Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle


By David Michelinie, John Romita Jr., Bob Layton & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3095-6(HB)                 978-0-7851-2043-8(TPB)

Tony Stark is a millionaire inventor who moonlights as a superhero: wearing a suit of armour stuffed with his own ingenious creations. The supreme technologist hates to lose and constantly upgrades his gear, making Iron Man is one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe. However, at the time of these tales (reprinting Iron Man #120-128 spanning March to November 1979), the unrelenting pressure of running a multi-national corporation and saving the world daily has started to show itself in the subtle increase in Tony Stark’s partying – and drinking.

This light, breezy compilation contains some of the best mainstream super-hero sagas of the 1980s but is also regarded as one of the most remarkable, transformative and powerfully redemptive tales of the period (crafted by David Michelinie, John Romita Jr., Carmine Infantino and Bob Layton), as an epic battle of Good against Evil became seditiously relevant to the readership through its full-on confrontation of a modern social evil.

Following an already stellar run of stories, ‘The Old Man and the Sea Prince!’ (by Michelinie, Romita Jr. & Layton) found the Armoured Avenger battling amphibian superman and sometime ally the Sub-Mariner before uniting against officious military martinets intent on dislodging aged hermit Hiram Cross from the strategically useful island he lived on.

And unsuspected in the background, financial predator Justin Hammer continued his preparations to destroy Iron Man and break Stark’s financial empire…

His first strike was to override the amazing armour in the middle of an underwater duel in ‘A Ruse by Any Other Name…’ but even with that handicap, Stark and his allies Bethany Cabe and Jim Rhode managed to expose unscrupulous conglomerate Roxxon as the cause of all Hiram’s woes… not that it did them any good…

Infantino then pencils a refitted recap of Iron Man’s origins in ‘Journey’ before Hammer steps up his campaign in #123’s ‘Casino Fatale!’ (Michelinie, Romita Jr. & Layton) as a small army of hired villains attack the hero in Atlantic City just when the Iron Man suit is at its most gremlin-afflicted…

The assault escalates in ‘Pieces of Hate!’ (“Layton & Friends” sharing inking duties) but even after scoring an incredible, improbable victory Stark is left reeling when Hammer plays his ace. Taking full control of Iron Man’s armour, the evil plutocrat makes Stark the unwilling accomplice and murder weapon in a monstrous crime, pushing the hero over the edge and into a spiral of despair…

After his super-sophisticated suit “malfunctions” again, killing a foreign ambassador at a major diplomatic function the disgraced and grieving Stark surrenders the armour to the authorities. However, undaunted and finally aware of what’s been going on, he enlists new Ant-Man Scott Lang to his small band of allies and goes undercover to find his hidden enemy in #125’s ‘The Monaco Prelude’.

Nonetheless, the villain seems triumphant when ‘The Hammer Strikes!’, abducting the heroes and gloatingly revealing his dastardly scheme. However, the smirking monster has grievously underestimated his rival’s capabilities and the power of Iron Man in the spectacular final clash ‘…A Man’s Home is His Battlefield!’

Tragically, when the dust settles and the bad guys are all disposed of, Stark has time to obsess over the lives lost and turns to the booze that has increasingly been his only solace in the past months…

The fall and rise of a hero is a classic plot, and it’s seldom been better used in the graphic narrative medium and never bettered in the super-hero field than in ‘Demon in a Bottle’ as the traumatised hero plumbs the depths of grief and guilt, buries himself in pity, and alienates all his friends and allies before an unlikely intervention forces him to take a long, hard look at his life and actions…

Available in hardback, trade paperback and as an eBook, Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle is a complex and very mature tale for kids of all ages, and an unforgettable instance of Triumph and Tragedy perfectly told. If you have let this tale pass you by, you are the poorer for it and should amend that situation as soon as possible.
© 1984, 2006 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Iron Man Epic Collection: By Force of Arms


By Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Don Heck, Gene Colan, Jack Kirby & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-0011-3

Marvel’s rise to dominance of the American comicbook industry really took hold in 1968 when most of their characters finally got their own titles. Prior to that and due to a highly restrictive distribution deal the company was tied to a limit of 16 publications per month. To circumvent this drawback, Marvel developed “split-books” with two features per publication, such as Tales of Suspense where Iron Man was joined by patriotic cohort Captain America with issue #59 (cover-dated November 1964).

The company’s fortunes prospered – thanks in large part to Stan Lee’s gift for promotion, but primarily because of superbly engaging stories such as the ones collected in this enticing Epic Collection.

With a new distributor came a demand for more product and the stars of the split books were all given their own titles. When the division came, the armoured Avenger started afresh with a “Collector’s Item First Issue” – after a shared one-shot with the Sub-Mariner that squared divergent schedules – and Cap retained the numbering of the original title; thus premiering in number #100.

Herein find contained in chronological order the remaining tales of the transitional period, reprinting Tales of Suspense #73-99, plus the pertinent portion of place-holding one-shot Iron Man and the Sub-Mariner #1 and at long last Iron Man #1. Also added in is the Sub-Mariner portion of Tales to Astonish #82, which held a key portion of an early comics crossover and a comedy short gleaned from Marvel’s comedy pastiche magazine Not Brand Echh #3, cumulatively covering January 1966 to May 1968.

Tony Stark is the acceptable face of 1960s Capitalism; a glamorous millionaire industrialist and inventor – and a benevolent all-conquering hero when clad in the super-scientific armour of his alter-ego, Iron Man.

Created in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis and at a time when “Red-baiting” and “Commie-bashing” were American national obsessions, the emergence of a brilliant new Thomas Edison, using Yankee ingenuity and invention to safeguard and better the World seemed inevitable. Combine the then-sacrosanct belief that technology and business could solve any problem with the universal imagery of noble knights battling evil and the concept behind the Golden Avenger seems an infallibly successful proposition. Of course, it helps that all that money and gadgetry is great fun and very, very cool…

This volume begins with Tales of Suspense #73 and picks up, soap opera fashion, on Iron Man, rushing to the bedside of his best friend Happy Hogan, who has been gravely wounded in an earlier battle against the Titanium Man, and now missing from his hospital bed.

‘My Life for Yours!’ by a veritable phalanx of creators including Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gene Colan & Jack Abel (in their Marvel modes of Adam Austin & Gary Michaels), Sol Brodsky, Flo Steinberg and Marie Severin, pitted the Avenger in final combat against the Black Knight to rescue Happy. After this the creative team stabilised as Lee, Colan & Abel, for ‘If this Guilt be Mine..!’ wherein Stark’s inventive intervention saves his friend’s life but transforms the patient into a terrifying monster.

Whilst in pitched battle against ‘The Fury of… the Freak!’ (who scared the stuffings out of me as a comic-crazed seven-year-old), Iron Man is helpless when the Mandarin attacks in #76’s ‘Here Lies Hidden…the Unspeakable Ultimo!’

The saga continues in ‘Ultimo Lives!’ and closes as the gigantic android goes bombastically berserk in ‘Crescendo!’, dooming itself and allowing our ferrous hero to escape home, only to face a Congressional Inquiry and a battle crazed Sub-Mariner in ‘Disaster!’

The Prince of Atlantis had been hunting his enemy Warlord Krang in his own series, and the path led straight to Stark’s factory, so when confronted with another old foe the amphibian over-reacts in his customary manner.

‘When Fall the Mighty!’ in ToS #80 is one colossal punch-up, which carries over into Tales to Astonish #82, where Thomas and Colan begin the conclusion before the penciller contracted flu after delivering only two pages. The inimitable Jack Kirby, inked by Dick Ayers, stepped in to produce some of the finest action-art of their entire Marvel career, fully displaying ‘The Power of Iron Man!’ as the battles rages on to a brutal if inconclusive conclusion.

TOS #81 then trumpeted ‘The Return of the Titanium Man!’ – and Gene Colan – as the Communist Colossus attacks the Golden Avenger on his way to Congress, and threatens all of Washington DC in the Frank Giacoia inked ‘By Force of Arms!’ before succumbing to superior fire power in ‘Victory!’

Stark’s controversial reputation is finally restored as the public finally learn that his life is only preserved by a metallic chest-plate which keep his maimed heart beating in ‘The Other Iron Man!’ – but nobody at all connects that hunk of steel to the identical one his Avenging “bodyguard” wears…

The Mandarin kidnaps the inventor’s recovering pal – temporarily wearing the armoured overalls – in another extended assault that begins with ‘Into the Jaws of Death’ as the still-ailing Stark flies to his rescue in ‘Death Duel for the Life of Happy Hogan!’

In #87-88 the Mole Man attacks, prompting a ‘Crisis… at the Earth’s Core!’ and ‘Beyond all Rescue!’, before another old B-List bad-guy takes his shot in ‘The Monstrous Menace of the Mysterious Melter!’ and its sequel ‘The Golden Ghost!’

‘The Uncanny Challenge of the Crusher!’ offers an all-action tale – possibly marred for modern audiences by a painful Commie-bustin’ sub-plot featuring a thinly disguised Fidel Castro – and the impressions of the on-going “Police Action” in Indo-China are also a little gung-ho (if completely understandable) when Iron Man goes hunting for a Red Menace called Half-Face ‘Within the Vastness of Viet Nam!’

