This extended story introduces The Spymaster, and we get to see him on the very first page, standing next to a dude who looks an awful lot like Mr. Spock. He’s an international thief-for-hire who basically has the same powerset as Iron Man: A suit that gives him powers to fly and shoot stuff. He’s not a spy.
Jasper Sitwell gets seriously hurt in the melee, so Iron Man hunts him down only to discover that Spymaster’s employer is The Zodiac. And it turns out, Zodiac are after Daredevil and Madam Masque. They capture them while Iron Man is working with Nick Fury to figure out what the Zodiac Key can do. The Zodiac gang figure out that their Key is in the hands of SHIELD, so they actually invade the helicarrier and get it back. Seriously. SHIELD’s base is constantly being found, raided, and robbed from.
Nick Fury should have been fired.
Anyway, this means that the whole gang can be united as Zodiac prisoners.
The sole Daredevil starts with them all being held in tubes. I tried to start a side feature here of heroes stuck in tubes, because in early Marvel that seemed to be the cage of choice for villains, but I lost all my research due to a hard drive crash and I’m not going back through all my stuff again.
And speaking of sad, how bad must Don Heck have felt when he realized his art would be stacked up against Gene Colan’s because their books were crossing over?
Anyway, the story moves from a grounded-in-reality heist tale to the Zodiac Key dimension, where we get another mention of interdimensional leopards (but apparently unrelated to the guys from Daredevil #72).
The whole thing appears to be a way to tell the origin of the Zodiac Key, which is confusing and nobody cared about it anyway. I mean, we all could have figured out it was mystical. In the end, the heroes get back to Earth and Spymaster escapes.
Iron Man secondary castmember Kevin O’Brian (who ultimately becomes The Guardian) gets a lot of facetime in these issues, by the way, apparently in order to give Iron Man a new buddy and move Jasper Sitwell out of the series. Not sure why, or why Happy Hogan had to be supplanted, either.
Masque confesses to Iron Man that she still loves Tony Stark, and, for reasons I don’t really get, he doesn’t feel like he can pursue that love interest so, instead, he decides to throw his armor down in fury and go get drunk and get laid.
This is many years before the comic book industry will be able to tell tales like Demon in a Bottle, but it’s fascinating that they started sowing the seeds for it right here.
Creators: Allyn Brodsky and Gerry Conway (writers), Don Heck, Gene Colan (Daredevil issue only)
Splash tag, fury, daredevil, iron man
For the complete history of the MU, year by year, go here.