Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #20

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Other People's Villains

This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

The cover of the Amazing Spider-Man Annual #20, 1986 proclaims, "He's back! The Iron Man of 2020!" But where did he appear in the first place? Not in the pages of Iron Man, although this issue also features an OPV who did fight old Shellhead in his first appearance way back in Tales of Suspense #45, September 1963.

The Iron Man of 2020 first appears in Machine Man Vol. 2 #2-4, November 1984-January 1985. He is Arno Stark who claims to have "purchased the exclusive rights to the name and this armor after the original Iron Man's tragic death". Arno's armor is much nastier looking than Tony Stark's previous design, with what look like big gears built into his shoulders and a fanged mouth built into the mask. At the time of this story, Sunset Bain, a previous Machine Man villain, has used robotics to build Baintronics, Inc. the most powerful and oppressive business in the world. Sunset hires Arno to take care of Machine Man but Machine Man clobbers the Iron Man of 2020 instead.

In Detail...

"Man of the Year"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #20
Year 1986 : SM Title
Summary: Iron Man Of 2020
Editor:  Jim Owsley
Writer:  Ken McDonald
Pencils:  Mark Beachum
Inker:  Bob Wiacek
Cover Art:  Bob Wiacek
Original Story:  Fred Schiller
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Review
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Bambi, Candi, and Randi, Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

Our current story appears over a year later but actually begins five years before the Machine Man tale. As the opening line of the story says, "Welcome to the year 2015" which I suspect makes Arno the Iron Man of 2015 instead. We are further told that his armor makes this Iron Man "the single most dangerous man on the planet" but you couldn't tell that by what he's doing now. Arno Stark is flexing and posing, showing off his muscles (within his metal armor) to a couple of photographers. They are clicking shots with their futuristic- looking cameras because Arno is the "inventor of the first workable time displacement device and front runner for Time Magazine's "Man of the Year" award". (I don't want to harp on this point but the trouble with any futuristic tale is that they usually get the details wrong as the future becomes the present. At this writing, 2015 is still 11 years away but we're 18 years closer than we were at the time of this issue and we already know that Time now gives out the "Person of the Year". The cameras look sort of clunky and non-digital, too.) One photographer asks Arno how he feels about being nominated for Time's award. "Ever since I purchased Stark Enterprises from the late Tony Stark's estate, I've kept my head buried in the lab", Arno replies, "refining Stark's rather crude designs, developing new technologies. Far as I'm concerned, it's high time someone noticed!"

Just then a call comes through for Arno on "Comlink Three" which turns out to be a video monitor on a metal stalk hanging off of a huge machine. The caller is Arno's African-American wife Cynthia who is holding their son in her arms. Cynthia is displeased because Arno has an appointment to spend the weekend with them and he hasn't shown up. As Arno tries to mollify Cynthia, a call comes through from his assistant Hawk. Cynthia tells Arno to ignore Hawk. "If not for us, you'd have no pictures on your desk!" she says. But Hawk is apparently calling from the next room or something because he turns up by Arno's side in the next panel. Arno hangs up on Cynthia even as she is in the midst of telling him, "Don't you dare..."

Hawk has called Arno to remind him that he is expected in Lab B. That's where the time machine is stashed. Arno knows that the machine still has "a few bugs in it". As he flies to the lab, he thinks about how he must iron out those bugs before the Man of the Year voting and about how he is forced to build munitions to make money. He briefly wonders what Cynthia wanted but then decides, "Oh well, I'll send her roses". Hawk screams at him over his intercom but Arno tells him to shut up. "I'm on my way", he says.

As Arno continues his flight to Lab B, he thinks about how he invested his father's fortune in Stark's designs, thereby giving us a little more in the way of back-story. Now, he lands, with Hawk still barking orders over the intercom. Rollerblades protrude from his boots and he skates down a hallway where he hooks up with Hawk who has somehow gotten to the lab faster than he has. Hawk is a mostly bald man with white tufts of hair, wearing an orange lab coat. He tells Arno to clean up his act for his meeting with the military since they are the ones providing him the means to work on time machines and Time Magazine awards. He asks Arno to "at least retract the roller skates" then adds, "Decorum is essential to good business practices" even as Arno skates a circle around him and then sticks his thumbs in his ears and does the moose-ears at him as he skates backward toward his meeting with the brass.

