why Peter Parker, a struggling average guy, would not want the world to know who he is. For a rich industrialist to not reveal his identity is just silly.

The art wasn’t like some of the art you saw from Marvel in the 80’s but it was getting to that point. It feels very dated. The same could be said of course for Amazing Fantasy #15 but in that instance, with the origin of such an amazing character, the dated feel actually goes to make the story a much better read. Here though, not so much. The leisure suit Tony wears at the beginning of the story alone is something that just feels wrong. I see Tony being more comfortable in suits or clothes that would be considered timeless. Seeing him wear clothes of the period almost forty years after the release of this comic just takes me out of it a bit.

Bottom Line:

It’s not perfect execution but this is the start of one hell of a classic story. I really can’t explain how happy I was that they didn’t start off with preaching about the evils of alcohol since that is the big bad for this series of stories. Tony in this issue forgets how many drinks he has had and it definitely impairs his judgement but nowhere do you see the lecture you would expect in a story like this about the evils of alcohol. Maybe they’re in other issues later in the story but I would have to think it is safe to assume that if it isn’t happening in this issue, it will not happen in future issues. While there are certainly problem areas of the story mostly related to the dated feel, without this story the comics industry would look different. After reading it I really wished Disney didn’t chicken out and stop Shane Black from making this story the basis for Iron Man 3. Robert Downey Jr. with all he has been through in his life would be the perfect actor to bring a story of the fall and redemption of someone due to alcohol abuse. It’s a missed opportunity.

Darth Vader #4

VADER 4

I love Star Wars. While the first real exposure I had with the films were once I grew up and the Special Editions of the movies came out I certainly remember how cool the commercials for the movies were growing up. I was at my cousin’s once in the very early 80’s and we played with Star Wars action figures that were stored in a Death Star carrying case. The commercials for The Empire Strikes Back were kind of scary. With old televisions, companies would take clips from movies and force them all into the square format that televisions were in. When they showed the commercials for The Empire Strikes Back on television and they showed the scene where Han, Leia, and Lando enter the banquet hall and Darth Vader stands up, that was quite menacing. Scary stuff, but scary like a good roller coaster is scary. I also remember going to Festival in Grand Rapids the year before I started kindergarten and there was Darth Vader himself shaking hands with kids right next to City Hall and the Calder.

The Special Editions were not as bad to me as they were to others. I get some of the anger because I certainly felt it when I discovered that the scene in Return of the Jedi had been altered for the Blu-Ray edition to have Vader scream NOOOO when he didn’t say anything before. There was no reason for Vader to say a damn thing. His actions said all that needed to be said. But again, my first real detailed exposure came from the Special Editions. I did like some of the little changes. Vader says a bad ass line after Luke throws himself down the shaft in Cloud City. “Alert my Star Destroyer to prepare for my arrival.” The way James Earl Jones said it along with how David Prowse strode across the screen just sends shivers up me spine.

Once I got married and the wife started having kids, I was determined to name a boy Luke. What turned out to be my daughter Ashley was going to be Luke but Luke for a girl would be a little awkward. Once my youngest popped out, I had my Luke.

So yeah, I kinda like Star Wars.

When 2012 hit word got out that George Lucas decided to sell the farm to Disney. To say I was shocked was putting it lightly. While I knew Lucas was full of shit in regards to his stance that he wanted to only make 6 films and make them all about Anakin Skywalker, I did think that like anyone, he decided to change his mind and retire on his ranch where he could roll around in his money naked while local strippers recreated the Ewok celebration scene from Return of the Jedi naked. But having four billion dollars waved in front of his face made him realize that hey, letting others handle the grunt work and be yelled at for the results may not be such a bad idea after his work on the prequels went SO well. So now Kathleen Kennedy is running Lucasfilm and we have a Star Wars movie that people actually want to see again.

Being that Disney is the company that bought them, the company that originally had the rights to Star Wars for comics but decided in 1986 that the comics were just not selling and let them go, got to start making Star Wars comics again. The comics in question are all set after Episode 4. The one I’m reviewing today details a day in the life of Darth Vader.