The visit results in another clash with an incorrigible old foe in ‘The Golden Gladiator and… the Giant!’ before our hero snatches victory from Titanium jaws of defeat in ‘The Tragedy and the Triumph!’(this last inked by Dan Adkins).

A new cast member is introduced in #95 as eager-beaver preppie S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell is assigned as security advisor to America’s most prominent weapons maker, just as old Thor villain the Grey Gargoyle attacks in ‘If a Man be Stone!’ and its summarily defeated in The Deadly Victory!’

Tales of Suspense #97 began an extended story-arc that would carry the series to the start of the solo-book and beyond, in which criminal cartel the Maggia schemes to move in on Stark’s company. Their campaign opens with the hero’s capture, ‘The Coming of… Whiplash!’, depicts the Golden Avenger cut to steely ribbons in ‘The Warrior and the Whip!’ and – as the magnificent Archie Goodwin assumes the scripting reins and EC legend Johnny Craig comes aboard as inker – and finds Iron Man trapped on a sinking submarine ‘At the Mercy of the Maggia’, just as the venerable Tales of Suspense ends with its 99th issue…

Of course, it was just changing its name to Captain America, as Tales to Astonish seamlessly transformed into The Incredible Hulk, but – due to a scheduling snafu – neither of the split-book co-stars had a home that month (April 1968). This situation led to the one-and-only Iron Man and the Sub-Mariner #1, and the concluding episode ‘The Torrent Without… The Tumult Within!’ wherein sinister super-scientists of A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics, acronym-fans) snatch the Armoured Avenger from the Maggia’s submarine, intent on stealing the hero’s technical secrets.

Invincible Iron Man #1 finally appeared with a May 1968 cover-date, and triumphantly ended the extended sub-sea-saga as our hero stood ‘Alone against A.I.M.!’, a thrilling roller-coaster ride supplemented by ‘The Origin of Iron Man’: a revitalised re-telling that ended Colan’s long and impressive tenure on the character.

Supplementing and counterpointing the drama is a slice of period silliness from spoof comic Not Brand Echh #2 (September 1967) with Thomas, Heck & Adkins pitting clownish 20th century crusader the Unrinseable Ironed Man against a parody-prone 40th century stalwart fans will recognise even if here he’s known as ‘Magnut, Robot Biter!’

Also on offer are a 1965 T-Shirt design by Kirby and Chic Stone, a selection of original art pages and covers by Colan from the stories in this volume and a gallery of classic Kirby covers modified by painters Dean White and Richard Isanove, originally seen on assorted Marvel Masterworks edition…

Despite some rough patches this is a fantastic period in the Golden Gladiator’s career and one that perfectly encapsulates the changes Marvel and America went through: seen through some of the best and most memorable efforts of a simply stellar band of creators.
© 1966, 1967, 1968, 2017 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Iron Man Epic Collection: The Golden Avenger


By Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Robert Bernstein, Al Hartley, Don Heck, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-8863-6

There are a number of ways to interpret the creation and early years of Tony Stark, glamorous millionaire industrialist and inventor – not to mention his armoured alter-ego, Iron Man.

Created in the immediate aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis and at a time when “Red-baiting” and “Commie-bashing” were American national obsessions, the emergence of a brilliant new Thomas Edison, using Yankee ingenuity and invention to safeguard and better the World, seemed inevitable. Combine the then-all-pervasive belief that technology could solve any problem with the universal imagery of noble knights battling evil and the proposition almost becomes a certainty.

Of course, it might simply be that us kids thought it both great fun and very, very cool…

This fabulous full-colour compendium of the Steel Shod Sentinel’s early days reprints all his adventures, feature pages and pin-ups from Tales of Suspense #39 (cover-dated March 1963) through #72 (December 1965); revisiting the dawn of Marvel’s renaissance.

This period would see them start to challenge DC Comics position of dominance, but not quite become the darlings of the student counter-culture. In these tales, Tony Stark is still very much the gung-ho patriotic armaments manufacturer, and not the enlightened capitalist liberal dissenter he would become.

ToS #39, with a script by Larry Lieber (over brother Stan Lee’s plot) and art by the criminally unappreciated Don Heck reveals how and why ‘Iron Man is Born’, with electronics genius Stark field-testing his latest inventions in Viet Nam when he is wounded by a landmine.

Captured by Viet Cong commander Wong-Chu, Stark is told that if he creates weapons for the Reds he will be operated on to remove the metal shrapnel in his chest that will kill him within seven days.

Knowing that Commies can’t be trusted, Stark and aged Professor Yinsen – another captive scientist – build a mobile iron lung to keep his heart beating. They also equip this suit of armour with all the weapons that their ingenuity can secretly build whilst being observed by their captors. Naturally they succeed and defeat Wong-Chu, but not without tragic sacrifice.

From the next issue, Iron Man’s superhero career is taken as a given, and he has already achieved fame for largely off-camera exploits. Lee continues to plot but Robert Bernstein replaces Lieber as scripter for issues #40-46 and Jack Kirby shares the pencilling chores with Heck. ‘Iron Man versus Gargantus’ follows the young Marvel pattern by pitting the hero against aliens – albeit via their robotic giant caveman intermediary, in a delightfully rollicking romp pencilled by Kirby and inked by Heck.

‘The Stronghold of Doctor Strange’ (art by Kirby & Dick Ayers) features a gloriously spectacular confrontation with a wizard of Science (not Lee/Ditko’s later Mystic Master), and Heck returns to full art for the espionage and impostors thriller ‘Trapped by the Red Barbarian’.

Kirby and Heck team again for the science-fantasy adventure ‘Kala, Queen of the Netherworld!’, but Heck goes it alone when Iron Man time-travels to ancient Egypt to rescue the fabled and fabulous Cleopatra from ‘The Mad Pharaoh!’. New regular cast members – bodyguard “Happy Hogan” and secretary Virginia “Pepper” Potts – proper and the first true super-villain then arrive as the Steel Sentinel has to withstand ‘The Icy Fingers of Jack Frost!’ before facing (and converting to Democracy) his Soviet counterpart ‘The Crimson Dynamo’.

Tales of Suspense #47 presaged big changes. Stan Lee wrote ‘Iron Man Battles the Melter!’, and Heck inked over the unique pencils of Steve Ditko, but the big event came with the next issue’s ‘The Mysterious Mr. Doll!’ as Lee, Ditko & Ayers scrapped the old cool-but-clunky golden boiler-plate suit for a sleek, gleaming, form-fitting, red-and-gold upgrade that would – with minor variations – become the symbol and trademark of the character for decades.

Paul Reinman inked Ditko on Lee’s crossover/sales pitch for the new X-Men comic when ‘Iron Man Meets the Angel!’, but the series only really takes hold with Tales of Suspense #50.

Don Heck became regular penciller and occasional inker and Lee concocted the Armoured Avenger’s first major menace and perpetual nemesis with ‘The Hands of the Mandarin’; a modern Fu Manchu derivative who terrifies the Red Chinese so much that they manipulate him into attacking America, with the hope that one threat will fatally wound the other. The Mandarin would become Iron Man’s greatest foe.

Our hero made short work of criminal contortionist ‘The Sinister Scarecrow’, and the Red spy who appropriated that leftover Russian armour-suit and declared ‘The Crimson Dynamo Strikes Again!’ (scripted, as was the next issue, by the enigmatic “N. Kurok”). The issue also premiered a far more dangerous threat in the slinky shape of Soviet Femme Fatale the Black Widow.

With ToS#53, she was a headliner as ‘The Black Widow Strikes Again!’: stealing Stark’s new anti-gravity ray but ultimately failing in her sabotage mission after which ‘The Mandarin’s Revenge!’ began a two-part tale of kidnap and coercion that concluded with #55’s ‘No One Escapes the Mandarin!’

‘The Uncanny Unicorn!’ promptly attacked after actually Iron Man did, only to fare no better in the end. The power-horn peril was preceded in his attempt to destroy the Armoured Avenger by a cascade of short of Lee/Heck illustrated fact features beginning with ‘All About Iron Man’, continuing with ‘More Info About Iron Man!’ and concluding with a ‘Pepper Potts Pin-up Page’.

Black Widow resurfaced to beguile budding superhero ‘Hawkeye, The Marksman!’ into attacking the Golden Avenger in #57, before another landmark occurred with the next issue. Until now Iron Man had monopolised Tales of Suspense, but ‘In Mortal Combat with Captain America’ (inked by Ayers) depicted an all-out battle between the two heroes resulting from a clever impersonation by evil impressionist The Chameleon. It was a primer for the next issue when Cap would begin his own solo adventures, splitting the monthly comic into an anthology featuring Marvel’s top two patriotic paladins.

Iron Man’s initial half-length outing in #59 was against the technological terror ‘The Black Knight!’, and as a result Stark was rendered unable to remove his own armour without triggering a heart attack: a situation that hadn’t occurred since the initial injury. Up until this time he had led a relatively normal life by simply wearing the life-sustaining breast-plate under his clothes. The introduction of soap-opera sub-plots were a necessity of the shorter page counts, as were continued stories, but this seeming disadvantage worked to improve both the writing and the sales.

With Stark’s “disappearance,” Iron Man was ‘Suspected of Murder!’, a tale that featured the return of Hawkeye and Black Widow (abruptly transformed from fur-clad seductress into a gadget-laden costumed villain), and led directly into ‘The Death of Tony Stark!’ and ‘The Origin of the Mandarin!’. After that extended epic, a change of pace occurred as short complete exploits returned.

