Sep 16, 2013

Back Issue Ben: Iron Man vs. Dr. Doom

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Iron Man vs Dr. Doom
The battle that only took 20 years to happen!
Back Issue Ben

If you’re like me, and you love the Iron Man movies, but always thought, “these movies could definitely use an army of zombie knights,” then do I have the story for you.

The year was 1981. Marvel had, up until that point, never considered that a matchup between their two most prominent armored characters might be an interesting idea for a story. Leave it to David Michelinie and Bob Layton to rectify that horrible error in storytelling judgement in this classic two-part epic introducing another long-standing Marvel character. What follows is a tale so pulse-pounding, so dramatic and action packed, you may not be able to keep your pants on! (Please do though, there's nothing appealing about the thought of you reading this with your pants off. It's a little sick honestly, and you should be ashamed of yourself. Unless you're an attractive woman, in which case... carry on.)

Without further flowery preamble, let’s throw a barrel at this plumber.

Iron Man #149: Doomquest
Plot/Writer: David Michelinie; Pencil Art: John Romita Jr.; Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton; Editor: Jim Salicrup

Our story begins when an ocean liner is hijacked by pirates. Iron Man arrives on the scene to save the day, and immediately orders the ship to turn around and head back to port. He then returns to Stark International, frets about his love life for a moment, and then enters a board meeting as Tony Stark (he still had his secret identity at this point in the comics). Stark immediately fires Furrow for trying to sell components to Latveria (the boat from before), which is on the “Why would you sell electronics to someone that is always trying to take over the world?” no sale list.

Meanwhile, Dr Doom is finishing a visit with “the master mage” Cagliostro, completing yet another deal to increase his mastery over the mystic arts.

Doom returns to his castle in Latveria, via his time machine platform. He is greeted by Hauptmann, who is a little sour at Doom ever since Doom killed his brother. Hauptmann informs Doom that his future time-traveling plans are on hold, because Stark International cancelled their shipment to them containing the valuable components they need.

Iron Man waits by the dock of his shipping company, expecting Doom to come claim the components by force. Which he does, with this undersea crab machine craft.

The henchmen in the metal crab are able to subdue Iron Man long enough to grab the cargo and escape (pretty much making Iron Man look like the most inept super-hero ever).

Next, Stark does what any smart person would do, and that is take a charter flight into Latveria. He is immediately detained at the airport, but surprisingly, it is only so that the current King (Zorba) can give Stark specific directions to Doom’s castle, so that Iron Man can hopefully take him out for them.

Iron Man arrives at the Doom’s castle and enters. He destroys a robot.

Iron Man finds Doom, and they exchange words. (I love that Doom calls Iron Man errand boy, and lackey. You know, because he’s Stark’s bodyguard and all. I really just love every piece of dialogue that comes out of Doom’s mouth. I could read it all day.)

Doom hits Iron Man with his “boulders from my fingers” weapon, which is just plain awesome.

They fight, with Iron Man getting in a few shots that only serve to make Doom angrier.

Love the sound effects here. Fdak! Whung! Blang!

Hauptmann seizes the opportunity while they are fighting, and activates the time cube, sending them both off to who knows where, and then smashing the machine.

Hauptmann laughs a maniacal laugh (not really considering that maybe Doom might come back from this slightly ticked off).

My brain thoughts: Hauptmann, I can feel your pain bro, but you can’t just send two of the smartest men in the world back in time and not expect them to find a way back. If you’re going to make your move, it has to be a kill shot. I love ‘80s Romita Jr art. It’s probably the Layton finishes, but it looks so clean and powerful, in a good way. Not in a blocky, looking rushed kind of way like his art looks now. He was always really good at drawing hoods, until, ironically, he drew The Hood in Avengers, and it just looked like a 5-year-old did it.

Iron Man #149: Knightmare

Plot/Writer: David Michelinie; Pencil Art: John Romita Jr.; Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton; Editor: Jim Salicrup

Dr. Doom and Iron Man find themselves thrown back through time and space…

…to ancient Camelot.

They’re immediately greeted by King Arthur’s knights, who are immediately owned by Doom, before Iron Man is able to convince them all to a truce so that they can “find out what the score is.”

They meet with King Arthur, with his knights suspecting they might be assassins sent by the evil queen Morgana Le Fey. Iron Man pleads their case, and requests that they be given a place to stay, until they can safely return home. Doom straight up shows him his royal King ring, and demands he recognize game. (Sorry, my inner rapper came out for a moment.)

Arthur agrees to sleep on it, as long as they both agree not to leave the castle overnight. They adjoin to their separate rooms.

Iron Man worries about a life in medieval times, that is, until, the complimentary wench is sent to his room. (I wonder if they get continental breakfasts too? Which is just “hotel speak” for orange juice and toast.)

He’s totally going to sleep with that chick.

Doom receives a complimentary wench as well, but he decides to hypnotize her and get the directions to Morgana’s castle instead (because that’s how Doom’s rolls). A guard tries to stop him, Doom smites him, and rockets off into the night.

The next morning, Arthur isn’t too happy with Iron Man that his companion decided to kill one of his knights, and break the brain of one of his wenches. The wench can only mumble on about Morgana Le Fey, and Iron Man asks Arthur for the lowdown on that situation.

In short, Morgana is Arthur’s sister, who he banished to another castle for being an evil witch. Merlin was able to trap her inside the castle, before he went down like Sleeping Beauty himself.

Iron Man agrees to take on Doom for Arthur, like a boss (sorry, it’s too late to stop now).

