Luke McDonnell left this book with #196, followed by a few fill-ins before new series regular Mark Bright stepped in. Bright was similar to Bob Layton in use of color and “gleam,” which was very different from McDonnell’s grittier style. But pretty much as soon as McDonnell left, Denny O’Neil’s storytelling also began to falter. The “big” #200 issue was the one they lifted from for the second half of the first Iron Man movie, but it wasn’t a keeper. The series struggled, and would continue to struggle, until Marvel tried to get the old Michelinie/Layton magic back.
It starts with some backstory about Obidiah Stane, who is now in a romantic relationship with Madame Masque (he’s kissing her above). I wish they didn’t always have to try to make villains sympathetic by showing they were abused as kids. We learn his daddy killed himself and as a result Stane was mean to dogs. But anyway,
Rhodey puts on the armor again, even though he swore off it just last issue, and he and Tony fight the various big machines Stane sends to kill him. Stane also kidnaps the supporting cast: Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts, Bethany Cabe, and even Mrs. Arbogast.
For the big finale, Tony puts on his newest (and in my opinion ugliest) armor update–the Silver Centurian suit, and fights Stane, who has become Iron Monger.
When he is defeated, rather than be captured, Stane blows his own head off with his repulsor. Just like his daddy.
Issue #201 is a “clean up”/aftermath issue, but a strange thing happens: A scientist switches Madame Masque’s mind with Bethany Cabe’s, so the two of them have a Freaky Friday. This means that Masque is on the run, a fugitive, but it’s really Cabe in her body, while Cabe, whose body is occupied by Masque, is cozy with Stark.
It’s setting the story for the next arc.
The West Coast Avengers guest star.
Creators: Denny O’Neil and Sal Buscema (#198-199), Herb Trimpe (#200), Mark Bright (#201) Grade: B-. Above average, with some good action and plotting.