Writer: Mike Grell
Artists: Mike Grell (p), Scott Hanna (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens in the present day where we see the discovery of a human skull inside the Iron Man helmet discovered at the archaeological dig has prompted Pepper to send a rescue party after Tony, and we see Dr. Mallory, the archeologist who discovered the helmet volunteers for this job. We then look in on Tony who trapped in the Medieval Age, and after he's tortured for information, he is thrown into a dungeon cell. However when he's able to pull the arm pieces of his armor into his cell, we see he's able to reverse the polarity, and restore power to them. After he frees himself, he also helps a fellow prisoner retrieve a sword that he had been charged with protecting. However, after they make their way to the surface, Tony is on hand to witness Dr. Mallory's arrival in the past, and he discovers that she hasn't come to rescue him, but rather she's reunited with her past self, who just happened to be the evil sorceress that captured Tony in the last issue. As Tony & his ally escape the castle, we see they seek refuge from a lighting storm in a nearby cave, but as the issue ends we see their slumbering forms are towered over by a dragon, who has orders to kill them.
I've always been partial to time travel stories, and with the Lord of the Rings trilogy proving itself to be a box office success, I imagine trips to the era that saw knights in shining armor, flame breathing dragons & wicked magic welding villains is going to be a popular destination. Now I'm seen others dismiss this arc as a throwback story that shouldn't be allowed to show itself in this modern day, as comics are appealing to an older, more sophisticated audience. However, I'd like to hope that there's still room for a good old fashioned time travel story, as while I've seen heroes cast about the time stream literally hundreds of times over my years as a comic reader, in the hands of a talented writer this well worn plot device can still be highly entertaining. I think the problem with this arc is that Mike Grell is simply going through the motions, as the elements he's hinging this story around don't exactly strike me as new or innovative. In fact the only element that had me sitting up and taking notice was the scene where we discovered the villain had herself a rather unique ally in the present day. However, this one flicker of originality looks to have been short-lived, and rather quickly forgotten.
In the interest of being fair I should state that this issue will probably work better with newer readers, who haven't read quite as many time traveling adventures as I have, as all the staple elements of a good adventure are on hand. We have the evil villain who thank to the involvement of a party from the present day has far more knowledge about the future to come than it is safe for her to have. We have Iron Man hooking up with a heroic ally from this past era, though I must admit I'm a bit surprised that Tony is so free about telling this man where he comes from. On the other hand this story isn't exactly subtle when it comes to suggesting that Tony's ally isn't likely to survive this adventure. We also have the ever classic "I have to be at this particular location, at this precise time to make it home" plot device, and given the main villain should also be aware of this information, the final issue does have the potential to be quite exciting. I'll also give the book credit for its final page cliffhanger, as while it seems silly that both men would sleep at the same time, I'll simply explain this scene away by saying the villain cast a sleep spell on the duo before she sent in her killer dragon.
Mike Grell's art does a pretty fair job of capturing the musty dungeons, and the gray, dreary landscape of the medieval setting. He also does a nice job capturing the impressiveness of Tony's armor, as we see him ripping off the cell doors, and plowing through legions of soldiers. The art also does some nice work on the big impact moments, like when we see the person sent back from the present day merge with the villain from the past, or the danger that is conveyed on that final page. Where the art isn't quite as impressive is when it's called upon to deliver the talking heads scenes, as the art simply provides a series of straight on head shots. The art also doesn't seem to have much diversity in the expressions it offers up, as the main villain has only two expressions that she offers up. One has her with her mouth open & one has her with her mouth closed. However even better is Tony's ally who has a total of one expression, and that is the straight ahead stare, with a face that betrays no outward emotion. I mean here's a guy who watches a man rip a cell door free of it's mountings, and his face & body language betray no emotion. I do have to mention the cover to this issue, as it's a fun homage to the classic knight versus dragon scene.
A time travel story that suffers from the simple fact that Mike Grell has done such a haphazard job of arranging the pieces on the board. I mean we have a villain who does little more that run around being evil, and while the revelation about Dr. Mallory was a surprise, the revelation scene is rushed through so quickly that it was over before one could reveal consider what we had just witnessed. I mean I guess events could've been arranged so Tony would end up in the past, and thus provide Dr. Mallory with a method of rejoining her past self, but the book is so poorly put together, that this idea raises more questions then it answers, with the main one being why Tony was in such a hurry to play with his time machine. It also doesn't help that this issue has Tony's armor coming back online, so the threats he's faced with up until the final page lack the ability to endanger our hero. Still the last page does look rather promising, so here's hoping Mike Grell will be able to redeem this arc in the final issue.
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