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Iron Men

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Over at Comics Should Be Good!, they are in the middle of counting down the Top 100 Comic Book Runs, or, the best tours of duty by a creator or creative team on a particular title.

Almost every comic published today that has been around for a while has one or more creative runs that bring up fond memories for the fans. Eras where the creators and the characters meshed so perfectly that it set the standard for years to come.

For Iron Man, that team was David Michelinie and Bob Layton. The pair clocked in at #61 on the Top 100 list yet, but I am sure that many fans believe that they should have ranked higher. .

Most of the legendary teams you hear of are a writer and a penciller—Lee and Kirby, Claremont and Byrne, etc. What is unusual about this collaboration, Michelinie was the writer and Layton is the inker. Both worked as plotter for the series, but usually with another artist as penciller.

The team got their start on the first Iron Man series back in 1978, with issue #116. Their first run on the title lasted just under four years. But during that time, they created characters and concepts that still are a major part of the Iron Man mythos today. They introduced James Rhodes into Shellhead’s supporting cast, and introduced Justin Hammer as one of Tony Stark’s biggest rivals. But one of the major storylines from their first run would change the character forever.

“Demon in the Bottle” established that Tony Stark was an alcoholic and illustrated a particularly disastrous battle with the bottle for the character. This was a rather adult weakness to give a character, a character flaw that is still referenced occasionally today.

This storyline itself was groundbreaking in the medium. Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns get the most acclaim for the maturing of comic books, but this arc hit shelves over seven years before those two series. The process of comics growing up got a jump start here.

Michelinie and Layton started a second run on the title in 1987, five years after their first one ended. This run lasted just under three years and was most notable for the “Armor Wars” storyline, which pit Tony against other armored characters in the Marvel universe to protect his armor designs. John Byrne did a sequel to this arc in his run, two years later.

There was one storyline that united the two runs, one which continues tomorrow in a new, four-issue miniseries that reunites the Iron Man with Michelinie and Layton. A storyline now called the Camelot Trilogy.

Back in Iron Man #149 and #150, Doctor Doom and Iron Man were sent back to the days of Camelot. Doom allied himself with Morgan le Fey, hoping she could aid him in rescuing his mother’s soul from Hell. Iron Man sides with King Arthur. Battle ensues. Eventually, Doom and Iron Man realize they have to work together to get back home. They return to the future as part one ends.

The concept is brilliant. Take two of Marvel’s armored characters, similar in many ways, and send them back in time where practically everyone wore a suit of armor. It must have been a fan’s dream come true.

100 issues later, Michelinie and Layton returned to the concept. This time, Doom and Iron Man were sent to the future, 2093 to be exact, by Merlin. King Arthur was set to be reincarnated. But the Iron Man and Doctor Doom of that time set out to kill him, and two-thirds of the world’s population, in order to rule the world. Merlin wanted our pair to stop that from happening.   Naturally, they succeeded and were returned home.

Tomorrow’s series deals with Doom coming to Iron Man with information that Mephisto is planning to bring about the end of days, and only they can stop him. But with Doom nothing is what it seems. Since the story involves a trip to hell, we can only imagine what’s in store.

Fans seldom get the chance to see legendary creators reunited with the characters they made famous. We are getting that here tomorrow. And that is a good thing.

Also out this week:

Brave and the Bold #12:

It’s all come down to this. Megistus, the alchemist who has been pulling the strings since issue one, has finally been revealed. Now it is up to some of the most powerful heroes in the universe to try and take him down. Is it enough, or are they already too late?

There has been a lot of discussion on the internet about how this series has been steadily declining in sales. I don’t know why myself. I find the series has great writing, great art, and stories that are at once self-contained and also form a bigger story. But then again, I might be biased. I came into comics when team-up books were all the rage. Therefore, I have a certain affection for them. Perhaps fans today don’t like it when the cast of a book changes with each issue. All I know, is that if they are not buying this book, they are really missing out.

Mark Waid (W), Jerry Ordway (A), DC Comics, $2.99.   Ongoing Series.

Avengers Initiative #11:

K.I.A.’s moniker stands for “Killed In Action”, and his name says it all. His death during the early days of the initiative was one of their darkest moments—in more ways than you’d expect. Now he’s back and he’s got a list he is making his way through. If you’re on the list, soon, you’d be K.I.A. too. The only thing stopping him from annihilating the Initiative are the Mighty Avengers. But will they be enough?

This is a dark ending to a dark year for this dark title. Just calling this series grim and gritty would be like calling the Atlantic Ocean just a bit damp. But the year of turmoil comes to a head here, just in time for it to take part in the Secret Invasion crossover. No rest for the wicked!

