Friday, September 15, 2006

The Man in the Iron Mask

Mighty AvengersSo, there I was, readin' the latest issue of Wizard...

I've lost you all already, haven't I?

...okay, I was reading a glossy periodical about superhero comics, which featured a special Wizard exclusive 7-page color preview of the upcoming, 2007 post-Civil War comic Mighty Avengers. Since apparently there's no comic book Marvel publishes that isn't worthy of being several comic books Marvel publishes, this is a spin-off and accompanying monthly title to New Avengers (which continues to be a disappointment to me merely for its ongoing lack of Mike Gambit and Purdey). Seriously, I don't imagine I'll be picking up Mighty Avengers, but I've got no ill will towards it, except for the probability that it'll keep Frank Cho away from the now-apparently once-yearly Liberty Meadows.

But what is an Avengers comic without a line-up of powerful iconic heroes mixed in with a handful of second-stringer fan favorites? Nothin', I tell you! Nothin'! And in the tradition of Cap's Kooky Quartet and that team where the Beast and Moondragon were the heavy hitters, the membership is made up of heroes likely to both please and cause severe shrugging across this land. When the call goes out for "Mighty Avengers Mightily Assemble!", answering the call will be the line-up of Ms. Marvel, Sentry, Wasp (yay!), Black Widow, Ares, Wonder Man (double yay!) and Iron Man.

One of these members surprised the stuffin' out of me. No, it's not Ares.

Says me: "What the Sam Scratch is Iron Man doin' on this team?"

Don't get me wrong. I'm a long-time Iron Fan. I was there for the dopey days when the Mandarin had a "M" on his chest. I remember the name of Tony Stark's yacht (Throatwarbler Mangrove). I read along when Tony was soused in rich, buttery, Kentucky bourbon, so fully proofed you could scratch and sniff the alcohol on the comics page. I read "Spores," for Pete's sake. But there's never been a darker time for our pal Tony than right now.

Okay, okay. "The Crossing" and Teen Tony. I was blanking it out of my mind, okay? But aside from that, there's never been a darker time for Tony than right now—his manipulations and machinations have pitted hero against hero, torn teams apart, forced friends to become enemies, and shuffled a publishing schedule so dramatically that there weren't even any Marvel comics in the stores this week when I walked in with my sackful of dimes. In other words, the more Civil War goes on, the more likely it looks that Tony Stark is moving beyond redemption, that he's going to take a major fall, that his oddly out-of-character but nevertheless current canon puppeteer status is going to bring him down low, preferably under the heel of a red boot with a metal shield pressed against his neck.

In other words, I don't see how Tony can continue to be a hero in the Marvel Universe for at least a while following Civil War. The interview with Brian Michael " know?" Bendis that accompanies the Wizard preview hints at that as well:
"Who says Tony lives after Civil War? Who says he hasn't bequeathed his armor to a new generation of hero? Who says it's not Cap in the armor?"
Interesting thought. Possibly misleading. But I don't think that's Tony. I don't think that's Cap. So who's behind the iron mask in Mighty Avengers? Let's take a look at the very little evidence we have so far. He's a bit of a wise-cracker:
Mighty Avengers
Not so much a madcap jokester, by any means. But that exchange suggests a lighter, more jokey Iron Man. Someone who's used to joking during battle? Non sequiturs galore? Perhaps toning it down a little bit from the usual trademark tomfoolery? Hmmm. How about this:
Mighty Avengers
New powers? Well, I'm not as up on recent Iron Man storylines as I should be, but certainly the repulsor ray technology is as ancient as Happy Hogan, and "full form" repulsor ray technology is something I think I've definitely seen before. So is it really new to Iron Man? I don't think so. But...might it be new to this Iron Man?

I'm going to guess now, and we won't find out for months, but you can bookmark this blog entry and check back in February 2007 to see if I'm anywhere close, or if you can laugh at me for being so gullible. Because I think that's a new hero in the Iron Man armor. I think we've seen this hero before, but not as Iron Man.

This isn't a spoiler warning, 'coz I'm just guessing. But stop reading now if you don't wanna see any guesses about this storyline.



... I think the new Iron Man is Peter Parker.