Seems ol’ Darth kinda pissed off the Emperor with letting a little thing like the Death Star be destroyed and having thousands upon thousands of the Empire’s best troops die for one little tiny over sight. Yeah, it could be argued that it’s not ALL Darth Vader’s fault, but if his Star Destroyer crew had not let the escape pods successfully leave the Tantive IV at the start of Episode 4, he wouldn’t be in his little pickle. The Emperor decides that maybe his trust in Darth is not really worth it and sends him away all the while preparing to train his replacement (or replacements?).

This issue just did not do it for me. It wasn’t horrible by any means but, I don’t know, I think the writer tried too hard to make the story feel like a Star Wars story and not focus on making a good story. Improbably, Darth Vader has teamed up with a woman who is a droid archaeologist. That’s fine and all but I highly doubt she would be looking for droids that are all of maybe twenty years old at the most. They end up back on Geonosis, the planet that was featured at the climax of Episode 2. Wonder how Darth Vader knew droids would be there? Why the hell did he have to take a woman along to a planet that played such a pivotal part of his life? Wouldn’t someone in his position, even on the probation the Emperor is putting him through, able to find out if the planet that initially helped the Empire with making droids for their clone war is still actively manufacturing them? They tried passing it off as if it was one big secret that this was happening but Darth Vader is looking for a fucking army to support him here. He’s not looking for a couple droids he can clean up that will do his space dishes for him. He wants an army to fucking kill people.

And the bit at the end where the young lady that is helping him says she knows that he is there to kill her but magically he doesn’t. Are we to believe that the man who slaughtered young children just cause is able to let a young lady who has some real heavy dirt on him stay alive? They couldn’t even go the extra mile and somehow make her appear to look like Padme or something. With that, at least I could have believed that he would not allow her to die. But here, she is just there and she gets to walk away because in 2015, it would be bad for a bad guy to murder someone just because she’s a woman. Yeah, Darth Vader has good in him which is why he ended up saving his son. But he’s also a ruthless bastard who would kill you for making his space coffee too cold.

The art is pretty good but unimaginative. There’s no real passion here. It’s like a paint by numbers Star Wars coloring book. The design of Darth Vader was fine but here is a character that works best on film. With no face to show expression, it’s the job of the actor in the suit and the actor voicing him to really get across the emotion of the character. Yeah, you can bring some of that in as the reader which I certainly did but let’s think of that rare person who may not have seen a Star Wars film and doesn’t really know about Darth Vader. So much depends on your knowledge of the character that you lose sight of the fact that this is told at a time where we are still supposed to not know too much about him. I did however, in regards to the art, like the scope of the piece. It did a wonderful job in making open spaces feel like open spaces.

Bottom Line:

This is not a horrible read but it’s not a good one either. I would recommend it but keep in mind what you’re getting into. The only real enjoyment someone could get from this is if they have knowledge of Vader before they read page one. And then you’re going to wonder why in the hell Vader is acting is such bizarre ways. It’s certainly a much better attempt than the previous Star Wars comic I reviewed but man, what could have been a decent story is just not really enjoyable. It has its moments but for the most part is a head scratcher.

World War Hulk: Aftersmash! Damage Control Issue 1

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The Good:

With news that Marvel has a new show in the works about the clean up team called Damage Control, I figured I would dive in to the Marvel Unlimited app and see if I could find some Damage Control stories. I was familiar with them from the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon that appears on the Disney Channel but as of yet I had not had a chance to read any of their stories.

The idea is brilliant. It allows Marvel the chance to address the biggest plot hole you encounter in superhero comics and that is simply the aftermath. How the hell does the world get back to normal? It makes sense that a team in in place that would come on the scene after a superhero fight and clean things up in time for the next issue. If the plan for the television show is in line with what I have read in this particular issue than we’re in for a treat.