The first was #63’s industrial sabotage thriller ‘Somewhere Lurks the Phantom!’, followed by the somewhat self-explanatory ‘Hawkeye and the New Black Widow Strike Again!’ (inked by Chic Stone), after which ‘When Titans Clash!’ saw a burglar steal the new armour forcing Stark to defeat his greatest invention with his old suit (inked by new regular Mike Esposito under the pseudonym Mickey DeMeo).

Sub-sea villain Attuma is the threat du jour in ‘If I Fail a World is Lost’ and crime-lord Count Nefaria uses dreams as a weapon in ‘Where Walk the Villains!’, returning in the next issue to attack Stark with hallucinations in ‘If a Man be Mad!’, a rather weak tale that introduces Stark’s ne’er-do-well cousin Morgan, (written by Al Hartley with Heck and Esposito in top form as always).

Issues #69-71 form another continued saga, and one of the best of this early period. ‘If I Must Die, Let It Be with Honor!’ (inked by Vince Colletta) sees Iron Man forced to duel a new Russian opponent called the Titanium Man in a globally-televised contest that both super-powers see as a vital propaganda coup. The governments are naturally quite oblivious of the cost to the participants and their friends…

 ‘Fight On! For a World is Watching!’ (DeMeo inks) amplifies the intrigue and tension as the Soviets, caught cheating, pile on the pressure to at least kill the American champion if they can’t score a publicity win, and final chapter ‘What Price Victory?’ is a rousing, emotional conclusion of triumph and tragedy made magnificent by the super-glossy inking of troubled artistic genius Wally Wood.

That would have been the ideal place to end the volume but there’s one more episode included here: ToS #72 by Lee, Heck & Demeo deals with the aftermath of victory as, whilst the fickle public fête Iron Man, his best friend lies dying, and a spiteful ex-lover hires the Mad Thinker to destroy Stark and his company forever. ‘Hoorah for the Conquering Hero!’ closes the book on a pensive down-note, but the quality of this compendium package is undeniable. From broad comedy and simple action to dark cynicism and relentless battle, Marvel Comics grew up with this deeply contemporary series.

Iron Man developed amidst the growing political awareness of the Viet Nam Generation who were the comic’s maturing readership. Wedded as it was to the American Industrial-Military Complex, with a hero – originally the government’s wide-eyed golden boy – gradually becoming attuned to his country’s growing divisions, it was, as much as Spider-Man, a bellwether of the times. That it remains such a thrilling uncomplicated romp of classic super-hero fun is a lasting tribute to the talents of all those superb creators that worked it.
© 1963, 1964, 1965, 2014 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Marvel Adventures Iron Man volume 1: Heart of Steel


By Fred Van Lente, James Cordeiro, Ronan Cliquet, Scott Koblish, Amilton Santos, Gary Erskine & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2644-7

In 2003 the ever-expanding House of Ideas instituted the Marvel Age line: an imprint updating classic original tales and characters for a new and younger readership.

The enterprise was tweaked in 2005, with core titles morphing into Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four and Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man. The tone was very much that of the company’s burgeoning TV cartoon franchises, in delivery if not name. Supplemental series included Super Heroes, The Avengers, Hulk and Iron Man. These all chuntered along merrily until 2010 when they were all cancelled and replaced by new volumes of Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes and Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man.

Most of the re-imagined tales have since been collected in gleefully inviting digest-sized compilations such as this one which features the first four forays starring the gadget-laden Golden Avenger.

In original mainstream continuity, supreme survivor Tony Stark has changed his profile many times since his 1963 debut when, as a VIP visitor in Vietnam, observing the efficacy of weaponry he’d designed, the arch-technocrat wünderkind was critically wounded and captured by a local warlord.

Put to work with the spurious promise of medical assistance upon completion, Stark instead built an electronic suit to keep his heart beating and deliver him from his oppressors. From there it was a small jump into a second career as a high-tech hero in Shining Super-Armour…

Conceived in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis at a time when the economy was booming and “Commie-bashing” was America’s favourite national pastime, the emergence of a suave new Edison using Yankee ingenuity, wealth and invention to safeguard the Land of the Free and better the World seemed an obvious development.

Combining the then-sacrosanct tenet that technology and business in unison could solve any problem with the universal imagery of noble paladins battling evil, the Invincible Iron Man seemed an infallibly successful proposition.

Over the subsequent decades Tony Stark has been depicted as a liberal capitalist, eco-warrior, space pioneer, civil servant, statesman, and even spy-chief: Director of the world’s most scientifically advanced spy agency, the Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate.

For most of that period his best friend and frequent stand-in was James Rhodes, a former military man who acted as pilot, bodyguard, advisor, co-conspirator and occasional necessary conscience. “Rhodey” even replaced Iron Man when Stark succumbed to alcoholism and eventually carved out his own chequered career as remorseless mechanised warrior and weapon of last resort War Machine

Here Rhodey is again reduced to a technical support role and joined by a supporting cast member of a much earlier vintage. Secretary and hyper-efficient factotum Pepper Potts has been in the picture since the seventh adventure (way back in October 1963), evolving from love-struck typist into a businesswoman and hero in her own right. Here a middle ground is struck and she’s Stark’s trusted Executive Administrator, confidante and general dogsbody…

Culled from Marvel Adventures Iron Man #1-4 (July-October 2007) this machine-tooled, perfect packet of explosive yarns is written throughout by Fred Van Lente, with colours from Studio F’s Martegod Gracia and letters by Blambot’s Nate Piekos and also includes a Cover Gallery supplied by Comics legend Michael Golden.

As ever, these stories are intended to bring newcomers up to speed on key points and characterisation whilst updating the material and begins with ‘Heart of Steel’ – winningly illustrated by James Cordeiro & Scott Koblish – which once again modifies the technological wizard’s origin in tune with modern sensibilities…

It all begins as a huge robotic monster attacks Manhattan and Stark suits up in his latest miracle-armour to tackle the beast. The clash sends his mind racing back six months to the moment when the spoiled multi-billionaire idol and smug was publicly challenged by esteemed scientist Gia-Bao Yinsen. The venerable sage accused Stark of selling his war-weapons to anybody with money and thereby letting them be used to destroy the island of Madripoor

Upset by the confrontation, the young genius shrugged it off until he was summarily abducted by techno-terrorists Advanced Idea Mechanics. They wanted him to build more death-toys for them and were pretty sure he would cooperate. Tony’s heart was grievously damaged in their attack and only AIM’s doctors could keep him alive…

Dumped in a top-of the line lab/workshop, Tony found old Yinsen was also a prisoner and together they devised mobile, weaponised life-support units to fight their way to freedom. Although Yinsen didn’t make it, his final words changed Stark’s life forever…

As also illustrated by Cordeiro & Scott Koblish, Iron Man’s greatest enemy is then reintroduced in ‘Enter the Dragon’. When Stark’s Chinese factory is suddenly depleted of its entire workforce, he charges to the rescue and clashes with supreme tech-genius the Mandarin: a descendent of Genghis Khan who intends topping his ancestor in the world-conquest stakes.

Employing his monumental mechanical wyrm to attack the Great Wall, the maniac makes a pretty good start until Iron Man gets heavy…

Pepper takes centre-stage in ‘The Creeping Doom’ (with art by Ronan Cliquet & Amilton Santos) as the Stark jet touches down in a desert wilderness to interview genetic engineer and botanist Samuel Smithers who has a few radical ideas about revolutionising global Agribusiness. Sadly, by the time they arrive, Sam has moved beyond the need for investors: having merged with his creations to become a marauding Plantman intent on seizing the world for the floral kingdom.

The only use he has for meaty organic matter is for mulch and compost, but he has reckoned without the sheer cunning of his adversaries…

Wrapping up this collection is ‘Hostile Takeover’ (with Cordeiro & Gary Erskine making the pictures) as Stark Board member Justin Hammer tries to manipulate stock and gain control of the company.

His method is flawless. Hire the infallible Spymaster to hack Iron Man’s armour, sending Tony’s “bodyguard” on a destructive rampage through the city – with Stark helpless inside it – and just watch the stock price fall until it’s time to make his killing. Hammer’s big mistake was assuming Pepper and Rhodey were the sort of servile flunkies he preferred to hire at Hammer Industries…

Rocket-paced, spectacularly exciting and enthralling with plenty of sharp wit to counterpoint the drama and suspense; these riotous super-sagas are a splendid example of Iron Man’s versatility that will delight Fights ‘n’ Tights fans of all ages and vintage.
© 2007 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Mighty Avengers volume 3: Secret Invasion Book 1


By Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Koi Pham, John Romita Sr., Danny Miki, Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3010-9

Following the divisive and brutal superhero Civil War, Tony Stark (a staunch advocate of the draconian, nigh-totalitarian Super-Human Registration Act) formed a squad of Government-sanctioned heroes. His SHIELD-backed Mighty Avengers were designed to take care of business whilst he worked on his “Fifty States Initiative”, the objective of which was to eventually field teams of federally trained and licensed superheroes in every State of the Union.

Firstly, though, he had to restore public confidence, especially as the unregistered, rogue New Avengers continued to defy his orders to surrender to government authority: saving lives and crushing evil without his permission. Things never seemed to go Stark’s way however, and a series of catastrophic crises led inexorably to Earth succumbing to alien infiltration and conquest.

