The Superhuman Registration Act has been passed. Iron Man is pro-registration and becomes the public face of the U.S. federal government. Tony Stark's long- time friendship with Steve Rogers (Captain America) has been ruined. Under Stark's guidance, Spider-Man unmasks to the public at a press conference. Pro- Registration forces are proactively rounding up heroes who refuse to register.
In addition, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Jack Koonig, has covered up an incident (Detailed in Iron Man #'s 7-12 "Execute Program"), which would severely damage Iron Man's reputation.
Issue #13 starts out with a PSA being filmed by Iron Man's Pro-Registration forces. Our narrator, Tony Stark, goes into the details behind registration and why it's necessary for a changed world affected by the Stamford tragedy. Good intentions do not always equal good results and Stark argues for the benefits of training under the auspices of the federal government. Superheroes must strive to regain a measure of trust that they lost following the chain of events that culminated at Stamford.
Spider-Man and She-Hulk are struggling to defeat a Dreadnought robot as a part of the PSA. Iron-Man's armor arrives on the scene and smacks down the overmatched Dreadnought. Stark is controlling his armor via remote control while narrating the PSA. Spider-Man is clearly shocked that Tony is able to do so many things at once. The director calls cut and demands that it needs more pathos from Stark's narration. Happy Hogan, Stark's personal bodyguard, is displeased with the director's contention.
After the filming, Tony is walking the streets of New York City and bumps into Jack Koonig. Stark enters Koonig's limousine and they have a frank conversation about recent events. Koonig appreciates Stark's position on registration. He wants Stark to consider the top command position at S.H.I.E.L.D. Stark refuses outright, citing his principled stands on registration and his desire to protect the superhero community from larger agendas. He makes a motion to leave but Koonig stops him. Koonig flatly states that it has take a lot of work to cover Stark's involvement with Yinsen (see the "Execute Program" arc). The conversation ends on an ominous note.
The scene then focuses on Karim Mahwash Najeeb, chairman of the World Islamic Peace Coalition. It appears that Najeeb is not all that he seems. He receives a call from a thug informing him that the "second of the ten" has been killed. Najeeb informs him that the Spymaster (classic Iron Man foe) will capture Naotub, the man who has evaded the thug thus far.
Tony is relaxing at the home of Sal Kennedy. Kennedy is incredulous that Stark would not accept Koonig's offer. Tony remains angry that Koonig would blackmail him. Maya (a long-time friend of Tony's - introduced in Iron Man vol. 4 #1) enters the conversation. Tony is frustrated that wide spectrum of political action groups are demanding his support. Maya and Sal suggest that Tony might be on the wrong team. Sal argues that Tony must be steadfast in his position and must be absolutely behind registration.
Tony is now watching TV coverage of the Speedball trial when Sal interrupts his thoughts. Tony is obviously not in the mood to talk. Happy wakes Tony from bed with the announcement that he missed his anniversary celebration with Pepper Potts. Tony is torn about his position on registration and pours out his feelings to Happy. On one hand, Tony knows it is the right thing to do. But, he also realizes that he's never shared the life-changing experiences that transformed men such as Spider-Man into superheroes. Tony feels uneasy about dictating the rules to these people. Happy reassures him by stating that Tony is the only one who can bridge the gap between superhumans and the general public.
Later, Happy is on the phone with Pepper detailing how he got Tony out of a funk. A red-gloved fist rudely interrupts him. The revealed Spymaster engages Happy in a fistfight. Happy manages to stop Spymaster from blowing up a plane. Spymaster states that Pepper will be next as Happy chokes him. They both fall from a balcony, with Spymaster knocked out and Happy bruised and beaten. Happy ruefully remarks "Sorry...Pepper, so sorry..." as the last panel focuses on Pepper all alone at the opera house.
We finally have some insight into Iron Man's registration views. I totally don't buy it and here is my reasoning. In the main Civil War book and all the other tie-ins thus far, Iron Man has been anything but unsure of himself. He rounds up sympathetic figures such as the Prowler and Arachne and places them in another dimension. Furthermore, Tony has ambitious plans for the superhero community. His 50-state initiative seems very much a power grab. Let's not forget that Tony had the arrogance to clone a god and send the Hulk into outer space. Tony's past actions undercuts any sympathy that is engendered in this issue.
Tony's "soul-searching" conversations portray him as a whining, privileged brat. An unintentional moment of clarity occurs for the writers near the end of the issue. Tony wonders if he's qualified to speak for the superhero community. The Knauf brothers actually reinforce Iron Man's deficient leadership qualities by arguing for them. Yes Tony, you don't know what it's like to be Spider-Man and Captain America. So stop believing that you can actually empathize with them while stabbing them in the back! In other plot developments, Koonig is up to no good, but I could care less if Tony gets played for a fool. He simply deserves it after what he has done to Captain America's Secret Avengers. Happy is undeservedly used as Tony's yes-man in this issue.
On the plus side, the art here is competent and solidly executed. The opening PSA scene actually galvanized my hopes that this would be a competent issue. Iron Man's coolness factor is used to full-effect here. However, this good start was quickly undermined by Tony's personal "drama" and lost in the shuffle.
Issue #13 is a jumbled mess. There is a grocery list of things wrong with this Civil War tie-in. Missed plot opportunities, a badly characterized supporting cast, and a dubious ending all left a sour taste in my mouth. Let's hope issue #14 can provide some semblance of order. Only devoted fans of Iron Man should be buying this issue.