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  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

February 2024




Longbox Junk - Iron Man: The End

749 views • Sep 20, '22 • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog absolutely STUFFED with comic book reviews nobody asked me to write!

SO. . .
Summer is FINALLY pretty much over.  Things are starting to settle down a bit at work, and I actually have a bit more time to write about some Longbox Junk!  Let's do this!
Marvel comics has had quite a bit of success telling tales of their heroes at the end of their careers. Starting with the wildly popular "Old Man Logan" Wolverine story and moving forward from there with many more tales of superheroes past their prime.  
One can argue that DC actually started the trend with their groundbreaking "Dark Knight Returns" story about an aging Batman returning for one final ride (let's just pretend the sequels don't exist, deal?), but that's neither here nor there.
What IS here is a series of one-shot comics (and mini-series) Marvel has occasionally published since 2002 that feature the final adventures of some of their most popular heroes. . .Hulk, Wolverine, Miles Morales Spider-Man, Captain America, Doctor Strange, among others.
The comic at hand is part of that "The End" series, and showcases the high-flyin', high tech Avenger Iron Man.  So, let's head into the future a bit and see what's in store for Tony Stark at the end of his days as a superhero, shall we?  WE SHALL!


Marvel (2009)

COVER: Bob Layton
SCRIPT: Bob Layton & David Michelinie
PENCILS: Bernard Chang
INKS: Bob Layton
A very nice homage to the classic cover of Iron Man's first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39.  In a reversal of the original cover, Tony Stark is putting away the Iron Man armor instead of putting it on.  I like the bookend feel of it all.  I also really like the colors on this one.  The green circuitry in the background perfectly complements the iconic red and gold Iron Man armor!  It's a real eye catcher.
It's a simple cover, but it's a winner!  Let's get inside this thing.
We begin our tale 50 years in the future.  Tony Stark has spent more than half a century as a secret superhero and world-famous technology innovator, but now he's feeling the years bearing down. . .
Lately, Tony has been preoccupied by what may be his greatest project. . .Project Big Jump.  The world's first space elevator, which will allow orbital travel without having to use a rocket and is the first step in a solar power project that will provide the earth with unlimited energy. 
While working to complete the project as Iron Man, Tony is shocked when an unexpected earthquake threatens both the project and some of his workers.  Leaping into action, Tony manages to save the workers, but he realizes that he made several mistakes while doing so, and without a bit of luck on his side, things wouldn't have ended well. . .
Later, Tony confesses his questionable decisions during the earthquake to his wife, Senator Bethany Cabe.  He also reveals that he has a degenerative and incurable nerve condition brought on by his decades of constant neural connection to the Iron Man armor.  
Bethany suggests that maybe it's time for Tony to hang up the Iron Man armor for good before his condition gets worse.  Tony resists and his hostility to the idea pushes his wife away. . .
Knowing that his wife is right, Tony decides to concentrate fully on completing Project Big Jump while he can.  In order to accomplish this, he promotes a brilliant young protégé, Nick Travis, to Stark Universal's Head Technologist. . .taking Tony's place and allowing Stark to devote his attention to Big Jump.
Now freed of distractions, Tony throws himself into completing Project Big Jump, but as the weeks go on, an investigation of the strange earthquake at the project site reveals that it wasn't a natural accident at all. . .but was sabotage!  
Further investigation points suspicion, and then firm evidence proves that Stark's old adversary, Roxxon Energy was behind the attempted sabotage. It seems they don't like the idea of free and limitless energy.
 Tony reveals his findings to his wife and refuses to let her attempt a diplomatic solution.  He decides to take the fight to Roxxon as Iron Man!
Tony suits up as Iron Man and flies to Siberia, in the New Soviet Union.  His stealth technology allows him to penetrate the Soviet border, but as he arrives at a hidden research lab, his presence is discovered and he is confronted by the Soviet Union's own version of Iron Man, Arkady Vostok. . .The Ultra-Dynamo!
As the battle is joined, Iron Man quickly discovers that he is outmatched by Ultra-Dynamo.  His weapons and tactics are just too well known, and Dynamo's improved armor has counters to everything Tony can throw at him!
In the end, Tony takes such a savage beating that he is forced to run for his life!  Even worse, he later discovers that the battle has even further damaged his nervous system, accelerating his condition.
Disheartened and shaken by his defeat and the worsening of his nervous condition, Tony slides into a deep depression, so deep that he almost returns to the alcohol he left behind so many years ago.  But Tony remembers the strength it took to win THAT battle and realizes that he needs the same strength to quit his addiction to Iron Man.. .
