April 02, 2013

Best Iron Man stories ever?

Comic Book Resources today features the Top Ten Iron Man Stories ever based on votes by readers. Some, even most, are spot-on, but a few others garner a "WTF?" So now, because absolutely no one demanded it, let's dissect the winners:

#10. “The Beginning of the End” Iron Man Volume 1 #17-23. A definite "WTF"er on the list. While I'm a huge George Tuska-on-Iron Man fan, there's nothing in this early-going tale to garner top ten status. A better substitute: "Crash and Burn" by Len Kaminski and Kev Hopgood (Iron Man vol. 1 #301-306). Shellhead, in his new "Modular Armor," takes on numerous Marvel heavy hitters of the time as a sentient computer program manipulates Tony Stark. The highlight is issue #305 with the intro of the "Hulkbuster Armor" and IM taking on, well, you-know-who (at left).

#9. “Iron Man Is Born!” Tales of Suspense #39. A definite must on this list; however, probably deserves a higher placement. Artist Don Heck was never known as one of Marvel's A-list pencillers, but he shines in this debut ish.

#8. “The Five Nightmares” Invincible Iron Man #1-7. I'm wary of putting any contemporary tale on such a list as it needs to stand the test of time. Not to mention, I stopped buying new comics years ago. I have read that writer Matt Fraction's run on IM was pretty good; maybe someday I'll get back into the fold.

#7. “Deliverance” Iron Man #182. This ultimate bottom -- and refusal to succumb -- story of Tony Stark's battle with alcoholism is probably the highlight of Denny O'Neil's run on IM. If you're not emotionally touched by this issue, you have no heart. Or soul.

#6. “World’s Most Wanted” Invincible Iron Man #8-19. See #8 above. A better substitute: Iron Man vol. 1 #281-283's "War Machine." Len Kaminski is sinfully omitted from this top ten list. Which, frankly, is insane. #281's intro of the "Variable Threat Response Battlesuit" with Kev Hopgood's pencils coupled with Bob Wiacek's inks is reminiscient of Mike Friedrich's "rah rah!"-style of superhero bad-assery. Alongside the, well, bad ass Masters of Silence, Stark, in the War Machine armor, tears through Justin Hammer's Pacific base and does what we've always waited for: corners the diabolical asshole. But as you'll see later (in the above-mentioned "Crash and Burn" story), Hammer gets the last laugh.

#5. “Extremis” Iron Man Volume 4 #1-6. Worthy in that artist Avi Granov's computer-generated armor design is the basis for IM's suit seen in the movies, writer Warren Ellis ups the technology curve here by making the Iron Man armor part of Tony Stark. But Ellis's political posturing induces too many yawns along the way. A better substitute: "Long Time Gone," the "filler" story featured in Iron Man vol. 1 #78. This is possibly my favorite single issue story ever, and it's well-deserved. Tony Stark reflects on his munitions making and the Vietnam War, and if you're not fighting back tears by the last few panels, well ... see #7.

#4. “Iron Monger” Iron Man #190-200. Probably rated too high on this list -- issues #190-199 are pretty weak, aside from the Stark-Rhodey Iron Battle in #192 -- nevertheless the climax in #200 is worthy all by itself. After bringing Stark to the very edge of the alcoholic abyss, Obadiah Stane now must confront a rejuvenated Tony in all-new armor -- the vaunted "Silver Centurion" model (below) which is light-years above anything he's previously created. Needless to say, it doesn't end well for Stane.

#3. “Doomquest” Iron Man #149-150. This awesome tale by the Shellhead creative team of David Micheline/Bob Layton is the first of a (spread out) series. In this opener, IM and Doc Doom time travel back to King Arthur's era, and the rest, as they say, is .... revised history.

#2. “Armor Wars” Iron Man #225-232. Actually titled "Stark Wars" (don't believe me? Just see the first page of #225), many consider this to be the ultimate Iron Man story. It's little surprise that the top three on this list are Micheline/Layton creations. Here, long-time IM villain Spymaster has stolen secret Iron Man tech and sold it to other armored characters. What follows is a desperate Tony Stark traveling the planet to "negate" (using the aptly named "negator pack") each and every last scrap of it.

#1. “Demon in a Bottle” Iron Man #120-128. Long before Denny O'Neil upped the alcoholism ante some 40 issues later, Michelinie/Layton came up with Tony Stark's possibly greatest weakness. And before a devious business rival named Stane came on the scene, there was a gent named Justin Hammer (this is his debut). These series of issues may be penciller John Romita Jr.'s best on the title, and Layton's inks give IM the definitive powerful shiny look that set the standard.

Posted by Hube at April 2, 2013 11:33 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

I remember flipping through 'Demon in a Bottle' as a kid. My oldest brother loved Iron Man, and once I was able to read I can't even tell you how many times I revisited that story line. The alcoholism stuff was obviously over my head ... but whenever I think of the definitive shellhead that's the era that comes to mind.

Posted by: Douglas Ernst at April 2, 2013 04:47 PM

Doomquest is an awesome storyline, too. I have to question the inclusion of the recent stories as well, because personally I don't think Matt Fraction is a very good writer.

Posted by: Carl at April 2, 2013 06:58 PM

I've got the DVD with every Iron Man comic on it up until 2006 and have been reading the greatest stories. I actually thought Beginning of the End was a great storyline. One of Tony Stark's Life Model Decoys takes over his life and everyone believes Tony Stark's an impostor and he's kidnapped by a greedy villain who wants Tony to impersonate himself so that our supervillain can get control of the money. Then we have Tony's heart conditioned alleviated and he begins to think about retirement and appoints a New Iron Man. More complications ensure. And because this was a Silver Age story, in 7 issues, you got a lot of story.

I will admit to a lack of reading carefully as you suggested to 281-283 and I read 291-293 and wondered why the heck you suggested them. But I will read the right ones.

Posted by: Adam Graham at April 13, 2013 01:14 AM