A Tony Stark from a parallel Earth where the Avengers have all been killed has fashioned a new suit of Iron Man armor from an advanced Life Model Decoy. Rechristening himself "Iron Maniac", this evil Tony Stark escapes from incarceration aboard the SHIELD Hellicarrier into the skies above New York City...
Wolverine and Aunt May have a roommate-squabble in Avengers Tower regarding Logan's habit of drinking the Avenger's household milk straight from the bottle. This was a clever idea and takes advantage of the comedic possibilities inherent in the New Avengers status quo. Jarvis, of course, delivers the punchline. Funny stuff.
Captain America suddenly alerts the two Avengers present in the tower, Spider-Man and Wolverine, to the escape of Iron Maniac, who happens to be flying by them at the moment. Spidey and Wolverine engage Iron Maniac on the rooftops.
Evil Tony doesn't go down so easy, and proceeds to mop up the floor with the heroes for the next 5 pages. This involves an awesome attack by Iron Maniac when he extends his armor tendrils into Wolverine's body through the skin pores and literally starts ripping the flesh off Wolvie's unbreakable skeleton. Spidey naturally swings in to save his teammate from a bad exfoliation job, and Iron Maniac is able to snag the new metal arms of the "Iron Spidey" costume Peter has been wearing lately. Spider-Man is used as a ball-and-chain against Wolverine, exhibiting a vulnerability of Spider-Man's new toys, and they both end up on the street below. Iron Maniac closes in...
The second half of the issue deals with new super-hero Freedom Ring aka Curtis Doyle, the star of the last few issues of Team-Up. Possessing the ring-shaped fragment of a destroyed Cosmic Cube which allows the wearer to alter reality within a 15-foot radius, Doyle restores his Abomination-crippled body to full mobility and proceeds to explore his abilities with the help of a friendly Skrull he discovers is living in his apartment building.
Almost no Spider-Man in this part of the story, but the final page shows a beaten Spidey and Wolverine in the clutches of Iron Maniac.
I laughed out loud reading Aunt May's scolding of Wolverine's habits. Robert Kirkman has a good sense of comedic timing and clearly brings out his characters thoughts through their dialog. The story is a bit padded, especially when the two Avengers first chase down Iron Maniac. Roger Cruz's penciling seems rushed in places and sometimes off-character. Page 3 has a medium shot of Spider-Man and Wolverine standing next to each other drawn to look the same height, while Peter Parker should be a good seven inches taller than Logan. Page 4 is a full-page spread of Spider-Man and Wolverine hanging in mid-air that does absolutely nothing for the story. Page 8 has a panel where based on the angle in which the characters are depicted, its impossible to tell whether or not Wolverine was hit by a shot fired by Iron Maniac.
Also, it is unclear why the Avengers just attack an unknown enemy with no battle plan whatsoever. Spider-Man suggests they bring in the Sentry, and Cap responds with, "No. I don't think that's necessary." ?! This is Iron Man's "Venom" for crying out loud, and all of SHIELD couldn't hold him. Wolverine and Spider-Man just start throwing down without with the evil Tony without even trying to communicate first. How about instead of an entire page being devoted to a pin-up, there could have been a moment when Spidey at least tried to talk to the villian before hitting him. Iron Maniac wasn't even attacking anyone before Wolverine tries to stab him in the back.
The Freedom Ring half of the issue is a fun bit of character development that explores some ideas of super-heroics. There is an interesting bit of comic book self-relexive analysis when Freedom Ring and the Skrull argue about super-hero code-names being needlessly descriptive of the source of super-power, thus exposing weakness to the enemy. It is a valid point, and a humorous take on conventional comic book storytelling.
The funny dialog and smart concepts don't make up for the plot convenience and rough artwork. Kirkman and Cruz can do better than this engaging yet uneven tale. I love Iron Maniac, and any Wolverine/Spider-Man team-up is automatically cool.