This seditious third volume is written throughout by Brian Michael Bendis and gathers Mighty Avengers #12-15 (June-August 2008), re-presenting some of the opening sallies in the major event dubbed Secret Invasion wherein the torturously unfolding plan by the shapeshifting Skrulls finally turns into a red-hot shooting war.

Since Fantastic Four #2 (January 1961), the Skrulls have been a pernicious cornerstone of the Marvel Universe. After decades of frustrating failure, the insidious intergalactic infiltrators were finally made the stars of a colossal braided crossover which ran from Spring to Christmas 2008 throughout all the company’s titles.

The premise? The aliens’ former all-encompassing empire had been crippled and scourged by a devastating catastrophe which destroyed much of their star-spanning power. Consequently the survivors underwent a mass fundamentalist-religious conversion: utterly resolved and dedicated to make Earth their new homeworld – just as their ancient scriptures foretold…

To this end they imperceptibly replaced a number of Earth denizens – mostly superheroes, villains and/or their close associates. When the plot was finally exposed no defender of the Earth truly knew who was on their side…

Moreover, the Skrulls had also unravelled the secrets of Earth magic and humanity’s unique genetics, creating legions of amped-up equivalents to the world’s mightiest heroes and villains. During this period they hid amongst us, primed and waiting to destroy mankind’s champions in head-to-head confrontations.

Not all Skrulls were fanatics however. Earth also harboured a few carefully hidden dissidents opposed to the new regime and non-fanatics simply unwilling to get properly involved…

The mysteries start to unravel in the ‘The Awakening’ from #12-13 (illustrated by Alex Maleev) where a fugitive and closeted Nick Fury – on the run for manipulating an Avengers squad into attacking the sovereign state of Latveria – discovers his current squeeze is actually a shapeshifting alien. Taking the appropriate steps, he sneaks back into SHIELD to warn his replacement Maria Hill that she can trust no-one…

Always playing a deeply convoluted game, he then contacts Spider-Woman – his mole in the Avengers, SHIELD and Hydra – to warn her of Skrull infiltration before activating his own plan B, gathering his long-cached cadre of super-powered non-entities and agents never on anybody’s radar. Then he sets all the pieces tumbling into turbulent motion…

The untitled issue #15 – illustrated by Khoi Pham & Danny Miki – returns focus to Stark’s Mighty Avengers team (field leader Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, Wonder Man, the Wasp, Sentry and Grecian war god Ares), all blithely going about their heroic business unaware that trusted major-domo Edwin Jarvis has been replaced by a high-ranking Skrull.

When the revelation day at last arrives the treacherous insider instigates a chilling plan to take incomprehensibly powerful superman Sentry out of action by attacking his mind and those he loves most…

The campaign of terror concludes with a chilling flashback illustrated by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson & Tom Palmer, revealing how a dedicated proponent of the Super-Human Registration Act, a key component of Iron Man’s Fifty States Initiative and Founding Avenger was long ago replaced by a Skrull. What that augurs for humanity, only the coming weeks and months can tell…

To Be Continued…

With covers by Marko Djurdjevic and Bendis’ full script for issue #12 this slim tome offers another slick and stylish slice of breathtaking all-action entertainment which adds depth and weight to the impressive and appealing Secret Invasion main event but also reads perfectly well on its own merits.

Here is another Fights ‘n’ Tights “must-read” for insatiable thrill-chasers everywhere.
© 2008, 2009 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Iron Man 2.0 volume 1: Palmer Addley is Dead


By Nick Spencer, Barry Kitson, Kano, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Ariel Olivetti & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3685-9

Supreme survivor Tony Stark has changed his profile many times since his 1963 debut when, as a VIP visitor in a conflict zone observing the efficacy of weaponry he had designed, the arch-technocrat wünderkind was critically wounded and captured by a local warlord.

Put to work with the spurious promise of medical assistance upon completion, Stark instead built an electronic suit to keep his heart beating and deliver him from his oppressors. From there it was a small jump into a second career as a high-tech Knight in Shining Armour…

Ever since then the former armaments manufacturer has been a liberal capitalist, eco-warrior, space pioneer, civil servant, statesman, and even spy-chief: Director of the world’s most scientifically advanced spy agency, the Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate.

For most of that period his best friend and frequent stand-in was James Rhodes, a former military man who acted as pilot, bodyguard, advisor, co-conspirator and occasional necessary conscience. “Rhodey” actually replaced Iron Man when Stark succumbed to alcoholism and eventually carved out his own chequered career as remorseless mechanised warrior and weapon of last resort War Machine

Along the way disagreements became fights and one day the pilot had enough and quit, going back into military service…

During the time when the Federal initiative known as the Super-Human Registration Act led to Civil War between costumed heroes, Stark was appointed the US government’s Security Czar: a “top cop” in sole charge of a beleaguered nation’s defence and freedom, tasked with overseeing every aspect of the legislation’s enactment. He became the absolute last word in all matters involving the USA’s vast metahuman community…

However his mismanagement of a succession of crises led to the arrest and assassination of Captain America and an unimaginable escalation of global tension and destruction, culminating in a so-nearly successful Secret Invasion by shape-shifting alien Skrulls.

Discredited and ostracised, Stark was replaced by ostensibly rehabilitated super-villain Norman Osborn (the original Green Goblin), who assumed full control of America’s covert agencies and paramilitary resources.

Osborn disbanded S.H.I.E.L.D. and placed the nation under the aegis of his new umbrella organisation H.A.M.M.E.R. Publicly acclaimed as a recovering schizophrenic, he was still a deranged monster at his core and craved total power. Intending to appropriate all Stark’s resources, the “reformed” villain began stripping all of the ex-Avenger assets; financial, technological and even psychological.

Terrified that his weaponry and files – containing the secret identities of almost all of Earth’s heroes – would fall into a ruthless maniac’s hands, Stark systematically erased all his databases and did the same to his own memories, effectively lobotomising himself to save everything before going on the run in a hopeless but valiant attempt to give his few remaining allies time to pull off a miracle…

Spinning out of Iron Man #500 and the fall of Norman Osborn, this compilation reveals a reconciliation and bold new start for Stark’s ferociously independent ally James Rhodes as Iron Man: 2.0 #1-7 (April to September 2011, and scripted throughout by Nick Spencer) deals with the aftermath of the villain’s defeat in a prologue from Iron Man #500, illustrated by Barry Kitson, with colours from Matthew Wilson.

The tantalising flashback-riddled teaser finds the embattled Rhodey explaining a recent defeat – resulting in being caught in a nuclear detonation (by no means his first one!) – to his military supervisor General Babbage, whilst inter-cutting to scenes of rapprochement with Stark. This dual conference leads to the promise of a brand new suit of super-armour for the embattled veteran…

Iron Man: 2.0 #1-4 and ‘Palmer Addley is Dead’, (art by Kitson, Kano, Carmine Di Giandomenico & Wilson) begins prior to the prologue as Babbage orders his private War Machine to quell a series of baffling security glitches by leading with a rather hostile team of contracted investigators.

All the problems involve nanotech and programs devised by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) emergent-technology specialist Palmer Addley and each failure can only be sabotage. Addley looks like the only suspect for the global systems meltdown but, as he very publicly committed suicide six months previously, that’s a hard conclusion to prove…

Moreover each successive failure benefits assorted terrorist groups and Rhodey has been called in to provide some outside-the-box thinking. Just how outside is hard to imagine: the army have already consulted ultimate inventor Reed Richards, mutant telepaths from the X-Men and even Doctor Strange… just in case Addley’s ghost was the culprit…

After lengthy and diligent consideration of all the facts, Rhodey can only conclude that somewhere, Palmer Addley is still alive…

And in Ann Arbor, Michigan a quiet unassuming mom puts the finishing touches to the super-weapon she’s built in her garage…

When another terrorist strike wipes out Camp Liberty Victory Base in Baghdad, Rhodey calls in old associate Suzi Endo – über-hacker and former superhero Cybermancer – to give his team a few pointers on Extreme Data-Mining. Her contributions soon have War Machine jetting to an off-the-books Russian science city and into a trap.

On arrival, Rhodey finds all the military personnel slaughtered before being jumped by a figure who disables him with shocking ease. Warning him to tell his masters that “Palmer Addley is Dead”, the stranger detonates a nuke…

The third chapter opens five days later with Rhodes savagely wounded but slowly recovering from catching the edge of the blast as Stark’s factotum Pepper Potts takes over the case. The CEO of Stark Resilient has used her company’s phenomenal resources and discovered everything Babbage and the army knew about the dead technologist is a lie…

With Babbage cowed and SR now a fully accredited Private Security Contractor, Pepper transfers money and resources to Rhodey’ team and soon naive Kaylie Doran has been granted “eyes-only” access to Addley’s actual background file…

Elsewhere Stark and Rhodey are in conference and the result is the scrapping of War Machine. In its place the ultimate survivor is offered a unique, cutting-edge armour system that will make him truly Iron Man: 2.0…

The concluding chapter is illustrated by incoming regular artist Ariel Olivetti and finds Kaylie at the most secure records room in America to discover exactly what kind of brilliant sociopath the military hired to create weapons for them.