Tony tells his wife that he's finally done being the hero, and it's time to rebuild their relationship, but he needs to find a replacement first, because the world still needs Iron Man.  And so, he throws himself into the search for the NEW Iron Man!
Finally, Tony realizes the answer was right in front of him all along. . .his protégé, Nick Travis.
But when he reveals his secret identity as Iron Man and makes the offer to Travis, he refuses.  
Nick protests that he's a scientist and not a superhero.  Tony doesn't take the refusal well and lashes out.  Nick tells Tony that he's not acting like much of a hero.  But he can see Tony's desperation and reluctantly agrees to undergo some training. . .for emergencies only.
And so, Tony begins to train Nick with his newest nano-particle armor, the most advanced design yet, and equipped with cutting edge weapons and technology the likes of which the world has never seen.  Tony is amazed at how quickly and naturally Nick takes to the training. . .
Unfortunately, Tony isn't the most patient teacher, and the stress of training causes a rift to grow between Tony and Nick.  Eventually Nick tells Tony he's done with it and leaves Tony hanging.
Fast forward a few weeks to the day Project Big Jump is finally finished and ready to activate.
Nick attempts to break the ice between him and Tony, but as they talk, security alarms blare and something is spotted flying in toward them!  It's Ultra-Dynamo!  The Soviet hero informs Tony that he is there to destroy him as a threat to the economy of the New Soviet Union.
Tony is unable to get to his Iron Man armor in time and is forced to run for his life. 
Nick, however, is able to quickly use the new nano-particle tech Iron Man armor and jumps to protect Tony.
Ultra-Dynamo is confident in his victory, but quickly discovers that the new armor is more than a match for him.  In the end, Nick uses the high-tech abilities of the new Iron Man armor and finally defeats Ultra-Dynamo.
Tony is impressed, as Nick has included new upgrades that even he didn't know about.  Tony and Nick make peace as they both realize they've misjudged each other.
Later, at the activation ceremony for Project Big Jump, Tony Stark publicly announces that he will be stepping down from Stark Universal and retiring with his wife aboard the space elevator's orbiting satellite station.  He also announces that the New Iron Man will remain his representative on Earth.
At the end of it all, as Tony and Bethany travel to the space station on the first orbital shuttle, Tony tells his wife that he came to realize that he was able to leave Iron Man behind for good because he finally understood that it was the man and not the machine that had accomplished all the good he had ever done.  
And so, we end the story with Tony and Bethany looking forward to a quiet future together in space.

The End.
Okay then.  There it is.  The final days of Tony Stark as Iron Man.  Let's break it on down!
Not bad.  It's interesting to me that this hero doesn't go out with a bang, but just sort of quietly. . .retires.
He realizes he's not cut out for the job anymore and just passes the mantle and leaves it all behind.
I've read a few of these "The End" one shots and this one is probably the most low-key ending for a major Marvel superhero that I've seen yet (but to be fair, I haven't read ALL of them).  Overall, even though there's a few action scenes throughout, this was a surprisingly calm and quiet end for the hero,  with a story that focuses more on Tony Stark than Iron Man.
This is hardly surprising when you look at the creative team.  
David Michelinie and Bob Layton are credited with pretty much being the team that redefined and refined Iron Man during their long creative run on the title during the late 70s and through the 80s. 
 They brought the focus in on Tony Stark as being more than a prop mask secret identity for the superhero Iron Man and as a character in his own right, which led to critically praised storylines like "Demon in a Bottle" (which this story nods back to) where Tony Stark the man and not Iron Man the machine was in the spotlight.
Michelinie and Layton are regarded as being what many consider the definitive Iron Man creative team, and I REALLY like that Marvel brought them in on this project.  And not only that but let them pretty much ignore the 30+ years of stories that came after their run ended and tell the story of the end of THEIR Iron Man!
That's right. . .this issue is a callback to the Iron Man of the 80s.  No secret Invasion, no Avengers Dissembled, no Civil Wars. . .none of that.  This story is a direct continuation and conclusion to the Iron Man story that began in 1978 and ended in 1989!  As such, it's an unexpected treat for fans of old-school Iron Man like myself.
It's a really bold and interesting move and I give Marvel credit where it's due. . .especially since the first Iron Man movie had hit big the year previous and this version of Iron Man would have been pretty much unrecognizable to movie fans looking for Iron Man comics, and maybe even to (then) current Iron Man comic fans!
 A round of applause for Marvel letting a story like this NOT tie into their hugely popular Iron Man movie and letting something be for the fans of Iron Man past. Say what you will about Disney/Marvel, but this just sort of feels special.