Stark is far more serious by the time he hooks up with the two military men in Lab B. But he is also a few minutes late, which doesn't please the General. ("General, I can recalibrate my time data charts so that Mr. Stark will in fact have arrived a few minutes early" suggests the lab's computer, which pleases the General even less.) The army boys want to talk about the huge missile right behind them. It is "Weapon MK-3" known as "the planet buster bomb". It is a brand-new type of weapon since "all nuclear weapons were outlawed in the SALT VI agreements". (Another time blip. Apparently the Soviet Union still exists.) Arno tells the men that "the radion count over that prototype we exploded last night should be down to acceptable levels" and the General is pleased that "the ion screen you placed over the area kept the Russkies from ever knowing about it" but he still sees fit to remind Arno, "Just don't forget who's calling the shots around here".

Hawk (whose real name, we now learn, is Dr. Hawkins) rushes into the lab to tell Arno that a terrorist threat has materialized. "The leader of a radical anti-war faction has somehow gained information on that wonderful top-secret bomb you've created and he swears to destroy it and Stark Enterprises unless a full public disclosure is made by six P.M. tonight." Arno is completely unconcerned about this. A third man who has just materialized in this panel but who seems to be with the two army men declares, "Nutcases come and go" and then tells Stark that their jet is waiting. Hawk tells Arno that he should take this warning seriously. The terrorist is named Robert Saunders and he is "pretty dangerous". Hawk holds up a flatscreen that shows Saunders. He has a cyborg piece over the left side of his face that covers his left eye and fits down around his chin making him look very much like Deathlok. Arno still couldn't care less. "Take the proper precautions," he orders Hawk as he heads out of the lab, "I've got work to do". As Stark leaves, another conveniently placed video monitor on a stalk comes alive right next to Hawk. It is Cynthia Stark again trying to track down her husband since, as we already know, "He's promised to spend this weekend with Arno Jr. and me". Hawk stalls her off. "I'm really starting to hate you", Cynthia says. "Life is tough", Hawk replies, and then he cuts the link. Cynthia is outraged. She is convinced that Arno and Hawk are "in the lab having a good time" while she is stuck in a huge mansion with acres of lawn and a swimming pool, surrounded by a high spiked fence which is in turn surrounded by reporters "who all want a glimpse of the Man of the Year". Cynthia won't stand for any more of it. She puts on a white fur coat and helps Arno Jr. with the buttons on his jacket. The Chauffeur shows up at the door to tell her the car is ready. Cynthia has decided to go see Arno at his lab. "He's not getting away with standing us up again," she says. Then she and Junior climb into the back of the large "looks- nothing-like-what-a-car-will-probably-look-like-in-2015" sedan and drive away.

Over eleven hours later, the planet buster bomb has been tested and caused a big smoking crater where it landed. Computer reports predict that "72% animal life destroyed by flashburn, 13% animal life destroyed by radiation". (Which makes no sense to me. If the bomb is spewing out radiation, doesn't that make it a nuclear bomb?) The General is so geeked up that he has started talking like the Sheriff from "Smokey and the Bandit". He starts calling Arno "Boy" and declares, "15% worth'a Ruskie can fire a real nasty counter-strike". He orders Arno to "get those kill stats up" if he wants continued funding on his time machine. Arno wonders just how much he has sold out "just to grab a few headlines".

Back at Stark International, terrorist Robert Saunders has infiltrated by dressing in the orange outfit of a technician. He wears an orange hat that almost disguises the cyborg implant on the left side of his face. His warning about the bomb has gone unheeded so Saunders is planning a little payback. He sets a machine with lots of different colored buttons to "Armed" status and is about to hightail it out of there when he runs smack into Arno Junior who innocently asks, "Have you seen my daddy?" Cynthia tells her son to "stop pestering that technician". She takes Junior by the hand and leads him to Lab B. Little Arno turns back and waves at Saunders. "Good-bye, Mister!" he says. Saunders thinks about how young and innocent Junior is and he remembers his own youth and innocence. Then he remembers what happened to him and "who took that innocence away" and this prompts him to remember his mission once again.