Apparently even after his High School killing spree, the boy’s talents were considered too important to waste…

With Palmer Addley still at large in some manner, matters of more pressing importance suddenly impinge and the remainder of this collection focuses on Rhodey’s part in cosmic event Fear Itself

Marvel’s 2011 multi-part, inter-company braided mega-saga revealed how an ancient Asgardian menace resurfaced, possessing a band of the planet’s mightiest mortals – good or evil – via mystic hammers and compelling them to wreak unimaginable death and destruction on the global population whilst he/it drank the terror the rampages generated.

Still illustrated by Olivetti, the story starts in the Chinese Hell known as The Eighth City where legendary Monkey King Sun Wukong is distracted from his usual entertainments by the thunderous arrival of a monstrous mallet which shatters the gate to the living world as well as much of the infernal metropolis…

In Washington DC, freshly kitted-out wonder warrior Jim Rhodes has joined other heroes to help with that city’s hammer-fuelled catastrophe. He is soon distracted by old comrade and martial arts paragon John Aman, Prince of Orphans who warns him of an even greater need for champions elsewhere.

With Hell ruptured, mystic guardians and Immortals Weapons Fat Cobra, Bride of Nine Spiders, Dog Brother #1, Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter, The Immortal Iron Fist and Aman have been summoned to close the breach as it pours demons into downtown Beijing. However the mystic force policing the crisis has also arbitrarily included Iron Man: 2.0 in the preferred response team…

Iron Fist is already there, barely surviving against hammer-reforged amazon Titania and her brutal paramour Crusher Creel. The Absorbing Man is frantically demanding his transformative mallet but cannot find it. The sticky-fingered Sun Wukong has filched the colossal talisman and isn’t prepared to release his latest toy to anyone…

With the world shattering under twin assaults, the Immortal Weapons are keen to end the infernal incursion, but before they can send the demons back they first have to get Creel and Titania out of the Capital City of Hell…

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, another mystic mastermind is covertly manipulating events, the only one aware that Iron Fist has been possessed by an entirely different menace. Happily for Earth, Jim Rhodes and his modern martial technology don’t depend on hocus-pocus to solve world-threatening problems…

Brash, gripping, action-packed and stuffed with tense suspense, this splendid high-tech Fights ‘n’ Tights reboot comes with a covers-&-variants gallery by Salvador Larroca, Dheeraj Verma, Marko Djurdjevic, Frank D’Armata, Sebastian Fiumara & Wilson, a picture-packed potted history of Jim Rhodes career by John Rhett Thomas and original ink art pages by Kitson.
© 2010, 2011 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Invincible Iron Man: World’s Most Wanted volume 2


By Matt Fraction, Salvador Larroca & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3685-9

Supreme survivor Tony Stark has changed his profile many times since his 1963 debut when, as a VIP visitor in a conflict zone observing the efficacy of weaponry he had designed, the arch-technocrat wünderkind was critically wounded and captured by a local warlord.

Put to work with the spurious promise of medical assistance upon completion, Stark instead built a prototype Iron Man suit to keep his heart beating and deliver him from his oppressors. From there it was a small jump into a second career as a high-tech Knight in Shining Armour…

Ever since then the former armaments manufacturer has been a liberal capitalist, eco-warrior, space pioneer, civil servant, Statesman, and even spy-chief: Director of the world’s most scientifically advanced spy agency, the Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate.

During the time when the Federal initiative known as the Super-Human Registration Act led to Civil War between costumed heroes, Stark was appointed the US government’s Security Czar: – a “top cop” in sole charge of a beleaguered nation’s defence and freedom, tasked with overseeing every aspect of the legislation’s enactment. He became the absolute last word in all matters involving the USA’s vast metahuman community…

However his mismanagement of a succession of crises led to the arrest and assassination of Captain America and an unimaginable escalation of global tension and destruction, culminating in a so-nearly successful Secret Invasion by shape-shifting alien Skrulls.

Discredited and ostracised, Stark was replaced by ostensibly rehabilitated super-villain Norman Osborn (the original Green Goblin), who assumed full control of America’s covert agencies and paramilitary resources. The ultimate control freak disbanded S.H.I.E.L.D. and placed the nation under the aegis of his new umbrella organisation H.A.M.M.E.R.

Publicly acclaimed as a recovering schizophrenic, Osborn was still a deranged monster at his core and craved total power. Intending to appropriate all Stark’s resources, the “reformed” villain began stripping all of the ex-Avenger assets; financial, technological and even psychological.

Terrified that not only his weaponry but also the files containing the secret identities of almost all of Earth’s heroes would fall into a ruthless maniac’s hands, Stark systematically erased all his databases and began the process of doing the same with his own memories, effectively lobotomising himself to save everything before going on the run in a hopeless but valiant attempt to give his few remaining allies time to pull off a miracle…

Concluding the Dark Reign saga ‘World’s Most Wanted’ from Invincible Iron Man #14-19 (August to December 2009), the culmination of the global hunt for the fallen technocrat is crafted by Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca (plus colourist Frank D’Armata) and opens here with ‘The Shape of the World These Days’ as the fugitive’s flight to his chain of long-hidden “Armories” across the planet sees him reverting to ever-earlier iterations of his fabled Iron Man suits as his ability to think diminishes.

Entering Russia clad in his first upgrade of the original mobile iron lung built to save his life, Stark is targeted by missile defences and shot down only to be confronted by old comrade Dmitri Bukharin wearing the Soviet-era war-suit known as Crimson Dynamo.

Over in New Jersey, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s last deputy director Maria Hill is on the run from H.A.M.M.E.R. forces and not that far away Stark’s trusted CEO Pepper Potts – using her own Osborn-embargoed armour codenamed Rescue – detects the use of StarkTech and heads for Russia…

Tony needs to get to Kirensk but knows he would be easily spotted by H.A.M.M.E.R. satellite surveillance and thus trades armour with Dmitri even as Pepper breaks her Cease-&-Desist order and jets to Eastern Europe. As expected Osborn easily spots her and demands that Russia grant his forces leave to enter their territory. High-ranking Colonel Dmitri Bukharin gleefully refuses…

In New York, Hill has made contact with another trusted ally of Iron Man, even as Stark heads deeper inland. High above the snowy wastes Rescue intercepts him, unaware that, his memory riddled with holes, her friend, employer and occasional lover does not recognise her.

The Crimson Dynamo’s attack brings them both explosively to earth even as another ex-lover surreptitiously lines up her sniper rifle. International criminal Madam Masque is Osborn’s willing ally, ready to end Stark as soon as America’s Chief of Homeland Security gives her the word…

‘The Danger We’re All In’ sees Hill rendezvousing with the Black Widow in New York, desperately trying to pass on the enigmatic computer drive Stark begged her to get to new Captain America Bucky Barnes whilst in Russia Tony and Pepper’s enforced romantic interlude is interrupted by Masque. As H.A.M.M.E.R. agents ambush the frantic spies in America, half a world away Masque works out some major unresolved issues by torturing Tony’s new girlfriend while he’s out getting firewood…

When Stark returns Masque’s passions switch from hatred to something else, giving Pepper time to activate the Rescue suit in ‘Titan of the Nuclear Age’. Osborn meanwhile is starting to come unglued waiting for news, but he’s probably better off not knowing how his agent’s obsession has resulted in a cataclysmic battle and shattering detonation in Kirensk…

In New York the Widow has stashed her exhausted companion in a safe place whilst she tries to discover what’s so important about the Stark drive, but H.A.M.M.E.R.’s influence is everywhere and even her most secure contacts can no longer be trusted…

Clad once again in his archaic Mark 4 suit, ‘Ashes and Snow’ finds Tony Stark flying towards Afghanistan and the site of his original iron apotheosis. His mind is all but gone and he’s running on instinct and sheer determination now. He’s completely unaware that Madame Masque has crawled out of the wreckage of his penultimate Armory and is informing Osborn that she will be returning to America. Potts is dead and the Rescue armour is now a much prized spoil of war…

Sensing victory, Osborn despatches a H.A.M.M.E.R. Helicarrier to Russia to pick up his agent, smugly brushing aside Russian protests even as his stateside operatives close in on Hill and the Widow. However their arrest catches the attention of a certain Star Spangled Avenger…

As the once brilliant and mighty Stark enters the war-torn region he’s been so eager to reach, the nearly completely mind-wiped Iron Man is blasted from the sky by a rocket propelled grenade…

‘Kids with Guns vs. the Eternal Angel of Death’ begins with the diminished inventor staggering into the cave lab where he and Chinese scientist Ho Yinsen first built the Iron Man so many years ago. As he reviews the original suit cached there he is interrupted by the boy warriors who shot him down and forced to brutally confront his many sins as a red-handed weaponsmith…

Meanwhile, deep in the bowels of H.A.M.M.E.R., Mariah Hill and Black Widow discover they have a most unexpected ally as they make a concerted break for freedom, whilst elsewhere in the organisation Osborn’s rollercoaster mental state is forcing more than one dedicated agent to reconsider their own loyalties…

As part of his takeover Osborn co-opted all Stark’s incredible war-suits, even repurposing one for his own use as the “Iron Patriot”, but as Hill and Widow break out a devastating virus attacks all the confiscated StarkTech…

‘Into the White (Einstein on the Beach)’ details the conclusion of Stark’s quest and his greatest triumph as the former genius, now little more than an animated vegetable clad in his very first iron suit, faces Osborn wearing the most sophisticated armour Tony has ever designed.

