Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
Here’s the next run that did not make the Top 158 comic book runs list, but was still beloved by at least one reader out there!
Len Kaminski’s Iron Man
Iron Man #278-318
Len Kaminski took over Iron Man at an odd time – not only was his first issue right smack in the middle of a massive crossover, but he was also picking up John Byrne’s unresolved storylines.
So it is to Kaminski’s credit that he lasted on the book for a number of years.
During Kaminski’s run, he introduced the War Machine armor, which was a huge hit at the time.
I honestly don’t recall if it was in the plans to spin War Machine off as Jim Rhodes or not (it seems likely) – but that is what happened soon afterwards.
At the time, Marvel made a bold move – a move few books have ever rivaled since – TWO cover enhanced covers within three months – neither of which having any real reason to be there!!!
Then, with issue #300 – there was a new cover enhancement – that storyline had Stark’s friends team-up and each take an older Iron Man armor to fight that big bad guy, Ultimo. It was actually a pretty cool idea.
#300 was also a brand new armor – which is one of the quicker armor transitions (although you could make a good argument that the #290 armor was a work in progress with the #300 armor being the culmination)
Admittedly, the book lost a bit of a focus after #300…
But still, it was a lot better than what followed it, as Kaminski’s last issue was directly followed by the Crossing!
Marvel just recently released the first ever trade of the Kaminski run. It contains his early issues where he introduced the War Machine armor, “killed” Stark and had Rhodey become Iron Man, and then Iron Man return with Rhodey becoming War Machine. By the by, it’s been about 15 years, and I still have a problem with Stark’s motivations there in not telling Rhodey – it was FORCED, Kaminski!! FORCED!!!
Here is reader Bill on why this run is great…
Every now and then one is lucky enough to experience the joy of seeing one of your favourite characters portrayed in a way that just feels “right” to you. You have the sense that the writer really understands what makes the character in question uniquely themselves, and their view of the character makes total sense to you. In the better cases, not only is the presented characterisation completely compatible with your own understanding of the character, but it also resonates with the cumulative characterisation presented over decades by dozens of previous writers. In the best cases of all, not only does the writer’s version of the character agree with your own understanding thereof, but reading the former deepens, enhances and improves the latter.
As an audience member wishing to be entertained, ideally, you want to be presented with surprises (for entertainment; things you wouldn’t have thought of yourself) that nevertheless, upon reflection, “make sense” – in retrospect, you realise that, yes, that development or event or reaction is compatible and consistent with the character as they have always been presented; the best ones not only make sense but give one deeper insight into the character – the development or event or reaction builds constructively and organically upon the sum of previous characterisation.
I was lucky enough to experience that joy reading Len Kaminski’s run on Iron Man. Repeatedly.
There were many great issues, I’ll just mention a smattering of some of the things that made perfect sense:
* Seeing the view from inside Shellhead’s armour, complete with the armour’s SE computer operating system, drop down menus, system diagnostics, etc * Discovering that some alien technology (say, Ronan’s) could be clearly superior to even the more powerful Iron Man space armour (being only human tech)
* Dr Doom decreeing a day of mourning in Latveria when he learns Stark has died
* Tony believing in Fermat’s Last Theorem and Goedel’s Proof
* Bruce Banner being able to deduce who was in the suit, back in the days when Iron Man still had a secret identity
* The West Coast Avengers showing up to challenge the “Iron Man” seen running around after Stark’s funeral
… and some of the things I loved:
* The rich mixture of classic foes (Firepower, Justin Hammer, Ultimo, Crimson Dynamo, Mandarin and many, many more) with new (Technovore, Vor/Tex, Masters of Silence) and “new to Iron Man” (Venom, Omega Red, Shatterax)
* Following fine “Iron Man” traditions, like that (e.g. the Star Hunter in #237) of seeing a very threatening opponent vanquished and then forcing the reader to see this foe in a different, unexpected, sympathetic light (e.g. Living Laser in #289), with poignant results; or that (e.g. the issues that introduced the original underwater, orbital and stealth armours) of exploring new environments (cyberspace, the “inside” of various computers, and the internal organs of Captain America(!)), and new suits. (Was there ever a comparable run with as many new suits, and whole new styles of suits?)
* The humor, like Hercules’ dialogue in the first Galactic Storm crossover (#278), or lines like “As if things weren’t already complicated enough. I smell another one of those massive logistical nightmares where several hundred superhumans convene to figure out how to “save all humanity” coming up again…. And as usual, I’ll probably get stuck with the catering bill.” (Sidenote: as a rule, the compulsory crossover tie-ins were handled with style and grace.)
* Taking down the X-Men single-handedly (welllll, kinda
* The talk with Cap in #303, the fight with the Hulk (and its surprising but more-than-plausible conclusion) in #305, the AA meeting in #313, …
… and some things that deepened my understanding:
* Tony quoting Dylan Thomas in the middle of battle
* We learn (for the first time?) that Tony’s father was also an alcoholic
* Everyone’s dreams/visions: e.g. Rhodey’s in #284, Stark’s in #284-288, #300 and #306
I’ll finish with one personal highlight that was all three – made perfect sense, deepened my understanding, AND I loved it:
Tony’s conversation with the Goddess (from Infinity Crusade) on pages 8 and 9 of issue #294. Just… distilled perfection. It’s too long to quote here but if a better and more glorious concise explication of Anthony Stark’s world view has ever been printed, I can’t recall it.
(And this in a scene linking to a company-wide crossover… talk about making a virtue out of a necessity!)
Somewhere there’s an alternate universe where “The Crossing” never happened, and Mr Kaminski stayed on as Iron Man scribe for years longer. If I was able to request the Watcher to get me copies of comics from anywhere, that don’t exist here, they’d be near the top of the list.
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.