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5. “Extremis” Iron Man Volume 4 #1-6
Warren Ellis and Adi Granov revolutionized both Iron Man’s visuals (vis a vis Granov), his origin and the very concept of “Iron Man,” as Tony is forced to use an experimental technology that literally turns him more into a machine than a man. The look and feel of these issues were instrumental in the first Iron Man film.
4. “Iron Monger” Iron Man #190-200
This arc could theoretically go back as far as Iron Man #160, but that seems like a stretch for the rules of this feature, so I figured I’d go with the trade paperback plus a couple of issues beforehand. The concept of the story is that Obadiah Stane has stolen Tony Stark’s company. Tony felt into a pit of despair and self-pity but has finally fought his way back to sobriety. James Rhodes has taken over as Iron Man in Tony’s absence and Tony is fine with that. However, the suit was not MEANT to be worn by someone else for this long, so Rhodey is beginning to crack up a bit. Tony is forced to return to the role of Iron Man, first in an an obsolete armor and later in a brand-new look just in time to take on Stane for one last battle, under Stane’s new identity, the Iron Monger! Denny O’Neil is the writer. Luke McDonnell began the story as penciler (with inks by inking team Ian Akin and Brian Garvey) but the arc is filled with different pencilers, from Rick Buckler to Sal Buscema to Herb Trimpe to finally M.D. Bright, who took over as the regular artist with issue #200 (and stayed on the title for quite a while).
3. “Doomquest” Iron Man #149-150
It is fascinating to note that Doctor Doom and Iron Man, the two most famous men in armor in Marvel Comics, had barely interacted before this story. In any event, David Michelinie, Bob Layton and John Romita Jr. quickly corrected the miscarriage of justice by giving us this fanciful action-packed story where Doom and Iron Man are accidentally transported back in time to the days of Camelot. Iron Man finds himself fighting along side King Arthur while Doom ends up with Morgan Le Fay (who promised to help him in his quest to save his mother’s soul from Hell). After their battle, the two adversaries realize that they must join forces if they are ever to return to their own time. Layton and Michelinie returned to the story exactly a hundred issues later for a sequel.
2. “Armor Wars” Iron Man #225-232
The highlight of Bob Layton and David Michelinie’s return to Iron Man, Armor Wars finds Tony Stark irate that his armor has been used to power a bad guy’s armor. He decides then that NOone can have armor that uses his technology, even past uses that he had authorized (under the theory that he cannot trust anyone to keep his technology from a third party). This naturally puts him into conflict with friend and foe alike. His old pal Steve Rogers is especially angry at Tony when Tony’s attempts to shut down the Guardsmen at the supervillain prison The Vault results in a major prison break. Similarly, Iron Man’s actions lead to the Avengers expelling him from the team. Tony Stark also publicly “fires” Iron Man (he has provided a fake identity to provide to authorities trying to hunt Iron Man down). How far will Tony take his war? What will he do when the world believes Iron Man dead? Will he just let that become the truth? M.D. Bright finished out his run as Iron Man’s layout artist with this arc (Barry Windsor Smith drew the epilogue).
1. “Demon in a Bottle” Iron Man #120-128
This storyline is now best known for the way that it has Tony Stark confront his alcoholism. However, that is really only the end of the storyline. In fact, when this story was originally collected, it was called the rather generic “The Power of Iron Man,” not “Demon in a Bottle” (this was when collecting comic book storylines in a trade paperback was still quite novel, so the generic title made a lot of sense). The story begins with the introduction of one of David Michelinie and Bob Layton’s best new characters, the villainous Justin Hammer, who is sort of a super-villain franchiser. He provides the outfits and the bad guys give a cut of their take to him. He confronts Iron Man by first causing his armor to kill someone, making Tony Stark go on the run as a murderer. During this time, Tony learns hand to hand combat from Captain America himself, since he has to be on the run as himself. Tony eventually stops Hammer’s plot, but the stress of the affair leads him to a drinking binge that forces him to confront his alcoholism, along with the help of is girlfriend, Bethany Cabe. These were a great series of stories, even forgetting the excellent addition of alocholism to Tony’s characterization, which has been a major aspect of the character ever since. John Romita Jr. did a great job on layouts while Layton’s finishes dominated the visual appearance of the book.
That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let us know!
Also, as a note, when Iron Man 3 comes out, I’ll treat you all to the top TWENTY-FIVE vote-getters!
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