Overall, I found Iron Man: The End to be a surprisingly enjoyable read, especially given that the creative team was allowed to put the cap on a story that ended over 30 years ago.
 If you are a fan of old-school Iron man stories from the late 70s to the end of the 80s and you aren't aware that this issue exists or haven't read it yet. . .I say do yourself a favor and pick this one up!
It's not the greatest Iron Man story ever told, but it IS well-written, has nice art, and just feels like something special that Marvel gave to their Iron Man fans of days gone by.  
I give Iron Man: The End a Longbox Junk Gold Seal of Approval!  It's a very nice bargain bin surprise.
Up Next. . .
I just picked up a handful of Jungle Action comics from an antique store last weekend, so how about I crack one open and we head back to the 70s for a retro review?  Yeah, that sounds nice.  Let's do it!
Be there or be square!

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where comics are worth more than money.  That's my way of saying that if someone broke into my house to steal my comic collection, they'd find it more trouble on their back hauling them out than what the job would be worth  . . .BUT I DIGRESS!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. . .I'm a sort of patriotic guy.  I come from a long line of military men, and as a proud veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps myself, I tend to be a bit of a flag waver and I ain't ashamed to admit it. And with times the way they are, maybe we need to wave the flag just a little.

Wait! Wait. . .don't go!  I'm not gonna get political.  I'm just introducing the Longbox Junk "theme" for July!  It's Captain America, okay? I'm going to be looking at some Captain America comics through this month. 

BUT. . .

It IS Captain America, so if you aren't the kind to tolerate a little "AMERICA, %$#& YEAH!" in your funny books, then maybe you might want to skip the next few posts. But come back in August!

Okay, everyone in that's staying in?

Let's start this off by stepping outside of the usual Longbox Junk bargain bin finds with a little something brand new and on the shelves right now.

DC gets a bit of flak for squeezing every possible drop out of their seminal "Watchmen" series by constantly trying to add to something that doesn't really need anything added to it. But never let it be said that Marvel isn't just as guilty of the exact same thing with their own critically acclaimed series, "Marvels".

What we have here is the first of a new series of one shots trying to capitalize on what little magic is left in Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' masterwork of seeing superheroes through the eyes of the common man.

The series is called "Marvels Snapshots", and the first one out of the gate features Captain America (and The Falcon) in a continuation of Jack Kirby's 1970's "Madbomb" storyline. . .the first issue of which (Captain America #193 from 1976) got a a fine Longbox Junk Retro Review  HERE .

SO. . .

We've got a one shot walking the tightrope of adding to a fan favorite series that doesn't really need anything added to it AND trying to continue a classic Bronze Age story from one of the giants of the comic world.  It's got some work cut out for it.  Let's take a look!



MARVEL (2020)

SCRIPT:  Mark Russell
PENCILS: Ramon Perez
COVER: Alex Ross

Marvels was the series that put superstar artist Alex Ross on the mainstream map, so it's a good call in my book getting him on board to do the covers of the "Snapshots" one shots.