He engages his merciless adversary in pointless, futile battle, being brutally smashed to bloody smears, whilst back in America his faithful allies have retrieved the drive from Osborn’s citadel and laid the groundwork for the exultant maniac’s ultimate defeat…

Of course Stark will never know. Before he was battered into a Persistent Vegetative State by Osborn, his last memories faded, leaving nothing of his former self…

To Be Continued…

The tumultuous tome is rounded out with covers & variants by Larocca and Christopher Jones plus a number of the former’s unfinished pencil/ink art pages from this stunning, astoundingly engrossing thriller which will equally delight those seeking more cinema-style spectacle as well as print-based Fights ‘n’ Tights fans of the comic incarnation.
© 2009, 2010 Marvel Characters Inc. All rights reserved.

Iron Man: Rings of the Mandarin


By Kieron Gillen, Luke Ross, Joe Bennett, Scott Hanna, Cliff Richard & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-616-8

Supreme survivor Tony Stark has changed his profile many times since his 1963 debut when, as a VIP visitor in Vietnam observing the efficacy of weaponry he had designed, the arch-technocrat wunderkind was critically wounded and captured by a Communist warlord.

Put to work with the spurious promise of medical assistance upon completion, Stark instead built a prototype Iron Man suit to keep his heart beating and deliver him from his oppressors. From there it was a small jump into a second career as a high-tech Knight in Shining Armour…

Ever since then the former armaments manufacturer has been a liberal capitalist, eco-warrior, space pioneer, civil servant, Statesman, and even spy-chief: Director of the world’s most scientifically advanced spy agency, the Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate.

Of course, he was also a founder member of the world’s most prominent superhero assemblage, the Mighty Avengers, and affirmed Futurist; an impassioned advocate of inevitable progress by way of building better tomorrows…

For a popular character/concept weighed down with a fifty-year pedigree, radical reboots are a painful periodic necessity. To stay fresh and contemporary, Stark’s origin and Iron Man’s continuity have been radically revised every so often, but never so drastically as during his latest revamp – the final collected chronicle of which here re-presents Iron Man volume 5, #23.NOW – 28, spanning March to June 2014.

What Just Happened: following a few notable escapades in outer space, the once-jaded Armoured Avenger uncovered a few surprises in his own past (for which see the two-volume Iron Man: The Secret Origin of Tony Stark) and discovered that he had been adopted by industrialist Howard and Maria Stark to deceive a manipulative alien device with big plans.

Rigellian Recorder 451 – one of millions of sentient automatons programmed to travel the universe acquiring knowledge – had developed a programming flaw and struck out on its own, slowly furthering its own secret agenda.

The renegade had been working with his parents to genetically alter their unborn child and make it a technological super-warrior capable of defending Earth from exponentially increasing alien attacks that were to come as the universe responded to the deadly potential for destruction of Humankind…

Recorder never realised Howard was deeply suspicious and – after decoding the genetic alterations 451 had installed in the foetus – tampered with some of them…

Years later, after a spectacular struggle, Tony Stark defeated the deranged robot Rigellian and returned to Earth where further enquiries into his family’s shady history uncovered an astonishing, life-altering discovery kept hidden for years by his brilliantly paranoid father: Tony had an older brother who was the actual subject of 451’s genetic manipulation.

Arno Stark was a bed-ridden, technological genius who was forever trapped in an iron lung, locked away and raised in isolation at the Maria Stark Foundation Hospice, but now the brothers were gloriously reunited. There was only one small caveat to Tony’s unbounded joy. He was no blood relation to Arno, but apparently secretly adopted as a ploy to deceive the alien automaton…

With a brother even more brilliant than he, Tony began bigger, bolder enterprises such as the construction of a modular super-city to save humanity from self-inflicted extinction. The creative geniuses dubbed it Troy, but no sooner had they unveiled their Iron Metropolis than they were targeted by the alien super-weapons previously employed by arch nemesis The Mandarin.

The ill-considered location of their World of Tomorrow was Mandarin City: a private island off the coast of mainland China long ignored and avoided by the nations of the world since the death of the villain who controlled it.

It was the perfect site on which the Starks could make their vision live… but only after driving out the Triads and other vermin profiting from a legally tenuous citadel no world power was confident enough to annexe. The villain’s Rings, meanwhile, had somehow achieved a cooperative (to an argumentative point) co-consciousness and begun enacting their own destructive agenda by seeking out host-wearers whose personalities and ambitions were compatible with their own…

In London, radical journalist Abigail Burns was seduced by a sentient flaming Ring which deemed her worthy but her brief time as Red Peril led to mutilation and eventually revelation.

The other cosmic adornments also found troubled partners and began sowing destruction, countered by Tony, former War Machine pilot James Rhodes (now all decked out as the Iron Patriot) and immobile Arno, who took remote control of the city’s mechanical police force. Dispatching thousands of empty Armour suits as a Trojan Guard he saved lives and property and thwarted the Rings’ initial assault.

Unfortunately a far more arcane and malign player became involved when Dark Elf Malekith the Accursed then began slaughtering Ring wearers in search of a full set for himself…

Scripted by Kieron Gillen and illustrated by Luke Ross, Joe Bennett, Scott Hanna & Cliff Richard, the latest stage in the evolution of Iron Man takes up from where Iron Metropolitan dramatically paused as, in the Asgardian Nine Realms, Malekith gloats over the Rings he now grips in his cruelly taloned hand.

Later on Earth, when Iron Man tackles another deranged new Mandarin, the battle explosively ends when the Dark Elf ambushes the combatants and bloodily takes another Ring for his own.

Fed up with playing catch-up, Tony changes tactics and hires Shevaun Haldane (former Dark Angel and mystic mercenary) to act as his handler and advisor as he attempts to infiltrate his eldritch enemy’s magical home turf of Svartalfheim

Unfortunately it involves leaving his best weapon behind as “cold iron” is anathema to Elves and they can spot him coming if he goes in fully kitted-up…

Naturally the mission goes wrong from the start and the covert intruder pops up in the royal throne room. Following a bombastic battle the technological mortal is soon being harried by the Wild Hunt through the outer reaches of a mythical hellscape…

Back on Earth Arno is proving to be as devious and many-layered as his foster-brother and enters into an unconventional political alliance with Abigail Burns even as Tony opts to sacrifice his intended escape route home for Shevaun sending in his fearsome Iron Man assault suit…

Soon the tables are totally turned. Although Malekith’s psychological assaults – claiming baby Tony might be an Elven changeling – hit home hard, the Fairy devil has no real defence against a mightily ticked off Iron-shod Avenger and his problems only multiply when the remaining six Ring-Wearers drop in, determined to maintain their new-found autonomy by destroying the magical abomination trying to control them all…

Besieged on all sides, the Accursed Elf is forced to capitulate and surrenders his four Rings and an escape route to the triumphant Tony, but as always has an ulterior motive and craftily takes something from the Maria Stark Foundation Hospice that may in time prove far more valuable and deadly than the trinkets he has grudgingly surrendered…

With four Rings in custody Tony, Arno and devoted inspirational AI H.E.L.E.N. begin reverse-engineering the sublime extraterrestrial devices and soon have enough data to construct a true counter to the star-tech’s unsurpassed might and collectivised intellect.

Their final solution then engages the enemy in the Mandarin’s City, miles deep under London where Ring-wearer Mole Man has convened a meeting of his fellow hosts to outline his plan for revenge. The meeting is cut short when Iron Man, Red Peril and Arno – in a formidable life-support battle suit – blaze in to end the threat but subsequently find one of their own is in the enemy camp…

Riotously wrapping up the blockbusting future-flavoured epic in spectacular, cathartic fashion, this action-packed Fights ‘n’ Tights rollercoaster splendidly closes one chapter in the ongoing escapades of the Golden Gladiator whilst setting the scene for more metal-machined marvels to come.

Bold, imaginative and supremely engaging, this expansive, explosive repositioning of the Stark dynasty comes with a cover-&-variants gallery by Mike Del Mundo, Christian Ward, In-Hyuk Lee, Jennifer Parks, Joe Quinones, Mike Perkins and Paul Renaud as well as the usual digital extras accessible via the AR icon sections (Marvel Augmented Reality App) which give access to story bonuses once you download the free code from marvel.com onto your smart-phone or Android-enabled tablet.
™ & © 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

Essential Avengers volume 8


By Jim Shooter, George Pérez, David Michelinie, Tom DeFalco, Jim Starlin, John Byrne, Sal Buscema, Jim Mooney & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6322-0

The Avengers always proved that putting all one’s star eggs in a single basket pays off big-time: even if the team’s Big Three – Iron Man, Captain America and Thor – are absent, it simply allows the lesser lights and continuity players to shine more brightly.

Although the founding stars were regularly featured due to the rotating, constantly churning, open door policy, human-scale narrative drivers featured the regulars without titles of their own whose eventful lives played out only within these stories and no others.

This electric eighth black and white compilation collects Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ extraordinary exploits from issues #164-184 of the monthly comicbook (spanning October 1977-June 1979), the contents of Avengers Annuals #7 and 8 plus the concluding half of an acclaimed crossover epic from Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2.

During this period Jim Shooter, having galvanised and steadied the company’s notional flagship, moved on, leaving David Michelinie to impress his own ideas and personality upon the team, even as Cosmic Doomsmith Jim Starlin recruited the team to inscribe an epic ending to his seminal interpretation of tragic antihero Adam Warlock

Opening this titanic tome is a stunning 3-part saga by Shooter, John Byrne & Pablo Marcos which reinvented one of the team’s oldest adversaries.

