Writers: Mike Grell & Robin Laws
Artists: Michael Ryan (p), Sean Parsons (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with a devastating attack being launched upon the Chinese Embassy in New York City, that pretty much destroys the entire structure, and leaves over 138 dead, plus well over a hundred still trapped within the rubble. As Iron Man arrives on the scene to help rescue the trapped survivors, we see that in the aftermath his attention is quickly drawn to the fact that the destruction pattern of the weapon that was used on the building bears a disturbing resemblance to a particle beam torpedo that he designed back in the day when he was a weapons manufacturer. We then see an angry Iron Man pays a visit to Nick Fury, demanding to know how a weapon he designed found its way onto the market, as aside from himself the only group that had access to the design schematics was S.H.I.E.L.D. We then see the idea that it was a Stark designed weapon that destroyed the building is leaked to the media, which acts to make Tony Stark public enemy number one, and as the tension mounts we see Tony attempts to distract himself by trying to get Happy back on his feet. However, despite his good intentions Tony's efforts only make the problem worse, and the issue ends with a rather explosive shock, as a member of Tony's supporting cast is gunned down.
I can't say I'm all that broken up by the news of Mike Grell's impending departure, but if this arc is his last kick at the can then here's hoping he can make it a good sight more memorable than the rest of his run, up to this point. Now Robin Law looks to have stepped in to give him a hand on the dialogue, which did strike me as a little odd as I do believe this is the first time I've ever seen two writers share the scripting duties as unlike the plot, scripting dialogue would seem to be a one person show. Now I suspect next issue will tell the full story, as if Robin Law's role in the issue's creation increases then the idea that Mike Grell simply abandoned the book halfway through an issue would seem to be the only plausible explanation for this rather odd structuring of the writing duties. However right now it could also be explained that Robin Law was sent in after Mike Grell had turned in the completed issue, and proceeded to go over it to polish up the perceived rough spots, thus earning the shared scripting credit. In any event this is all pointless conjecture on my part, as the big question I should be addressing is not who did what on this issue, but rather is the final product any good? Sadly that answer would have to be not really.
To tell the truth my main problem with this issue is that it lacks any sense of originality, as it comes across as a collection of rehashed scenarios that are tacked together by the simple idea that most of them involve Iron Man, or his alter ego Tony Stark. I mean I like the idea that Tony's past as a weapons manufacturer has once again returned to make problems for his in the present. However, since this very same plot idea acted as the primary theme on Mike Grell's opening arc on this title, this issue feels a bit too familiar. We then follow this up with yet another sequence where Iron Man is sent in to rescue people trapped within a collapsed building, and once again this scenario is beginning to feel like old hat on this series, with that final scene of him emerging out of the rubble with a group of children being particularly irksome in the way that it is clearly designed to leave everyone admiring his heroism. We then return to the soap opera style plots that emerge whenever Tony's supporting cast are on hand, and much like a soap, these ideas take forever to get moving, and when something interesting does play out, it usually results in overblown melodramatics (e.g. Happy getting into a physical confrontation with Tony).
When Tony is in full armor this book looks fantastic. When the issue is delivering the opening display of the destructive potential of the weapon that destroys the Chinese Embassy, I was very impressed by the art. When Iron Man stops the train in the tunnel the art manages to convey a sense that of the two respective elements about to collide, Iron Man is by far the more powerful of the two. I'll even give the art credit for conveying a moment of indecision as Tony picks up the drink, and contemplates taking a drink, and the last page of this issue is quite impressive in the way that it delivers the suddenness of the attack. I also enjoy the idea that he puts a great deal of effort into the backgrounds, as his cast rarely occupy empty space, and the crowd shots that he delivers in the bar are quite impressive. However, where Michael Ryan's art loses marks is his continued push to make the cast of this book look like they are high school students playing out the roles of their older counterparts. I recognize that this is a style choice, but I have to say that I never noticed this problem with his art before his arrival on this title so I'm rather curious as to why he's decided to throw aside the fairly solid figure work one had come to expect, for this new look.
The issue is a step up from what we had been getting, but it's still a decidedly ordinary read, that doesn't really bring anything to the table that we haven't seen before. Now the idea that one of Tony's weapons was used to carry out a horrific attack is an interesting, if not entirely original idea, and this does result in a fairly interesting confrontation between Iron Man & Nick Fury. It's also nice to see the general public is made aware of the connection between Tony Stark and the weapon, though I do have to wonder why Nick Fury decided to release this information to the public, after essentially admitting that he didn't believe Tony was a guilty party. Still having Tony linked directly to such a nightmarish attack does place the character in a rather intense situation, and while the idea was milked to death during the original stories, I do like the idea that the tension is driving Tony closer to the bottle. The issue also has a pretty effective cliffhanger, but overall the material is hardly breaking any new ground.
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