Iron Man (Vol. 4) #14

Background

This is the finale of Iron Man's contribution to Civil Ware tie-ins. As we have seen, the Knaufs have taken on the monumental task of portraying Iron Man's actions in a positive light. As it stands, Iron Man's Pro-Registration decisions have made many fans and critics decry that he is acting as villain and painfully out of character. This issue sees Iron Man take on a more active role in trying to stop the Anti-Registration forces. The fate of Happy Hogan from last issue is also revealed. Continuity buffs should note this issue takes place after Spider-Man has sufficiently healed from his injuries incurred in Civil War #5. See our rave for the continuity problems this aspect has raised.

Story Details

  Iron Man (Vol. 4) #14
Summary: Spider-Man appears
Articles: Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn) (Cameo)

Tony Stark meets with his Pro-Registration army. The narration is written from the reader's perspective. Tony is first and foremost a visionary and is supremely confident in the position he has taken in opposition to Captain America. Reed Richards comes in and discusses how Captain America has been conversing with his forces through covert means. Bishop, Reed, and Tony agree to keep silent until they are able to crack the Captain's code.

Later, Tony views a training session of superheroes in Virginia. He must be everywhere in order to fulfill his vision for America. However, Tony's personal life still takes precedence. He visits the comatose Happy Hogan and meets Pepper Potts at a New York hospital. Happy's chances of survival don't look good according to the doctors. Pepper and Tony step out to have lunch. Tony reveals he is able to track Happy's progress by using his Extremis technology. Pepper then recalls how Happy took her to the Cauliflower Boxing Club. Happy points out a man named Cobra McCoyle who was unable to fight due to old age and wear and tear. Happy retired early from boxing due to the example of McCoyle. Pepper, obviously in despair over the memory, pleads for Tony to kill Happy. Pepper leaves in a huff when Tony refuses because it would weigh on his conscience.

Tony then builds a device that hacks into Captain America's communication system. He intimates to Steve that they should meet at Yankee Stadium alone to talk out their differences without attempts at arrest being made. When they meet, Iron Man asks Captain America point blank if he had anything to do with Happy's plight. The Punisher's name is broached but before Cap can answer, anti-registration heroes attack Iron Man. Silhouette appears and teleports Captain America out of the battle. This leaves Luke Cage and Spider- Man (the prominent heroes present) to deal with Iron Man. Iron Man asks how Luke's wife, Jessica, is doing. He replies she is fine. Iron Man then quickly removes Cage from the battle. Tony then deflates Spider-Man's bravado by informing him that the technology of the red and gold costume allowed him to develop his own spider-sense. Iron Man uses this advantage to blast Spider Man with a repulsor beam. Tony feels betrayed by Spider-Man. He wants to arrest them all but he is a man of his word. He lets the defeated heroes leave.

Back at Stark Tower, Tony pours himself a bottle of whiskey. Right before the drink goes to his lips an invisible force strikes the glass from his hand. The Invisible Woman appears and informs him that alcohol isn't the answer to Tony's problems. She has followed Tony in the hopes of getting him to stop his crusade and return Reed to her. She believes that Reed has sided with Tony because he idolizes him and fails to see how wrong the registration act is. Tony angrily believes Sue is misguided in her beliefs and defends Reed's motivations for siding with the Pro-Registration movement. Sue explodes that everyone has been hurt in this war, except for Tony. She was following him when Tony visited Pepper and Happy at the hospital. Tony clenches his fist and punches a nearby window. His fist bleeding, he asks Sue to leave. She obliges as Tony looks more alone than ever.

Tony pours the whiskey down the sink. He silently prays. His praying is juxtaposed with Reed putting his children to bed and Spider-Man staring at his mask in bed. The last scene returns to Happy at the hospital. He lies there in critical condition but without warning the life support system shuts off. Happy dies peacefully in his sleep.

General Comments

Contrary to last issue, Iron Man #14 really stepped up its game. I am still firmly with Captain America's Anti-Registration Movement but was impressed by the perspective the Knaufs finally gave to Tony. Many of Marvel's writers are clearly share Captain America's perspective. Even writers that have been forced to sublimate their anti-registration views to Pro-Registration characters still shine through (i.e. Dan Slott's She-Hulk and Brian Reed's Ms. Marvel). In this respect the Knaufs have a huge hurdle to overcome. Whatever their views on the Superhuman Registration Act, Iron Man is too much of an important character to shy away from his actual agenda. Thus, strong motivations for the benefits and efficacy of registration must be presented in an innocent light.

Unlike last issue, the Knaufs shift Tony's perspective from whining to a more sober outlook. A rich playboy who has access to the most advanced body armor in the world should not be written with a "woe is me" attitude. The Knaufs have wisely chosen to switch gears. Here, Tony is well aware of the implications the Act has created for his friendships and position in the superhero community. It's not easy to be the Golden Avenger right now but Tony is written as an eternal optimist. Thus, the believability factor for Tony's position goes up exponentially.

The scene with Sue that essentially ends the issue is a great way to tie things up while showing the hard choices that Tony has to make. The death of Happy (while controversial) represents the extinction of the old guard. Iron Man's roots as a Silver Age figure have tended to always be at the forefront, even when confronting mature themes (i.e. Armor Wars, Demon in A Bottle). Rightly or wrongly, Iron Man has turned away from his roots due to his role in Civil War. Happy's death is not quickly brushed aside. If Happy's death sticks I think it was a rather touching send-off. Pepper's meeting with Tony showed off that she is anything but a one-dimensional character.

I had some problems with Iron Man's quick battle with the Anti-Registration forces. I am well aware that Iron Man is an A-class superhero but could Spidey and Luke Cage act any more pathetic? If Captain America is the best tactician in the Marvel Universe than how did his troops get so soundly trounced? Then again, this could be the Knaufs getting revenge on the rather poor portrayal of Iron Man in the other Civil War tie- ins. Either way, the battle was a bit too dubious for my tastes.

Overall Rating

This issue was about as good as a Civil War tie-in gets that features Iron Man. It is hard to feel sympathy for the Pro-Registration movement but the Knaufs did a nice job without becoming too heavy handed (something that JMS has done in the Amazing Spider-Man title in my opinion). The Iron Man supporting cast and Civil War players both get moments to shine. The minuses are for a questionable battle and for sometimes clunky transitions. Nevertheless, issue #14 gets my seal of approval.

Footnote

After a few fill-in reviews, I have now become the permanent reviewer of Iron Man. I hope that readers enjoy my reviewing style. Please send feedback as I love to debate the merits and stylistic choices of my review. I'm sure I'll be revisiting Iron Man soon due to his deteriorated relationship with Peter.