It began in #164 wherein, after months of speculation and experimentation, the resurrected Wonder Man was finally discovered to have evolved into a creature of pure ionic energy. Elsewhere, aging Maggia Don Count Nefaria had recruited Whirlwind, Power Man (the original mercenary who had undergone the same transformative experiment as Wonder Man) and Living Laser to amass plunder for him, but the tactic was mere subterfuge.

After the thieves trashed a squad of Avengers, Nefaria used his flunkies’ bodies as template and power source to turn himself into a literal Superman and attack the already battered heroes in ‘To Fall by Treachery!’

The tension built in #165 as ‘Hammer of Vengeance’ saw the lethally out-powered team fall, only to be saved by elderly speedster The Whizzer who pointed out that, for all his incredible strength, Nefaria too was an old man with death inevitably dogging his heels.

Panicked and galvanised, the Overman went berserk, carving a swathe of destruction through the city whilst seeking a confrontation with Thunder God Thor and the secret of his immortality.

Before too long he had reason to regret his demands…

The surprise arrival of the Thunderer in ‘Day of the Godslayer!’ ended the madman’s dreams but also highlighted growing tensions within the victorious team…

This superb thriller is followed by‘The Final Threat’ (Jim Starlin & Joe Rubinstein) from Avengers Annual #7, which saw Captain Marvel and Moondragon return to Earth with vague anticipations of an impending cosmic catastrophe.

Their premonitions were confirmed when galactic wanderer Adam Warlock arrived with news that death-obsessed Thanos had amassed an alien armada and built a soul-gem powered weapon to snuff out the stars like candles…

Broaching interstellar space to stop the scheme, the united heroes forestalled the stellar invasion and prevented the Dark Titan from destroying the Sun – but only at the cost of Warlock’s life…

Then ‘Death Watch!’ (Starlin & Rubinstein from Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2) saw Peter Parker plagued by prophetic nightmares, which disclosed how Thanos had snatched victory from defeat and now held the Avengers captive whilst he again prepared to extinguish Sol.

With nowhere else to turn, the anguished, disbelieving Spider-Man headed for the Baxter Building, hoping to borrow a spacecraft, unaware that The Thing also had a history with the terrifying Titan.

Although utterly overmatched, the mismatched champions of Life subsequently upset Thanos’ plans enough so that the Avengers and the Universe’s true agent of retribution were able to end the Titan’s threat forever… or at least until next time…

Back in the monthly an epic of equal import was about to unfold. Shooter’s connection to the series, although episodic, was long-lived and produced some of that period’s greatest tales, none more so than the stellar – if deadline-plagued – saga which unravelled over the succeeding months: a sprawling tale of time-travel and universal conquest which began in Avengers #167-168 and, after a brief pause, resumed for #170 through 177.

In previous issues a difference of opinion between Captain America and Iron Man over leadership styles had begun to polarise the team and tensions started to show in #167 with ‘Tomorrow Dies Today!’ by Shooter, George Pérez & Marcos.

In the Gods-&-Monsters filled Marvel Universe there are entrenched and jealous Hierarchies of Power, so when a new player mysteriously materialises in the 20th Century the very Fabric of Reality is threatened…

It all kicked off when star-spanning 31st century superheroes Guardians of the Galaxy materialised in Earth orbit, hotly pursuing a cyborg despot named Korvac.

Inadvertently setting off planetary incursion alarms, their minor-moon sized ship was swiftly penetrated by an Avengers squad, where, after the customary introductory squabble, the future men – Charlie-27, Yondu, Martinex, Nikki, Vance Astro and enigmatic space God Starhawk – explained the purpose of their mission…

Captain America had fought beside them to liberate their home era from Badoon rule and Thor had faced the fugitive Korvac before so peace soon broke out, but even with the resources of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes the time travellers were unable to find their quarry…

Meanwhile on Earth a new and mysterious being named Michael is lurking in the background. At a fashion show staged by the Wasp he achieves a psychic communion with model Carina Walters and they both vanish…

Avengers #168 reveals ‘First Blood’ and stirs up more trouble as Federal liaison and hidebound martinet Henry Peter Gyrich begins making like bureaucratically hot for the maverick team. In Colorado meanwhile Hawkeye gets a shock as his travelling partner Two-Gun Kid vanishes before his eyes whilst in suburban Forest Hills Starhawk – in his female iteration of Aleta – approaches a quiet residence…

Michael/Korvac’s plan consists of subtly altering events as he gathers strength in secret preparation for a sneak attack on those aforementioned Cosmic Hierarchies. His entire plan revolves around not being noticed. When Starhawk confronts him the villain kills the intruder and instantly resurrects him without the ability to perceive Michael or any of his works…

The drama screeches to a halt in #169, which declared ‘If We Should Fail… The World Dies Tonight!’ The out of context potboiler – by Marv Wolfman, Sal Buscema & Dave Hunt – saw Cap, Iron Man and Black Panther travel the planet in search of doomsday bombs wired to the failing heart of a dying man before the major mayhem resumed in #170 with ‘…Though Hell Should Bar the Way!’ by Shooter, Pérez & Marcos.

As Sentinel of Liberty and Golden Avenger finally settle their differences, in Inhuman city Attilan ex-Avenger Quicksilver suddenly disappears even as dormant mechanoid Jocasta (designed by maniac AI Ultron to be his bride) goes on a rampage and escapes into New York City.

In stealthy pursuit and hoping her trail will lead to Ultron himself, the team stride into a trap ‘…Where Angels Fear to Tread’ but nevertheless triumph thanks to the hex powers of the Scarlet Witch, the assistance of pushy, no-nonsense new hero Ms. Marvel and Jocasta’s own rebellion against the metal monster who made her.

However at their moment of triumph the Avengers are stunned to see Cap and Jocasta wink out of existence…

The problems pile up in #172 as Watchdog-come-Gadfly Gyrich is roughly manhandled and captured by out-of-the-loop returnee Hawkeye and responds by rescinding the team’s Federal clearances.

Thus handicapped the heroes are unable to warn other inactive members of the increasing disappearances as a squad of heavy hitters rushes off to tackle marauding Atlantean maverick Tyrak the Treacherous who is bloodily enacting a ‘Holocaust in New York Harbor!’ (Shooter, Sal Buscema & Klaus Janson)…

Answers to the growing mystery are finally forthcoming in ‘Threshold of Oblivion!’, plotted by Shooter, with David Michelinie scripting for Sal Buscema & D(iverse) Hands to illustrate.

As the vanishings escalate the remaining Avengers (Thor, Wasp, Hawkeye and Iron Man), with the assistance of Vance Astro, finally track down their hidden foe and beam into a cloaked starship to liberate the ‘Captives of the Collector!’ (Shooter, Bill Mantlo, Dave Wenzel & Marcos)…

After a staggering struggle the heroes triumph and their old foe reveals the shocking truth: he is in fact an Elder of the Universe who foresaw cosmic doom millennia ago and sought to preserve special artefacts and creatures – such as the Avengers – from the slowly approaching apocalypse.

As he reveals that predicted end-time is here and that he has sent his own daughter Carina to infiltrate the Enemy’s stronghold, the cosmic Noah is obliterated in a devastating blast of energy. The damage however is done and the entrenched hierarchies of creation may well be alerted…

Issue #175 began the final countdown as ‘The End… and Beginning!’ (Shooter, Michelinie, Wenzel & Marcos) saw the amassed and liberated ranks of Avengers and Guardians follow the clues to Michael as the new god shared the incredible secret of his apotheosis with Carina, before ‘The Destiny Hunt!’ and ‘The Hope… and the Slaughter!’ (Shooter, Wenzel, Marcos & Ricardo Villamonte) saw the entire army of champions destroyed and resurrected as Michael easily overpowered all opposition but faltered for lack of one fundamental failing…

Spread through a series of lesser adventures the overarching epic ponderously and ominously unfolds before finally exploding into a devastating and tragic Battle Royale that is the epitome of superhero comics. This is pure escapist fantasy at its finest.

Despite being somewhat let down by the artwork when the magnificent George Perez gave way to less enthusiastic hands such as Sal Buscema, David Wenzel and Tom Morgan, and cursed by the inability to keep a regular inker (Pablo Marcos, Klaus Janson Ricardo Villamonte and Tom Morgan all pitched in), the sheer scope of the epic plot nevertheless carries this story through to its cataclysmic and fulfilling conclusion.

Even Shooter’s reluctant replacement by scripters Dave Michelinie and Bill Mantlo (as his editorial career advanced) couldn’t derail this juggernaut of adventure.

If you want to see what makes Superhero fiction work, and can keep track of nearly two dozen flamboyant characters, this is a fine example of how to make such an unwieldy proposition easily accessible to the new and returning reader.

