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Iron Man #76

Posted: Friday, February 6, 2004
By: Olivia Woodward



Writer: John Jackson Miller
Artist: Jorge Lucas

Publisher: Marvel

Synopsis:
Control and responsibility, these are two themes that run throughout the long history of Iron Man. Stark's older patents have been released to government contractors through a legal loophole. Advance technology is being proliferated at an alarming pace, unfortunately, with equally alarming failure rates; the results are often cataclysmic. But in the face of selfish and rapacious greed, a few dead soldiers or an iffy missile defense system are a small cost to pay.

But not to Tony Stark. He quit the arms business long ago because of moral issues over "dealing in death." He felt responsible for the use of his designs. Now, these old designs are back in production, but without any of his guidance. Is it time for another "Armor Wars"? No, rogue actions aren't Stark's thing these days. He's trying to get named as Secretary of Defense, where he hopes to guide the nations technological development in a humane and responsible manner.

However, this is not a battle that can be won by armoring up and using the ol' repulsors. His success lies in persuading a congressional committee to accept him as the best person for the job. Will the peccadilloes of his past return to haunt him, booze, bimbos, and bald-faced lies? Will the big influence of corrupt government contractors shoot down Tony's hopes?

Critique:
"You don't solve this by trying to take over the whole Defense Department!"

This issue is a study of character. Grilled by the congressional committee, Stark finds himself articulating a wild variety of traits, from regret for his past deceptions to a brash rejection of accusations of overwhelming arrogance. Yes, Tony Stark is undeniably a brilliant and heroic person, but what about his ego? This returns us to the thematic issues of control and responsibility, namely in how they represent both the good and bad in Stark's psyche.

Through the history of Iron Man, Stark has been a "control freak." He has shamelessly manipulated people, even his closest friends, on numerous occasions. Why? He thought it was "best" for them. Setting up the Pepper/Happy relationship, faking his death, and making radical personal decisions without so much as consulting with his friends, these are just a few of his many unilateral manipulations. Actions have consequences; Stark tries to manage the outcome by controlling the process. It doesn't always work out as planned.

The "bodyguard" concept is one such mistake. Because of a deception, Stark has lost control over his weapon designs. He is now scrambling to regain control. But a history of arrogance stands in his way. The judgment is given at the end of this issue, and Stark's reaction takes the "mellow" out of melodramatic.

Aside from the exploration of character premise, this issue is more than talking heads. Solid pacing and scene interspersion creates for a rich and engaging read. The unscrupulous Under Secretary Burch has a chilling surprise in the works, one that promises cataclysmic superhero action in the near future.

As always, Jorge Lucas offers up a visual treat in this issue. Solid composition, dynamic facial expressiveness, engaging point-of-view, and rich details make for a very cinematic feel to this story. Moreover, he captures Stark perfectly; his charm, ego, and fervor are aptly displayed with sophistication.

Appraisal:
"You think the smartest guy should be in charge -- and you think that guy is you."

I'm highly impressed with this storyline. At first, I was wary of the "Iron Secretary" concept, expecting a story that totally reinvented Stark's personality and totally broke from the issues that have defined the character's long continuity. I was totally wrong. Yes, physically, the armor has been absent throughout the story arc, but the specter of that which it represents hangs over every scene.

This story is a wonderful analysis of Tony Stark. Informed by thematic exploration of those elements that underlie much of Iron Man's continuity, the current story reexamines Stark's character in a fresh manner. I definitely recommend this issue.



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