This is a one-and-done issue and when I read issues like this I always ask myself if going through each issue is really the best plan for this project. The goal was to go through my collection and read them through and reconnect with the sentimental memories that are attached to them. Issues like #1 and #173 are easy because they are not only milestones in my collecting history, but are fond memories that I have with my Mom and Dad, but issues like this don’t rouse the same emotional response. I didn’t want this to just become me retelling Iron Man stories. That idea’s been done, and done very well, by Tom Katers and I don’t want to do a poor copy of that.* I considered taking a new tact with this project, of reading through each comic and then only writing about the ones that struck a chord, but that didn’t feel like it was in the spirit of what I set out to do. It felt like cheating. Then it occurred to me that this issue follows television show formula and that, even though I may not have strong memories of it, there’s still something to explore. Something to comment on beyond just rehashing the story in the pages. If this issue of Iron Man were on TV it would make for a good CW show.
Here on our first page we have a girl running in the dark. There’s thunder and lightning, suddenly a foreboding shadow and… the monster is revealed! It is The Controller and he has found her! This opening scene wouldn’t out of place in an episode of Supernatural or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It even ends the page with the credits.
The more I read stories with The Controller the more it is clear to me that he is a good foil for Iron Man , especially at this point in Iron Man’s evolution.
- Just like Tony, Basil Sandhurst is infirm without his armor.
- In the opposite of Tony who uses his own brain power to make powerful armor, The Controller uses other people’s literal brain power to make his armor powerful.
- He’s a very physically powerful villain, they make a big deal about that this issue, so he’s not someone that Tony can just overpower. Tony has to out think him.
As he makes more appearances he changes to fit with the times and by the time we get to Matt Fraction’s run in 2005 The Controller has an army of drone zombies… but we’re not quite there yet.
The Controller is trying to stop our young lady, who we will call Meredith McCall, from warning Tony Stark about something and pulls out and tosses a tree stump just to get to her and make her one if his mind slaves.
Where comic books have one-and-done issues that return to the status quo at the end of twenty-two pages and TV shows have their stand-alone episodes that do the same thing. This is one of those. Have we met Meredith McCall before? No, she is a special guest start if we are using TV vocabulary. Will anything be changed when we get to the end of this issue? No, but I’m getting ahead of myself. That tree stump does what all things thrown into the air must do – it comes down…
…right in front of the car that is carrying Tony Stark and Jasper Sitwell.
Can we take a moment to talk about how strong someone has to be to pull a tree stump out of the ground? Rain and wet earth notwithstanding, tree stumps are notoriously difficult to get out of the ground. It’s easy for city-slickers like myself to forget that there’s a reason why stump pulling has a shocking large return of results on Google search. Trees don’t want to be moved and anchor themselves down pretty good. The fact that The Controller can rip one out of the ground so casually really speaks to the strength he has.
Back to our story…
Tony and Jasper are on the rocks ever since the run in with The Minotaur and Jasper’s discovery that the love of his life, Whitney Frost a.k.a. Madame Masque, is in love with Tony. Tony mentions that he is just visiting an old friend and doesn’t need his S.H.I.E.L.D. escort, but Jasper is more cautious saying that a mysterious call from a young lady from Tony’s past seems suspicious. The tree stump pretty much confirms that Jasper is right as does the scream from the woods. Jasper runs into the woods to help while Tony dons his armor from the secret compartment in his car. Side Note: I wish real cars had all the secret compartments like they do in comics and movies. I don’t know what I’d do with them, but I want them!
Iron Man, using his boot jets, finds Meredith before Jasper can (and The Controller runs off not ready to confront his old foe) which makes an emasculated Jasper Sitwell feel all the more useless.
Tony has guilt about it, but also has to maintain his cover of being both Stark and Iron Man, so Iron Man lets Jasper get Meredith back to the car while he “searches” for Tony. They drive to the sanitarium where Meredith works and we get the popular television trope – the flashback!
Forbidden love – the sweetest of all fruits. Even though Tony and Meredith are all hot for each other that one summer, after their fathers make an effort to separate them the relationship fades just like so many do. The reach the Pinewood Sanitarium and mention that Meredith was worried that Basil Sandhurst – The Controller – was planning his revenge on Stark. The director of the facility laughs it off claiming that Basil is an invalid, even showing Jasper and Tony a sleeping Basil Sandhurst.
Jasper, still feeling useless, decides that Tony probably is safe and leaves, Tony sticks around to see to Meredith. Unfortunately it was all a trick! The Controller reveals himself and that he has built a new Absorbatron! In TV we’d call this an act break or a reveal – something big to bring you back after the commercials.
Now The Controller wants Tony’s help building a new device that will make him even more powerful…
Meanwhile in the woods, Jasper can’t shake his suspicions and investigates the area where they found Meredith. There he finds a slave disc and rushes back to Pinewood.
Under the careful watch of The Controller, Tony builds the helmet Sandhurst designed. It focuses the mental energy of those attached to slave discs into powerful rays of destructive force.
Jasper rushes in and distracts The Controller just long enough for Tony to get into his Iron Man armor and there is a battle:
I really like this battle scene. Iron Man is not as physically powerful as The Controller, Iron Man even mentions that only Hulk or Thor could really slug it out with him, and just like in a good TV show we need to see the hero overcome what looks like a hopeless battle. And brains win out over brawn. Knowing that he couldn’t directly sabotage the helmet, Tony made it so that it could only handle so much power:
With the bad guy defeated we get our wrap-up where the status quo gets put back to normal (rather quickly as well):
- Villain is out-of-action and his new tech is destroyed.
- All of his victims are free and safe.
- Jasper and Tony are friendly again.
- As for Meredith and Tony’s lost romance? The final nail is hammered into that coffin when it is revealed that she is married. Stark don’t do married chicks.
I don’t think we see Meredith McCall again and the next time we see The Controller he is so different that this story is irrelevant, but just like good genre TV it filled a month and was fun to read.
See you next time!
*Seriously though, his podcasts called Tom vs. Comics are fantastic! Especially if you’re a DC Silver Age fanboy. I’m not but I listened to all of Tom vs. The Flash and I attribute it to being the main reasons why I’m enjoying The Flash television show so much right now. Yes the show is good on it’s own, but Tom and his retelling of the classic stories makes it so much better. Check it out!