One page later, practically everything I thought I knew is wrong. A red alert screeches through the building as Hawk informs Arno by videophone that Saunders has infiltrated Lab B (I thought Cynthia and Arno Junior were heading to Lab B) and has armed the planet buster bomb (I thought Arno and the army already set off the planet buster bomb.) Not only that but Saunders has locked himself in Lab B and is holding Cynthia hostage. (None of which makes any sense when he easily could have slipped out when he armed the device... which wasn't in Lab B... in the first place.) All of which makes Arno don his complete Iron Man armor and burst right out of the airplane flying over the blast site, ignoring the General's calls to "get back here" and "you're makin' a career decision, Mister" and heading for Stark International. (Debris flies out of the plane when Arno smashes through it but it doesn't seem to affect the plane's flight or the occupants inside or anything.)

One page later, everything I now thought I knew is wrong. Back at Stark, a huge dome is closing, sealing off all the buildings from the outside air. (I never did figure out where Lab B is compared with the rest of the buildings.) Saunders steals a flying scooter and zooms up to the dome, trying to escape before it closes up. (I thought he was supposed to be locked in Lab B with Cynthia and Arno, Jr. as hostages.) As guards shoot lasers at him, Saunders thinks about how he has only armed the bomb to make the warmongers sweat. He never really plans to detonate it and will "cancel the arming sequence from his safehouse in the hills". (With what? His own personal little planet buster bomb-disarming device?) He has just about reached the crack in the dome when Iron Man 2020 appears in his airspace and crashes into him. On Arno's intercom, Hawk tells him that they still can't get into the lab, that Saunders is the only one who can get in... even though Stark has to employ the very best technicians and locksmiths,right?... and that he needs to bring him back alive. After Saunders fails to faze Arno with a "high intensity plasma bolt", Iron Man tries to snag him with his retractor beam. He misses. Saunders makes a last-ditch attempt to escape the dome and it's not especially clear what happens but apparently he gets crushed between the two sides of the dome. Whatever happened exactly, Hawk says, "Robert Saunders was our only hope. Now he's spread all over the East Dome." Somehow in all of this security, two reporters have slipped in (is Arno running the shoddiest operation in multi- conglomerate history or what?) and want to know his feelings about the situation. Arno orders them out "before I throw you out". "Sheesh, some Man of the Year" thinks one reporter. "Wotta grouch" thinks the other.

Stark retires to his office to confer with Hawk. The situation is not good. The bomb is set to explode in fifty minutes. No one can get into the system without detonating the bomb. The only way to stop it is with Robert Saunder's retina patterns but Saunders is not only dead but squished all over the landscape. The FBI file on Saunders is skimpy. He has been in hiding so successfully for so long that his "last major public record" is from 35 years before. (Which would put it at 1980 rather than 1986. It appears our writer has forgotten that Iron Man 2020 is appearing in this story in 2015.) Hawk shows Arno a newspaper front page from that time with a headline reading, "The Spider-Man Menace" and showing a picture of a boy, next to which are the headings, "12 year-old honor student injured in super-hero slug-fest". Ordinarily this would make for a hopeless situation except that Arno has his own time machine.

We're fourteen pages in and still no sign of Spider-Man. Hey, wait a minute. Here he comes now. The captions tell us we have moved in time to "New York City. Today." (Meaning it's 29 years from 2015 and not 35 years unless "today" means 1980. Now I'm really confused.) Spidey, in his black costume is perched on a wall as masked bank robbers shoot at him as they run, carrying sacks of money, towards a green van. These three goons (with a fourth behind the wheel of the van) are backed up by the super-villain known as Blizzard who has used his freeze powers to create a slide of ice to skate on a la Iceman. Spidey isn't particularly impressed. He swings down and knocks out two of the henchmen while referring to Blizzard as "Snow Cone Man".

