Thursday, May 22, 2008

Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle by David Michelinie, Bob Layton and John Romita, Jr.

Tony Stark seems to have it all, he's the owner and CEo of an electronics and arms and armor manufacturing company, he has a different, beautiful woman on his arm every night, and he's also the hero known as Iron Man who poses as bodyguard to none other than Tony Stark. But he's not without his problems, as this cautionary tale shows.

It all begins with a secret group plotting to take over the Iron Man armor. They have managed to somehow bypass the coating that Stark put on the armor so that it cannot be controlled from afar. So far, all the group has done is test some of the systems, such as making the repeller boots fire at an inopportune moment, sending the armor on a wild ride throughout the sky. But they have bigger plans, and Tony is unaware of them.

On a flight over the Atlantic, Tony is musing over his problems with Nick Fury, and drinking martinis when the plane is hit by a flying tank. He quickly scrambles into his armor and manages to save the plane, but finds US Special Forces ships steaming to the rescue. The Commanding Officer says they were on top secret maneuvers in the area, and when Iron Man asks if they know anything about a flying tank, the man asks him to speak with his commander.

He says that there is a small island out in the middle of the ocean, too small to show up on any maps, that is used to bury radioactive waste. When they went to put a new shipment on the island, they discovered a man farming there, who wouldn't leave and attacked them when they tried to reason with him about the danger. Just when they were about to eject the man from the island, Prince Namor showed up and attacked the soldiers, leading to the flying tank incident. The commander asks Iron Man to help them deal with this "problem".

When Namor and Iron Man fight, the company messing with the armor strikes again, opening up the armor to the elements, which leads to Tony nearly drowning, as he is underwater at the time. Luckily, Namor saves him from death, but they discover that the supposed army men are lying about the island, and team up to deal with them. Unfortunately, the men behind these supposed "Navy" men decide that if they can't have the island, no one will, and proceed to blow it to smithereens, depriving the old man of both a place to live and his wife's grave.

When Tony acts as a bodyguard to a visiting dignitary, the shadowy company strikes again, setting off his hand repulsor, blowing the man apart. Tony has to deal with the fallout of himself being a murderer, as well as the shadowy company taking over his armor. He deals with it by diving into a bottle, which only creates more problems with him and for him. Can he track down the perpetrators of the problems befalling his armor and beat the spectre of the bottle without completely alienating the people around him?

This is a compilation of several disparate stories from several Iron Man comics, but while I enjoyed much of the story, the fact that this is combined from several different story lines shows. I also found that the compressed time lapse of Tony Stark dealing with his retreat into a bottle to be too neat a way of dealing with his problems. Literally, in several pages, he goes from being a drunk to being able to not drink in dealing with his problems. I found the wrap-up a little *too* neat, although his problems did continue. It seemed too pat a wrap-up to what is really a serious problem, and for me, was unsuccessful on that point.

If you like Iron Man, you will definitely want to have this graphic novel. But for people like me, who really don't care too much about the character, this is forgettable and you can do without it in your collection. It's not even a particularly enjoyable read, and I didn't find myself rooting for the character to overcome his problems. So, a big "enh" on the reading scale.

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