December 15, 2008

Hitting Bottom In a Suit of Armor

A very special thank-you to the co-worker who was 'outsourced' being my secret Santa at work. Your efforts helped make this review possible. Thanks!

With the recent release of Secret Invasion # 8 (which I kinda sorta followed via borrowing a friend's floppies, since I wasn't too impressed with the debut), two things occurred to me - much like Mike Sterling, the greatest comics blogger in the multiverse, the whole "cabal of supervillains" smacks a little of a previous Marvel arc.

But more importantly, I had originally enjoyed the Tony-Stark-messes-it-all-up plot when it was originally presented in the Demon in a Bottle arc back in the 1980s. There, Stark was fighting SHIELD (who was buying Stark Enterprises one stock at a time) , Namor (involving an island, a castaway, and tons of vibranium), malfunctioning armor (which takes a slightly lethal turn later in the story), and the assortment of villains and plot complications done in the mighty Marvel manner.

Of course, in less than heroic fashion, Tony Stark (with disco hair!) decides to solve his problems the only way he knows how - drinking. Throwing himself into using alcohol to escape the pressures of his dual life, Stark finds that there is one nemesis who stands at the center of all of his troubles...

Reading the reprinted issues (120 - 128 of the initial run) in hardcover form, it's easy to see that although it takes on alcoholism through a superheroic framework, it is easily influenced by a much simpler, more naive time. (Although it's hard to deny that it did have an influence on comics, both in terms of later stories, as well as in casting of the movie). There is a slightly Afterschool Special tone to the story (especially in the end, where a character reveals a Hidden Secret), but in all honesty - there is a great attempt to expand essentially what is a one-note, very selfish character. Micheline's writing still has some crackle and spark, but it's Bob Layton's inks that help redeem...well, just OK art from John Romita, Jr.

It's easy to claim the historical precendence of Demon in a Bottle...but let's not get too philosophical or literacy. These are just darn good comics. Enjoy.

Highly recommended.


Roger Owen Green said...

I remember reading the series at the time and being impressed, even moved. Whether it's aged well, I can't say.

Gordon D said...

Having reread it, stylistically - it has aged somewhat (mostly old school Marvel writing); but it does contain a bit of a punch to it after all these years.