Dan Slott & Christos Gage(W), Stefano Caselli (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Captain Action #0:

It was a little before my time, but I’d like to go on the record by saying that Captain Action was one of the coolest toys ever. Back in the days before lawyers and the knowledge of how lucrative independent marketing agreements could be, this doll had the ability to transform into the biggest pop culture characters of the day, everyone from Superman to Captain America, Steve Canyon to the Phantom, and Buck Rogers to the Lone Ranger.

Captain Action returns to comics tomorrow with a team selected by an open call—Fabian Nicieza & Mark Sparacio. Nicieza’s proposal was so good that it beat out hundreds of other challengers. But will it be good enough to live up to the memory of the original toy? Because I doubt DC or Marvel will let Moonstone used Cap’s or Supes’ likeness this time around!

Fabian Nicieza (W), Mark Sparacio (A), Moonstone Books, $1.99.  Ongoing Series.

Perhapanauts #1:

It’s been a busy year for the Perhapanauts. First, they left the comfy confines of Dark Horse for the independent powerhouse that is Image. Now, they are leaving the world of the occasional miniseries and launching their first ongoing series.

For a team consisting of a chupacabra, a ghost and bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle seems like the perfect place for them to go. And go there they shall for one of their own, the Mothman named Karl, is being put on trail by a tribunal of his peers. They really don’t want his friends to interfere, so this might be the last adventure for the Perhapanauts. Wow, their first ongoing series might be over before it even began!

Todd DeZago (W), Craig Rousseau (A), Image Comics, $3.50. Ongoing Series.

DC/Wildstorm: Dreamwar #1:

Speaking of Image, remember when Wildstorm was part of it? It was Jim Lee’s contribution to the company when they all left Marvel. Now, it’s officially part of the wider DC Universe (it’s Earth-50, I believe). And this series serves to further   indoctrinate Lee’s creations more into DC continuity.

There’s bad news in the Wildstorm universe. Their Earth is being torn apart. There is also bad news for the Justice League. The destruction started as soon as they entered the Wildstorm Universe. Now the Authority and Wildcats are looking to the JLA for answers. And they’ll get them by any means necessary. There’s no way the JLA can escape and no way can they know that they really aren’t the cause of the destruction.

Keith Giffen (W), Lee Garbett (A), DC Comics, $2.99.  Six-Issue Miniseries.

X-Men: Divided We Stand #1:

Not to sound like a grumpy old man, but I remember when changing the status quo use to be cheaper. When line up changes happened, they usually happened in the pages of the regular book. I remember the “Old Order Changeth” issues of Avengers. You’d have one line-up at the start of the book and 22 pages later you’d have a different one.

But, nowadays, it just isn’t that easy. You need a miniseries or two to go along with the 5 to 6 issues of each of the series that make up a particular family of books. Too much story, or a desire to milk as much money out of fan’s wallets?

Anyway, this is the first of two issues setting the stage for the status quo change for all the X-books. It also catches us up on some of our favorite mutants from years past.

Various (W), Various (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Two-Issue Miniseries.

Worlds of Dungeons and Dragons #1:

When you think of role playing games, you think of Dungeons and Dragons. Over its 34 years of existence, D&D has spawned many imitators and spin-offs, made millions for its parent companies, and crossed over into comics on more than one occasion.

Now, just in time for the eagerly anticipated release of the 4th Edition of game, Devil’s Due is starting up a brand spanking new ongoing series.

The company previously published individual miniseries based on campaign settings such as Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance. Now, the characters introduced in those series will be united under this one ongoing. So, D&D fans will now have to buy only one comic based on the games they love.

Various (W), Various (A), Devil’s Due Publishing, $5.50. Ongoing Series.

Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle #1:

The Dabel Brothers’ rebirth continues with another popular line of novels being adapted. But this one is a little different. In this one, the novelist himself is handling the writing chores.

Harry Dresden is a private investigator. But he is also a wizard. Any time the police have a case that is a little too weird, a little too unusual, or a little too supernatural, they call on Dresden to lend a hand. This time, it is a mauling at the Lincoln Park Zoo. This isn’t simply a case of an animal getting loose. This one’s, well, a bit strange, perfect for Harry. But his poking around has made him the next target. And if he doesn’t find answers soon, all the magic in the world will not save him.

  Jim Butcher (W), Adrian Syaif (A), Dabel Brothers Productions, $2.99.  Four-Issue Miniseries.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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