Now we've arrived at our other OPV for the issue... the fellow who actually was an Iron Man villain starting out. He first appeared in Tales of Suspense #45, September 1963 looking like a spiky Iceman (who is introduced in X-Men #1 in the very same month) and calling himself Jack Frost (which isn't much better than "Snow Cone Man" though it was the name of a Timely Golden Age hero). He is Professor Gregor Shapanka, an employee of Tony Stark, who first tries to rob Stark's vault of his "tiny transistors" and later uses his crackpot idea of prolonging his life by freezing to create a cold suit that will allow him to move around even as the freezing extends his life. He adds an ice gun to this and becomes a super-villain. Iron Man thaws him out with a "miniature furnace". When he makes his return in Iron Man #86-87, May-June 1976, he has a fancy blue costume and calls himself Blizzard. This time Iron Man uses a "mini-dynamo" to short-circuit Shapanka's refrigeration units. Gregor has other appearances and he even teams up with Electro to battle Spidey and Daredevil in Marvel Team-Up #56, April 1977 but let's get back to the story at hand.

Spidey has his automatic camera webbed up and he actually implies that he is waltzing with the thugs instead of immediately clobbering them so that he can get more pictures of the fight. But this must be the Bizarro Spider-Man or something because he then goes on to wonder why "this Blizzard guy" is robbing banks when "I thought he was into heavier stuff". (Like trying to rob the Daily Bugle payroll in that MTU story is "heavier stuff"?) Then he actually turns his back on Blizzard ("Pardon me" he says, "Don't go away".) while he webs up the two remaining and fleeing henchmen.

Blizzard isn't at all pleased by Spidey's lackadaisical attitude. "Nobody makes fun of me, pal," he says just before firing a blast of ice from his hand which the web-slinger nimbly evades. Blizzard attacks, riding on his ice slides that he creates with his hands even as he travels. Spider-Man shoots webbing in his general direction, which Blizzard thinks has missed. But the wall-crawler's target was not Gregor but a chunk of ice hanging over his head. He pulls this chunk down, braining Blizzard. Then he webs Blizzard to the sidewalk, goes up to a nearby rooftop to gain perspective and clicks off a shot with his camera. Then he swings off, leaving a note for the arriving cops that reads, "Compliments of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man."

The Amazing One webslings his way over to the Daily Bugle. He hopes City Editor Kate Cushing will want photos of Spider-Man battling the Blizzard since his rent is late again and he needs the money. But when he thinks about the fact that his opponent was "one of the most obscure, little-known two-bit baddies" he decides that his chances are doomed. Still, he's got to try so he lands on the Bugle building roof and hits the offices as Peter Parker. Inside, a blonde secretary tells him that Kate is at the dentist and that Robbie Robertson is extremely busy. He is going to have to wait. Pete thinks about how the banks close at three and wonders whether he "should've kept one of those money bags I recovered from the heist".

He paces through the offices with his hands held behind his back until he looks behind him and sees a boy in a yellow t-shirt imitating him. This prompts him to ask a brunette secretary "Who's the elf?" She tells him that the kid is Bobby Saunders, "one of the Bugle stockholder's kids" who is currently meeting with J. Jonah Jameson. The secretary introduces Bobby to Peter Parker and Bobby turns out to be one of those annoying precocious kids that appear all too often in comics. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Parker" he says, "I'm very familiar with your work. You seem to get all those hard-to-get shots. I mean, the immediacy of the news item and the inventive camera angles you use more than make up for your work's grainy finish and poor composition." Peter is saved from this wise guy by Robbie but he doesn't get far with him. When he tells Robbie he has photos, Robbie tells him that Cushing handles those. When he tells Robbie that Cushing is at the dentist and he needs money, Robbie tells him that Cushing handles money. "See you, Robbie," says Pete. Robbie departs telling him he hopes these aren't more Spider-Man photos. "I am doomed," Peter thinks. He sits up against a desk and puts his hands in his pockets. Then he looks to his left and sees Bobby imitating him again. The snotty kid asks Pete if he has a problem and Peter explains that he needs $275.36 for rent in a hurry. ($275.36! For rent! In New York City! Where do I sign?) Just then Jonah Jameson comes out of his office and screams for "Parker!!" Jonah tells him that he needs a photographer in Geneva right away "to cover the peace talks there for Now Magazine". He wants "a topflight world-class photog on the scene right away and since I couldn't grab any of them, I'm offering the job to you". Pete doesn't even rise up to the insult. He scoots in a hurry, telling his boss, "I'll take it. And Mr. Jameson, sir... I love you." Jonah breaks the fourth wall, looks out at the reader and says, "Sometimes that kid worries me."