Here's what I think will happen at the end of Civil War: Tony Stark will be disgraced or in exile (I hope not dead!). He'll be either in hiding or on the run for a while. And Peter Parker, who recently gave up his secret identity, needs one. He knows how to work, move, and fight in Stark armor now. Whatever his feelings towards Tony at the end of the storyline, Stark has been a mentor, confidant and friend: the father figure Peter hasn't had since the death of Uncle Ben. I believe that however Civil War shakes out, Peter is going to feel he owes a debt to Tony Stark. And he will replace that by donning the red-and-gold, by redeeming the name of the Iron Avenger. He's a bit inexperienced at the power and intense strength of the armor, so it's a learning curve for him. Since he's keeping his ID as Iron Man secret (to protect the hopefully still-around Mary Jane and May), he's going to have to ramp down the wisecracks during battles. Despite his increased strength, he's more dependent on his teammates to aid him than ever before. What does this mean for the Spider-Man titles, you ask? My guess is...almost nothing. I don't think Marvel will try to replace Peter as Spider-Man. ("Again.") After Civil War, in my scenario, Pete's still Spider-Man too. Plenty of room to appear in umpteen Spidey titles monthly and still star in Mighty Avengers and Iron Man (if there is an Iron Man series after this). He's going to have to divide his life between the publicly known Spidey and the secret new Iron Man. And let's face it, doesn't the more complicated Peter Parker's life get, the more intriguing his adventures become?

I dunno. This is all an early guess based on a couple panels in a tiny preview. Next month we might see a preview of a post-Civil War cover featuring Spidey and Irony together. But until I've been proven wrong, I think it's an interesting and dramatic twist that—if it's only a finite storyline with a definite end in eventual sight—could be kinda fun. I've got some quibbles with Civil War but I'm actually enjoying the "Spider-Man: Unmasked" storylines and how Peter and Tony's friendship have led to this point. A little shake-up is good for what ails ya, and as I think history is proven, the toys don't necessarily need to be back in place by the time of next summer's movie, do they? (They never have yet, have they?)

But what do I know? I thought Monarch was Captain Atom.

Meet me back here in five or so months and let's find out, shall we?

(singing to myself as I wander away: "Iron Man, Iron Man, does whatever an Iron can...")


Anonymous said...

I was pretty much expecting that Petey will be a new Iron Man. Tony burned all his bridges in Civil War. What would be interesting is seeing if Petey will be running Stark International also and be way in over his head.

Roland Dodds said...

What a great idea! I am now looking forward to this book. Hope you don’t mind me commenting on this post in my blog today.

EM said...

If you're buying your comics with a sack of dimes these days, you're carrying around a lotta dimes. You must be one muscular little stuffed bull!

Bully said...

Of course I don't mind you commenting. I ain't James Meeley!

Seriously, pleased as punch to add some food for thought to the comicsosphere.

Bully said...

If you're buying your comics with a sack of dimes these days

John gives me a shiny new dime for every household chore I do, so my spending money currency is mostly in dimes. i like to throw them up in the air and have them rain down on me, then I live to burrow in them like a gopher.

I do all my banking here.

Anonymous said...

Well, well, well. Color me intrigued. I've generally given up on Marvel (the exceptions are Eternals and She-Hulk, but if this is true, I'd at least read Iron Man and the appropriate Spider-books.

Of course, everything has to go back to the status quo within a year or so, but that's OK. Iron Man hasn't been interesting in years.

Mike Haseloff said...

Stark's just back on the sauce.
Nothin' to see here.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

My immediate guess was Clint Barton. He's done it before--becoming Goliath for a spell back in the seventies. It'd be a way to reintegrate him into the Avengers. Also, he's a wisenheimer and unused to massive power, so he'd fit those panels.

He's dead? Pshaw. Like that's ever stopped anybody in the Marvel U.

Though Peter is an excellent guess, and probably the right one.

Bully said...

Hawkeye is definitely a possible candidate, and a fun one too. And he's "dead" like Richard Nixon--they'll both be back.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you noticed the news that Spiderman is going back to the black costume because he is going to be changed by the events of civil war. Maybe the new Spidey won't be Peter. That's as good a reason as any to change costumes. If Peter does become Iron Man, who would be the new Spidey? My guess is Ben Reilley. Remember him? Is he still in canon? Alive?

Bully, great guess on the Parker as Iron Man thing. Barton is an obvious 2nd.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

The best possible choice?

Willie Lumpkin.

It would work on so many levels.