As far as the cover itself, it's a great portrait shot of Cap painted in Ross' trademark hyper-detailed and realistic style.  I love the determination in Cap's eyes and the grim set of his jaw!  I don't know who's about to get punched, but I can see by the look on Cap's face that they definitely deserve it.  Alex Ross is a fantastic visual storyteller and in this simple shot of Cap getting ready to deliver a New York Special, there's a story being told.

It's not the greatest Captain America cover ever, but this is definitely worthy of a turn up on the rotating "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.  Let's get inside and see what else is going on here.
Felix Waterhouse is a teenager living in a poor South Bronx neighborhood.  Extremely gifted with electronics, he's working in his father's television repair shop and trying to earn enough money to escape poverty and go to college.


The Madbomb attack hits Manhattan.  Felix's neighborhood is on the edge of the attack, but it is still devastated by the ensuing riots before Captain America manages to destroy the device causing people to go mad and attack each other.

In the aftermath of the Madbomb attack (during which Felix's mother kills his little brother), life returns to normal for most of the city.  The superheroes of New York turn their attention to new threats as the city begins to rebuild.
Unfortunately, conditions in Felix's neighborhood only get worse as the devastation of the Madbomb causes businesses to leave and gangs to move into the blocks of  abandoned and burnt out buildings.  Crime is rampant and even worse, loss of business at the T.V. repair shop means that Felix has to spend his college savings just to keep his family going.
Things are looking bleaker and bleaker for Felix until one day a mysterious man comes into the shop with a strange offer. . .he represents an organization interested in Felix's talents with electronics and will give him a good job, as well as pay for his college education.  The catch is that the organization he represents is A.I.M.  A well-known part of the villainous Hydra!
Felix declines at first, but as he sees repairs being made to the wealthier sections of the city while neighborhoods like his are ignored, he decides to take the man up on his offer.  He is taken to an elaborate secret research base hidden beneath Manhattan to begin his new life.
Felix quickly fits in with his new A.I.M. colleagues and his extraordinary talents with electronics gain the attention of his superiors.  Because of this, he is one day taken to the most restricted level to assist with problems plaguing an ultra-secret project.  When he arrives, Felix is amazed to see that A.I.M. is trying to build a massive Madbomb of their own!
As he joins the Madbomb project, Felix slowly begins to realize that by helping to create a weapon of mass destruction, his talents aren't helping make a better future for anyone, and that his whole life is now built on lies.  He decides to sabotage the Madbomb, but is caught in the act.
After Felix is informed that he knows too much and has to die, he desperately activates a pulse meant to destroy the Madbomb, but his unfinished device is stronger than he expected and the resulting effect is enough to attract the attention of Captain America, The Falcon, and Iron Man, who quickly make their way to the hidden A.I.M. base and attack!
During the battle, the Madbomb is destroyed and Felix is rescued by the superheroes.  He informs them that he is the one who disabled the bomb and Iron Man is impressed by the young man's technical know-how.  A few days later, Felix is surprised to receive a job offer from Stark Industries.  
In the end, Captain America and The Falcon help with the long-overdue reconstruction of Felix's devastated neighborhood after realizing that simply defeating a problem and then ignoring what comes afterward doesn't solve anything and sometimes makes things worse. 
Lesson taught.  Lesson learned.  The end.
What we have here is less of a Captain America story and more of a Felix Waterhouse story. . .which is a little disappointing right out of the gate considering the giant picture of Captain America on the cover and the fact that this is sold as a Captain America story.

SO. . .

Let's look at this from the angle of it being the story of a young man seduced by Hydra with Captain America and friends in a supporting role.  On THAT side of the coin, it's not a bad story.  I do like the way that it looks into the aftermath of the original Madbomb attack from Captain America #193, so as an epilogue to "Madbomb" I think this story actually does a good job.

Felix is a pretty interesting character. Seeing him put his morals aside to try to make things better, realizing that he's been seduced by lies, and finally trying to make things right is a pretty good character arc.  Yeah, it's been done before and done better, but sometimes a little "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is okay if it's done well.  Here, it's done well.