So, Pete gets into his Spidey duds and starts swinging for home. He knows that "these overseas shoots for Now are usually dangerous but they do pay well" and right now pay is more important. He is so juiced about the assignment that he lands in an alley next to a heavily liquored wino, lifts him up and dances with him, singing, "We're in the mo-ney". (The wino throws his bottle away after Spidey leaves and vows, "Not another drink as long as I live.") By the time he swings into Mary Jane's window, he's singing "Everything's com-ming up ro-ses". MJ, in the process of pulling out an LP to play on her fancy-looking turntable, barks at Peter for daring to swing into her place dressed up as Spider-Man. He explains (sort of) that JJJ is sending him to Geneva and that he leaves tomorrow. But MJ pulls him up short. "No, you don't" she says, "You've forgotten what tomorrow is, haven't you?" Spidey falls back on his heels as if he's going to tumble right over. "No. That's next week," he protests. But, no, it's tomorrow. Aunt May's birthday. (By the way, this means Aunt May's birthday is in August since Spidey mentioned the month back when he was sparring with Blizzard.)

The next day, Peter has all sorts of guilt going on. He always spends the day with May on her birthday but this time he is intending to duck out. He knows if he tells her he has to work that she'll understand but he also knows it stinks. "But if I don't take this job, I'll get evicted" he thinks. So, dressed in a white t-shirt and a black jacket, with a red carry-on bag over his shoulder he heads for the front door of his apartment with the intention of calling Aunt May from the airport. But as he starts to leave his place, he sees Mrs. Muggins sweeping in the hallway. She looks harmless enough to me but Pete thinks she looks "loaded for bear" so he decides he must "duck her till I get paid for this job". He slips back into his apartment, changes into his black Spidey suit and heads for the skylight in his bathroom. But his spider- sense tingles just before he opens the skylight up. A peek outside reveals his neighbors Candi and Randi sunbathing on the roof. There's no way out without being seen by them. So, Pete removes his mask, sits on the toilet and tries to come up with another idea. Soon, he has it... but as he reminds himself three times, it is "a very dumb idea".

What Peter does is walk down the hallway carrying a suitcase and his carry-on bag while dressed in his Spider-Man outfit. He walks right past Mrs. Muggins, convinced that "anyone who knows me and ran into me wearing this outfit would have [no] trouble figuring out who's under the mask". Still, there are a number of apartments in this hallway (in fact, there are so many that I think this is a development set up just for this storyline) and Mrs. Muggins won't know for certain which one he stepped out of. He almost makes it too but then Bobby Saunders shows up and barks out both that "You're Spider-Man" and that "I'm here to see Peter Parker" because he's somehow gotten it into his thick little head that Pete is going to teach him to become a photographer. All of this talk attracts Mrs. Muggins' attention, so Spidey decides to get Bobby and himself out of there in a flash.