The comic starts at the end of the events depicted in World War Hulk. The CEO of Damage Control is on a helicarrier speaking with Tony Stark about the price to fix up New York after the attack from The Hulk. While we’re thrown into the story pretty much smack dab in the middle of everything that is going on I at no time felt lost. While these characters are definitely well lived, having previous adventures that are not referred to in this issue, that never gets in the way of the focus of this issue and that is getting the team together to repair New York. There were even characters that had previous issues with others in the story that was told in such a way that you never had to know exactly why they were upset at each other to appreciate what was going on in the story.

Too many writers, not even exclusive to comics, are hell bent on trying to throw so much into their stories that they forget just what it is they are bringing to the table in order to get people interested. They want to focus either on convoluted back stories that have nothing to do with the story or lead the reader along a path that will ultimately confuse them and leave them disappointed. I think of season 2 of one of my favorite shows 24. Season 1 had done a pretty decent job in making sure that everything going on had something, even if it was minor, to do with advancing the main plot, which was the plot from Victor Drazen to try and kill Jack Bauer and David Palmer as revenge for the murder of his family. Season 2 started out with promise in all but one area. Kim Bauer. She was a nanny with a family that it turned out was dealing with a very abusive husband. The fact that Kim was apparently staying with these people for months and the fact that not only was he abusing his family but also hitting on other women and she was oblivious to this is one area that makes you shake your head in disbelief. There is no way someone acting like this guy did would not have been noticed. The big problem though was the fact that, based on season 1, I thought until the very last episode that what was happening to Kim somehow had to do with the main plot of season 2 which ended up not being the case. If you removed all of Kim Bauer’s scenes from that season you would miss nothing of importance. That’s not a knock on her. That’s a knock on producers shoehorning her into a story that she didn’t belong in.

When it’s done right though, when you’re introduced to characters smack dab in the middle of their lives you find yourself immediately lost and immersed in the world and it’s great. Take the original Star Wars. The war between the Empire and the Rebellion had been going on many years before Darth Vader’s Star Destroy attacked the Tantive IV and that knowledge actually helped strength the characters and their motivation when we first meet them. While this story is by no means a classic, much like Star Wars you’re diving into the deep end with this story and brought along for a ride.

The art was pretty good especially with the fact that the story revolved around a construction clean up crew. Apart from the characters themselves there was no superhero action in this piece. It was either boardroom meetings, meetings in homes, or exterior shots. But the art was vibrant and went a long way toward making you care for the characters.

The Bad:

As always I have to focus on something that didn’t quite sit well with me. This is more quibbling at this point but when it came to how they glossed over the fact that we were in a post Civil War era where superheros either had to have registration cards or face jail time, it seemed silly for a company that so far in the comic had gone out of their way to follow the rules and be safe would suddenly decide that it was ok to get superhero involvement without checking their registration cards. Argue all day about whether the cards are right or not and that argument would be irrelevant because for a company that wanted to continue to get government money in order to continue as a business, I don’t buy that they would let something this big slip. Some may say that this may mirror how some companies hire illegal immigrants but I would disagree. Superheros are very much legal citizens. As long as they plan to use their powers they’ve been required to be registered for just such situations that New York had faced in the battle against The Hulk. Again, argue whether that was needed or not but this should not have happened. All it was was a glaring transparent plot device that allowed the Thunderbolts to appear at the end of the story to see if people were registered. You could see something like that coming from a mile away.

The only issue I had with the art was around the CEO of Damage Control. Everyone but her was drawn in such a way as to make them appear as comic book versions of magazine models. But not the CEO. She’s overweight and looks like my foot if it swelled up to look like a walking hippo. Not everyone on Earth has to be depicted as pretty in a comic but you can do better in terms of making people at least appear normal.

Bottom Line:

This comic made me more excited to see a potential Damage Control television show. I really want Marvel to consider posting more Damage Control stories as well apart from the three they have. It goes a long way to explain how things work behind the scenes in the Marvel Universe. It’s also a great study on average people dealing with the aftermath of superhero actions. I give the story an 8.

The art was good for all but its depiction of Mrs. Hoag, the CEO of Damage Control. Again, not everyone has to be pretty and a model but if they’re just a normal schlub, please don’t go out of your way to make them look deformed. I give the art a 6.