The story DOES get a little preachy toward the end as we get a healthy dose of "Superhero is forced to realize that the little people count too" moralizing.  It's not QUITE to the point of being cringeworthy, but it's pretty close to that edge.

So this story works as a sequel to Madbomb that digs in and takes a close look at the consequences of the original 1976 story from the perspective of one individual. . .but as a "Marvels" expansion, not so much.

The story of Marvels is rooted in an ordinary man's lifetime of observing Godlike beings around him without his really understanding them.  Here, the ordinary man understands MORE than the heroes.  It sort of defeats the whole point of Marvels in that these are extraordinary beings in the world of ordinary people when the ordinary person is ALSO the extraordinary in this story.

Marvels put the reader in the shoes of an ordinary person.  It made us feel the awe and wonder of seeing a man fly, or throw a car.  This story has none of the magic of Marvels and makes Captain America feel small and unimpressive as a teenager teaches him a lesson.  Maybe it was the writer's intention to make Captain America seem small instead of the powerful force rushing through an ordinary world he appeared as in Marvels. . .

I said at the top that I wasn't going to get political, but it seems to me like Captain America being humbled by a black teenager about what parts of the city got repaired first after an attack has a definite whiff of recent social justice trends to it.  It makes Captain America less of a hero and more of a representative of "privilege".  This perspective might not sit well with some readers.


In my introduction I said that this one shot had some pretty heavy work cut out for it.  Not only is it expected to add to a fan favorite story that doesn't really need anything added to it, but it ALSO is trying to be an epilogue to ANOTHER fan favorite story.
As an epilogue to "Madbomb" it works pretty well as it tells a story set in the aftermath of the original attack and after the heroes turn their attention elsewhere.  It has an interesting main character and follows a pretty good arc for a one issue story.
BUT. . .
As a "Marvels" supplement, it doesn't stick the landing.  Where Marvels is a timeless story about the awe and wonder of superhumans in the ordinary world, THIS story is firmly rooted in this particular moment in time by reducing Captain America to a representative of "privilege" that needs to be taught a lesson in social justice by the teenage protagonist.
It's not a BAD story.  But it certainly won't sit well with many Captain America fans that prefer to see the Star Spangled Avenger painted in a more heroic light.  If you are one of those fans. . .I'd say steer clear.  But if you are of the mind that there's some room in your superhero stories for a little social justice agenda, then definitely check this one out.  
Up Next. . .
More Captain America!
Steve Rogers is America's only "Super Soldier", but he hasn't been tested in the field yet.  Join me as I take a look at the story of Captain America's first N azi-Bustin' combat mission in 2011's Captain America: Fighting Avenger one shot.  SPOILER: Everything goes wrong!
Be there or be square!

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So what we have here is a relic of a time when Marvel brought back the original Captain America after a fairly lengthy absence (about 4 years) when Bucky Barnes (AKA Winter Soldier) took over as Cap.  They returned to the original numbering, but ALSO wanted a nice, shiny, collectable Captain America #1, so they ran the original numbered series and a new series starting at #1 at the same time. 

The original series (Volume 5) ended up turning into a short run of several self-contained Captain America team up stories which, while maintaining the original numbering, are listed in indica and on comic book info sites (such as this one) as separate titles.  So Captain America #633 is listed as the first issue of a "Captain America & Iron Man" three-issue mini.  It's kind of a strange thing.


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Longbox Junk - What If. . .?

7134 views • May 23, '17 • (0) Comments

I've always been a fan of alternate reality stories. . .what would have happened if THIS would have been different, or if THAT was said, and so on.  Books, movies, T.V. shows, comic books, I love it all.  It's just interesting to me considering the path not taken.  Both Marvel and DC ran with this idea. . .DC with "Elseworlds" (Coming soon to Longbox Junk) and Marvel with "What If. . .?".

Personally, I like Elseworlds better, but since I have a small handful of What If. . .? then Why Not?

WHAT IF. . .? (Marvel)

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Longbox Junk - Marvel Noir: Iron Man

6814 views • Jan 3, '17 • (0) Comments

Short Version: This is how First Wave should have been.



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