Outside of the Daily Bugle, Blizzard (now dressed in a white costume with blue boots, belt and wristbands; no mask but a hood with little doorknob shaped things covering his ears) sits waiting with his goons in a green van. Though "nailed for attempted robbery yesterday", he is already released and planning revenge against Spider-Man. He knows that the web-slinger often passes by the Bugle and, suddenly, there he is, swinging down with Bobby Saunders and letting the kid off at the Bugle entrance. Then, he takes to the webs, telling Bobby, "Got a plane to catch, pal." Blizzard sees Spidey take off and knows it is too late to catch up to him. "But we sure as heck can snatch his little friend", he says. The van does a quick u-turn and stops on a dime ("Unfortunately, the dime was in Mr. Rococo's pocket". Damn. Those old Firesign Theatre routines are still stuck in my head all these years later!) in front of Bobby. Blizzard reaches out and puts the snatch on Bobby who fights back by biting the villain. Blizzard slaps Bobby around in retaliation and hustles the kid into the van. As they expected, the bad guys hear a "Thummp!" on the roof of their vehicle. Now they expect the wall- crawler to attack. But instead the roof is ripped right off the van and Blizzard and his men are surprised to see that their attacker is Iron Man. What they don't know is that it is actually Iron Man 2020, come back in time to deal with the young Robert Saunders. So they are further surprised when Iron Man doesn't even bother to fight them. He just grabs Bobby Saunders and flies away.

This doesn't sit well with Blizzard. He has fought Iron Man in the past and has always been annoyed at the way he's been treated "like I didn't even exist". Now it's happening again and he plans to do something about it. It turns out that the police confiscated his regular Blizzard suit and the white one he is now wearing is a "new experimental model" which is, of course, "more powerful than the original". So, Blizzard powers up something awful and sends a blast of ice right into Arno Stark's back. 2020 loses control of his systems and falls, landing hard on the roof of a green bus. This could have solved Arno's problem right there if only he had landed on top of Bobby but, no, it appears that Bobby is somehow protected by the fall. Arno rises and gathers his garbled systems well enough to retaliate. Blizzard, still thinking he is fighting the kinder, gentler present-day Iron Man, rides up on one of his ice slides to close in for the attack. But he is dealing with a much nastier Iron Man; one who is fighting for his family's survival. Arno fires his repulser beams at Blizzard and essentially cuts him in two. Actually, it is hard to tell from the artwork and it is done so casually that it's hard to realize that Blizzard, a character that had been around for twenty-three years is dead. Arno momentarily regrets the necessity of the killing but he doesn't take time to think about it. Instead he touches Bobby on the cheek and aims a big ballpoint pen at the kid's eye. (If you're like me, you've completely forgotten what this is all about. But I've checked back for you and discovered that Arno went back in time to get the retinal patterns of Robert Saunders to disarm the bomb, right?) Just as Arno is about to pick up Bobby's retinal scan with his ballpoint, the pen is yanked out of his hand with a shot of webbing and ends up in Spider-Man's hand. Spidey decided to circle back to make sure Bobby got upstairs without incident and found Iron Man getting ready to poke the kid in the eye with a sharp stick. Arno tells Spidey to "stay out of this" and then fires a nasty repulser shot at the web-spinner, telling him, "Interfere and be destroyed." Spidey doesn't know what's gotten into Iron Man but he doesn't have time to think about it. A chunk of the building that was blown off by the repulser blast is heading right for Bobby. Spider-Man swings down and snags it with some webbing. Unfortunately, he drops the retinal scanner during this rescue and it smashes on the sidewalk with a "Crunnch!"

Arno is shocked by this development. He only brought one retina scanner with him, thinking the task was an easy one (but this is sloppy planning, nonetheless). He knows he could rig a new one but he doesn't have the time. Why doesn't he have the time even though he is a time traveler? Because "even though I'm traveling through time, real time continues back home. I can't cheat the clock. I've got about twenty minutes before the planet buster bomb explodes." Which, let's face it, is complete crappola. Arno should be able to spend the next thirty years sightseeing, visiting relatives, and accumulating a vintage LP collection, then get Bobby's retinal scan, and hand it to himself seconds before he needs it in 2015 if he wants but then the story sort of falls apart if you think like that.