Doom approaches the castle of Morgana Le Fey, taking a moment to reveal the holographic bridge before falling into a moat of acid. (I love Morgana too. Doom and Morgana, they make the perfect couple. I just want to see those two kids happy.)

Doom takes the direct route straight up to Morgana’s chambers, and an unholy meeting takes place for the first time.

Doom reveals that it had been his goal to find her for a long time (which is probably why the time cube just so happened to randomly pick this destination in time), so that she may teach him the ways of her mystic powers. He reveals to her his never-ending quest to save his mother from the depths of the hell dimension she is trapped in. Morgana agrees to help him, if he can return to the favor by killing King Arthur for her.

She unveils a chip of the mighty Excalibur that she was able to keep from a previous battle. A chip that she will use her magic powers to re-animate every knight that ever died at the blade of Excalibur.

Back in Camelot, the knight on guard freaks out a bit at the sight of Doom leading an army of zombie knights towards the castle.

Iron Man leads Arthur and his knights out to greet them, and the battle is begun. (I’m so contradictory. I love gruesome shots of headless zombies in these old ‘80s comics, but I kinda despise the overwhelming gloom and violence of many modern comics. I guess it’s because it’s only a panel or two in these older comics, and it has more impact measured against the rest of the entire comic. Or maybe I’m just a hypocrite, roll with it.)

Iron Man quickly realizes that defeating Doom isn’t going to do much good, and speeds off to cut the army off at its source, Morgana. Morgana sees Iron Man coming for her, and tries to stop him with some magic black tendrils. That fails, so she turns her pet raven into a giant dragon monster. The monster gets in a few shots, until Iron Man freezes it with Freon, and it falls to the ground, shattering into pieces (harsh!).

Iron Man flies in to spoil Morgana’s party, so she takes her shard and goes home (or teleports into another dimension).

With the shard gone, Doom’s zombie army falls. (He seems surprised at this, even though he saw Iron Man fly off in the direction of Morgana’s castle.)

Instead of just killing them all (because you know he could) Doom flies back to Morgana’s castle himself, to confront Iron Man (I guess you could say that with Morgana gone, he doesn’t really care much about Arthur one way or another). Doom demands to know where Morgana is, with Iron Man informing her that she split.

Doom swears to kill Iron Man one day, but that for now, they should combine forces in an effort to get back to their own time. With Morgana gone, he has no more reason to be there, and using the circuitry in both of their armors, they should be able to create a device that will get them home.

Iron Man lets loose my favorite line of the story, “You just swore to kill me Doom! How can I trust you?”

“Because Avenger… you have my word.” (Doom is so badass!)

Iron Man and Dr Doom spend the next however many hours or days building the device that will send them…back to the future! (Christopher Lloyd voice not included.)

If you ever wondered what Doom looked like without the hood, here you go.

They finish the device, and prepare to activate it, establishing a 24 hour truce between the two of them when they arrive wherever it is that they arrive.

They arrive in the Balkan ridges near Latveria, back in grand ole’ 1981 (when Back Issue Ben was but a young lad of the age of 3). Doom takes one last moment to threaten Iron Man, telling him that his current anger will just have to be taken out on Hauptmann (I told you Hauptmann!).

Iron Man is surprisingly okay with that, and they head off in separate directions.

My brain thoughts: Probably the first appearance of Morgana Le Fey, but I’m not going to take the 5 seconds to research and confirm (why should I have to do everything!) (Sigh. See what I have to deal with? Morgana's first appearance was Black Knight #1 in May 1955. This was her first modern appearance. -Duy). I’ve never been a big fan of King Arthur, or knights, or medieval stories, but I’ve always loved the evil witch from them. In Marvel’s case, it’s Morgana Le Fey (DC's is Morgaine. - Duy), and she is greatness. (Check out the first story arc of Dark Avengers to see her being even more badass.) I also like the DC version, the one they used in the Justice League cartoons. (My now 5-year-old son is starting to get into the whole DC animated universe, and he likes Superman. Total parenting fail!)

My final brain thoughts: Hot evil sorceresses, complimentary wenches (and breakfasts?), frozen raven dragons, death threats, zombie armies, and Hauptmann’s complete lack of thinking ahead.

He gets plenty of credit, but I don’t think Robert Downey Jr. even gets enough credit for what he did for the character of Iron Man. Warren Ellis and Adi Granov too, for that matter. They completely updated the character, in both story and look, with the Extremis storyline, and made the character seem like he was not only modern, but actually futuristic. (Forgive me if this had already been done before, I’ve never been a big Iron Man comic reader.) Similarly for the movies, RDJ gave the character of Tony Stark a wit and humor and heart that I had never really experienced before with the character.

Between Extremis and the movies, Iron Man actually became a character I would like to read about in comic books. But, in this story, up against Dr Doom, he seems overmatched and a little inept, frankly. He gets subdued or trapped time and time again, and the only thing he does that makes him seem like a genius in the entire story is help Doom make a patchwork time machine device (which is pretty impressive, but still…). That’s not to make it sound like these comics weren’t entertaining to read about, just that I expect a level of competence from Iron Man now that wasn’t entirely evident in this story. Leave the overmatched antics to characters like Spider-Man (not an insult, Spider-Man is my favorite character). I expect my Avengers characters (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America) to be the best, up against the best that evil has to offer. Even up against Dr. Doom, who I don’t think I can properly express my level of affection for in words, Iron Man should be able to hold his own. But, you come in for the Iron Man vs Doom, you stay for the army of zombie knights.

That’s it for this week, friends. Read comics!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there a What If story where Doom traps Iron man in the past in Camelot?

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