After the death and triumphant resurrection of the heroes Avengers Annual #8 gets back to business with a spectacular Fights ‘n’ Tights clash in ‘Spectrums of Deceit!’ by Roger Slifer, Pérez, Marcos & Villamonte, wherein the sentient power-prism of arch villain Doctor Spectrum begins possessing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, leading the team into another blockbusting battle against the Squadron Sinister and ethically ambivalent Femazon Thundra

A complete change of pace came in Avengers #178. ‘The Martyr Perplex!’ by Steve Gerber, Carmine Infantino &Rudy Nebres saw Beast targeted by master brainwasher The Manipulator in a tense psycho-thriller teeming with shady crooks and government spooks, after which Tom DeFalco, Jim Mooney, Al Gordon & Mike Esposito concocted a 2-part yarn introducing tragic mutant Bloodhawk and an ambitious hitman in ‘Slowly Slays the Stinger!’

Whilst the Stinger cautiously executed his plan another squad of heroes return with Bloodhawk to his desolate island home of Maura for a ‘Berserkers’ Holiday’, just in time to battle an animated and agitated stone idol.

When they returned victorious Stinger was waiting and the assemblage lost its newest ally forever…

Avengers #181 introduced new regular team Michelinie & Byrne – augmented by inker Gene Day – as ‘On the Matter of Heroes!’ had Agent Gyrich lay down the law and winnow the army of heroes down to a federally acceptable seven.

As the Guardians of the Galaxy headed back to the future, Iron Man, Vision, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Beast and Wasp had to placate Hawkeye after he was rejected in favour of new member The Falcon – parachuted in to conform to government quotas on affirmative action…

Almost immediately Gyrich’s plans were in ruins as a strange gipsy sorcerer attacked, claiming Wanda and Pietro were his long lost children. He stole their souls, trapping them in little wooden dolls, and the resultant clash in #182’s ‘Honor Thy Father’ (inked by Klaus Janson) only created more questions, as overwhelming evidence seemed to confirm Django Maximoff’s story; compelling the Witch and Quicksilver to leave with him on a quest for answers…

This breathtaking collection concludes with a 2-part confrontation by Michelinie, Byrne, Janson & D. Hands from Avengers #183-184.

‘The Redoubtable Return of Crusher Creel!’ began as Ms. Marvel was cleared by Gyrich to replace Wanda whilst elsewhere in the Big Apple the formidable Absorbing Man decided to quit being thrashed by heroes and leave the country. Unfortunately his departure plans included kidnapping a young woman “for company” and led to a cataclysmic showdown with the heroes and Hawkeye (who was determined to win back his place on the team) leading to carnage, chaos and a ‘Death on the Hudson!’

These truly epic yarns set the tone for the compulsive, calamitous Costumed Dramas for decades to come and can still boggle the mind and take the breath away, even here in the so slick and cool 21st century…

No lovers of superhero sagas can afford to ignore this superbly bombastic book, and fans who think themselves above Fights ‘n’ Tights fantasy will also be pleasantly surprised…
© 1977, 1978, 1979, 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Mighty Avengers volume 2: Venom Bomb


By Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, Marko Djurdjevic, Danny Miki, Allen Martinez, Victor Olazaba & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2369-9

After a TV reality show starring superheroes The New Warriors went hideously wrong and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of ordinary folk in Stamford, Connecticut, popular opinion turned massively against masked crusaders.

The Federal Government rushed through a scheme to licence, train and regulate all metahumans but the plan split the superhero community and a terrified and indignant merely mortal populace quivered as a significant faction of their former defenders, led by the ultimate icon of liberty, Captain America, refused to surrender their autonomy and anonymity to the bureaucratic vicissitudes of the Superhuman Registration Act.

The Avengers and Fantastic Four, bedrock teams of the Marvel Universe, fragmented in scenes reminiscent of America’s War Between the States, with “brother pitted against brother” and as the conflict inexorably escalated it became clear to all involved that the increasingly bitter fighting was for souls as much as lives.

Both sides battled for love of Country, Constitution and personal Liberty and both sides knew they were right…

Following the divisive and brutal Civil War, Tony Stark (a staunch advocate of the SRA) formed a squad of registered, Government-sanctioned heroes. His S.H.I.E.L.D.-backed Mighty Avengers were designed to take care of business whilst he worked on his “Fifty States Initiative”, the objective of which was to eventually field teams of trained and licensed superheroes in every State of the Union.

Firstly, though, he had to restore public confidence, especially as the unregistered, rogue New Avengers continued to defy his orders to surrender to government authority: saving lives and crushing evil without his permission…

This second scintillating volume, gathering Mighty Avengers #7-11 (March-July 2008) is written throughout by Brian Michael Bendis and primarily illustrated by Mark Bagley, Danny Miki, Allen Martinez & Victor Olazaba, and begins with an opening shot in the then-forthcoming company event Secret Invasion.

‘Venom Bomb Part One’ finds New Avenger Spider-Woman switching sides to bring Stark the corpse of a Skrull who had replaced ninja assassin Elektra. Her own team thought they could handle the prospect – and feared Stark and/or his squad might also be alien infiltrators – but Jessica Drew, a triple agent simultaneously working for S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra and the rebel Avengers felt that only by going to the Nation’s security chief could the situation be successfully handled…

Stark keeps the corpse secret but invites Drew to join his team in hopes that her presence will cause any Skrulls in his Avengers to betray themselves. However, no sooner has Stark officially inducted the Arachnid Amazon to the squad (field leader Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, Wonder Man, the Wasp, Sentry and Grecian war god Ares), over their very strident protests, than a tiny ball of stellar debris crashes into New York City and unleashes an horrific, highly communicable plague…

The capsule contains a voracious iteration of the alien Symbiote Spider-Man inadvertently brought back from The Beyonder’s Battleworld and contact instantly transforms any organism into a voracious duplicate Venom.

Soon the city is a seething mass of rampaging, shapeshifting monsters – which is almost a relief for Stark as his constant scrutiny has detected no impostors. More worrying though is a desperate snatched conversation with Sentry’s wife Lindy, who begs the genius to find a way to de-power or kill her husband before his growing mental instability makes him a threat to the entire planet…

As the team deploys to the infection site the Wasp is pondering her last meeting with size-changing ex-husband Henry Pym (formerly Ant-Man, Giant Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket) when the erratic genius upgraded her powers. Unfortunately the ability to become a giant only makes her a bigger target and lethal liability when the rabid Venoms attack and infect her…

Thankfully Iron Man and the more or less than human Wonder Man, Ares, Sentry and Ms. Marvel are immune to the transformative terrors but then they encounter Hawkeye and Wolverine’s New Avengers already on scene, and see that the outlaw heroes have succumbed to the contagion, becoming “Venomised” versions of their former selves…

Using all his scientific resources, Stark synthesises a cure for the plague whilst his comrades hold the line, but in the aftermath the restored Hawkeye accuses him of being responsible for the murder of Captain America and the parlous state of the world.

Still reeling with guilt, Iron Man rockets into orbit to discover more weaponised venom bombs, and Ms. Marvel chooses not to arrest the SRA-resistors, allowing the New Avengers make their escape…

In space Iron Man examines the bomb’s point of origin and discovers the satellite was built by Doctor Doom. Enraged and determined to make a political point Stark then deploys his team to invade the sovereign state of Latveria

With additional art from Marko Djurdjevic ‘Doom’s Castle’ opens with the Iron Tyrant indulging his passions with volatile sorceress Morgana Le Fey in the distant past, but his dangerous dalliance is soon forgotten when he returns to his own citadel to discover that his Venom satellite has prematurely triggered and a battalion of angry Avengers are attempting to kick his portcullis in…

The earth-shattering battle which follows sees the dictator soundly beaten but, on the verge of defeat, his Time Platform is damaged and the temporal malfunction causes the Golden Avenger, Sentry and Doom to plunge helplessly into the past…

Presented as a visual pastiche of 1970’s Marvel Comics stories, ‘Time is on No One’s Side’ picks up the tale as Sentry discovers that his history is not as he remembers whilst watching his younger self battling dark mastermind The Void. Elsewhere in old New York, time-lost Tony Stark and Victor Von Doom resume their deadly duel until the panicking Sentry finds them and forces a truce…

Realising at last the incredible danger inherent in Sentry losing it, Doom leads his fellow chronal castaways to the era’s only known location of a time machine.

Unfortunately that’s Doom’s own device, confiscated by the Fantastic Four and cached in the Baxter Building and the bid to use it is interrupted by a fighting mad Thing named Ben Grimm

Eventually however the trio triumph and travel back to their own Now, but only Iron Man and Sentry actually arrive, just in time to be caught in a monumental explosion…

This cataclysmic clash concludes as, in the Dark Ages, Doom and Le Fey collude and the witch-queen teaches her amorous pupil how to construct an army of demons.

Thus reinforced Doom returns to the 21st century before Iron Man and Sentry and unleashes his horde of horrors on the rest of the Mighty Avengers. Crushed by the unholy horrors the team are soon trussed up as trophies of the devil doctor but nobody expected Spider-Woman to display an unprecedented power, disrupting Doom’s devices, freeing the team and demolishing his castle.

By the time Iron Man and Sentry pop back into reality it’s all over bar a colossal (and previously seen) detonation and the resounding defeat of the master of Latveria who subsequently becomes the most famous international terrorist ever arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D….

With covers by Bagley and Frank Cho and a selection of astounding inked cover samples by Cho, Danny Miki & John Dell, Venom Bomb offers another slick and stylish slice of breathtaking all-action entertainment which soundly sets the scene for the startling Secret Invasion main event which followed, but also reads astounding well on its own merits.

This is another Fights ‘n’ Tights “must-read” for insatiable thrill-chasers everywhere.
© 2007, 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.