Anyway, with only twenty minutes to go, Arno decides the only thing he can do is take Bobby with him. Spidey doesn't like the sound of that so he scoops up Bobby, gives him a piggyback ride and starts to webswing away. But Arno isn't kidding around. He fires one destructive bolt after another at the web- slinger. Spidey knows that "something's seriously wrong here" but he can't, for the life of him, figure it out. He knows that Iron Man is an Avenger and generally trustworthy. "I know this kid could be a dangerous monster from the Planet Xenon," he thinks but it bothers him that Iron Man won't even talk to him. On his side, Arno knows he is going about this wrong. "Spider-Man is obviously some sort of law-enforcement agent," he thinks. (Which strikes me as all wrong since he clearly knows whom Spider-Man is. Shouldn't he know the web- slinger's history as well?) He wishes he could stop and explain the situation, that Bobby "will grow up to be one of the deadliest terrorists of my age" but there's that convenient twenty-minute time limit again. He simply doesn't have the time to do anything but attack.

Spidey lands on a rooftop ledge as Arno closes in on him. Iron Man 2020 explains that he doesn't want to hurt the web-slinger. (This is perhaps the time when he could have explained that other stuff too, don't you think?) When Spidey asks about Bobby, IM replies, "I don't care about Saunders! As long as there's tangible remains" and fires another repulser blast that the web-slinger must avoid. Bobby is shocked to hear that Iron Man knows his name. Spidey is simply disgusted by the phrase, "tangible remains".

Spidey doesn't know what to do. "Can't keep running like this", he thinks. Arno doesn't know what to do either. "All of the armor's offensive weaponry is designed for total destruction" he thinks, "Can't confront Spider-Man directly without risking incinerating both him and Saunders!" (And again I ask... why not do exactly that? Arno has shown himself ruthless enough not to worry about killing Spidey. And killing Bobby as a child would prevent him from being a terrorist as an adult, wouldn't it?) Spidey swings past a building whose façade seems composed of giant panes of glass. IM 2020 fires at him and misses but the glass shards fly everywhere. When the web-slinger lands on a rooftop, he discovers that Bobby has been hit by "a lot of flying glass" and is "hurt bad". Spidey has seen more than enough. He strikes a dramatic pose, looking back over his shoulder with black squiggly "anger lines" radiating out of his head (and the black costume showing off his butt) and decides to take the offensive. He launches himself right at the hovering Iron Man which so surprises Arno that he hangs right there and takes it as Spidey punches him right in the armor. This combined with Blizzard's attack combined with the stress of time travel causes a malfunction and Arno lands with a "kkerr- raassh!" in a construction site. As Arno starts to rise, Spidey lands and tells the construction workers, "Back off!! He's mine!"

Arno stands on a pile of bricks caused by his fall and tries to get his systems going. His computer tells him "15.527 seconds to Emergency Defense Condition O" but Arno doesn't have fifteen seconds because Spider-Man is on top of him once again. Yelling, "You holier-than-thou hypocrite! You run around with guys like Captain America and Thor, you claim to stand for something! To represent an ideal! And then you go and treat people like dirt!" Spidey leaps and starts punching on Arno again. Arno has no chance to explain and no chance for his systems to come online as Spidey gives him a left, then a right, than another left, then another right, then another right, then another right, then ANOTHER right, then ANOTHER right, all the while smashing in Arno's armor in the helmet and the chest plate and finally smacking the Iron Man of 2020 right into and halfway through a brick wall.

Finally Spidey backs off, points a finger at the shaken Arno and tells him, "I used to respect you, admire you almost. And you... you... creep!" This gives Arno a chance to stand, hold his head and, at last, start to explain the situation. But wouldn't you know it? His time machine kicks in. Yelling, "But I had more time. I had more time!!!" Arno fades from sight. Spidey watches Iron Man disappear and wonders what went on. He doesn't even know "what we were fighting about". (But I'd love to have been in attendance whenever it was that Spidey tried to find out by asking the present-day Iron Man.)

Later at the hospital, Bobby Saunders' father enters his son's room carrying a large gift-wrapped box. Bobby is also gift-wrapped, bandaged all over his face and hands. He sits up in his hospital bed reading the latest paper, which is the same edition we saw back in the future. (You know the bit: "The Spider-Man Menace" for a headline. "12 Year-Old Honor Student Injured in Super-Hero Slug- fest".) Then he looks out his window and sees Spidey hanging upside-down looking in. Spidey can't help but feel terrible about things. The doctors have told him that "there isn't much hope for [Bobby's] face to ever heal properly". (As we know, he ends up looking like Deathlok instead.) The web- slinger enters the hospital and walks down a corridor. He wonders what to do next. He can still catch a late flight to Geneva but he doesn't want to disappoint Aunt May on her birthday. Plus he still faces eviction over that unpaid rent.

He goes to a pay phone and starts to dial. But whom should he call? Aunt May to disappoint her or Jonah Jameson to turn down the assignment? Before he can dial, a man in a brown trenchcoat approaches him and Spidey is sure it must be a cop. But it is Bobby's father, Richard Saunders, and he thanks the wall- crawler for saving his son. "Look, if there's anything I can do for you..." he begins and Spidey decides to tap him for a loan. "Ah, of course" says Richard, "How much? Ten thousand? Fifteen?" "Actually" says Spidey, "How about $275.36?" Which you'll recall, is the amount he owes Mrs. Muggins for rent.

So we never find out if Spidey went to Geneva or took Aunt May out on her birthday (though I guess we can assume he stayed with May since he got his rent money from Richard Saunders) but the story isn't quite over yet. Back in 2015, the battered Iron Man helmet sits on a barren bit of ground. Arno Stark falls to his knees behind it with tears streaming down his face. "No, no, no." he mutters to himself. He may be Time's Man of the Year, he may have just successfully used a time machine but his bomb was a little less reliable. The timing sequence was flawed and the bomb went off prematurely. Now Arno grovels at ground zero of a huge crater. Stark International and buildings for miles around are destroyed. All of the people in the blast area... Hawk, Cynthia, Arno Jr. and all the others... are dead.

It is interesting to speculate whether Bobby's adult activities are a direct result of his childhood disfigurement which means that Arno's interference in the past is just what brings about the devastation in 2015 (one of those great time travel vicious circles) but the story doesn't bother to dwell on this. Also, though it takes away from the power of the ending, I have to wonder why Arno doesn't just rebuild his time machine, go back, and do something like kill Bobby while he's still in the hospital but that sort of option is never considered. Regardless, I guess we have a pretty good idea now why Arno Stark is so damned crabby when he appears as Iron Man 2020 in that Machine Man Mini- Series. Arno has had a number of other appearances and even had his own June 1994 one-shot book but his history is not entirely known to me and, I must admit, I don't care enough to pursue it. If you want more, check out Snood's excellent Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe at www.marvunapp.com and he'll give you all of Arno's appearances.

Though you can hardly tell in the story, Gregor Shapanka is indeed dead. His suit is given to Donny Gill who becomes the new Blizzard. He first appears in Iron Man #223, October 1987 working with Blacklash and the Beetle in service to Justin Hammer.

Robert "Bobby" Saunders will be dead in 2015 and that pretty much seems to be it for him. No one has bothered to mention him since this issue.

In General...

The credits are saved until the very end with this issue and no wonder! It was all based on an original story by Fred Schiller who wrote the classic German plays "Maria Stuart" and "The Maid of Orleans" back when he was going by "Friedrich" and living in the eighteenth century. The script is by Ken McDonald who created all those Travis McGee books back when he was going by "John D." Okay, I admit it. I have no idea who these guys are and I'm not entirely sure what to say about their story either. (Or about Mark Beachum and Bob Wiacek's artwork which is a bit sketchy but features a great "black costume Spidey".) On one hand, Arno's dilemma is compelling and we get to see him go from being the cocky "Man of the Year" egotist to having his entire life destroyed. Powerful stuff. But on the other hand, the whole thing's full of plot holes, Bobby's an annoying kid, Blizzard is snuffed out so casually that we hardly even notice and we never do learn if Pete goes to Geneva or not. (Not to mention whether Mrs. Muggins figures anything out when Spidey walks down her hallway.) It pretends to be part of continuity but it isn't really. It pretends to be a Spidey story but it mostly isn't. All of which counters Arno's story enough to put me smack down in the middle.

Overall Rating...

Call it two and a half webs.