Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Don't Make Me Angry!, Part 25: Iron Man 2020
This is a truly strange collection. Published, no doubt, to cash in on Iron Man's big-screen success, IRON MAN 2020 is a bizarre collection that stars Arno Stark, descendant of Tony Stark, and the Iron Man of the (once) far-flung future of the year 2020. (2020 seemed like it would be centuries in the future when this character was introduced in 1984, now it's less than two years away. Thanks to Marvel for publishing this comic that makes me feel like a broke-down old fuck.)
The collection opens with a rare Marvel collected edition misstep: It starts with THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #20, which is actually the second appearance of Arno Stark...his first appearance was in the MACHINE MAN mini-series, which is the second story in this volume. Bad form, but it really doesn't matter much, as there is almost no ongoing continuity between any of the stories in this collection.
The Spider-man story has a fascinating premise, which is deftly handled: A terrorist is holding Arno Stark's wife and son hostage in 2020, and his retina-scan is needed to deactivate the deathtrap that he's set for them. Problem: Arno has just accidentally killed the terrorist. Solution: Stark travels back in time to 1986 to get the scan from the terrorist when has was an innocent twelve year-old. The act of grabbing the kid sets Stark into conflict with Spider-Man, who thinks that he's battling the Tony Stark Iron Man that he knows. (Spoiler!) The story ends with Spidey holding Arno Stark up just long enough that he returns to 2020 to find his wife and son dead, blown to bits by the bomb that he failed to stop when Spider-man destroyed his retinal scanner. This is a pretty big deal, and you'd think future appearances by Arno Stark would find him a grief-stricken man, consumed with gaining revenge on Spider-Man, who he holds responsible for the loss of his family. Not so much.....His family is never mentioned again, aside from a brief appearance by his brother-in-law, and he never gives Spider-Man another thought.
The real highlight of this book is the four-issue MACHINE MAN mini-series written by Tom DeFalco, penciled by Herb Trimpe (Issues 1-3), and gloriously inked by Barry Winsdor-Smith, who does full illustration duties on issue 4. The futuristic tale finds the long-deactivated Machine Man revived in 2020, where his former foe Sunset Bain, A.K.A. Madame Menace, has basically conquered the world. Machine Man meets old friends, makes new ones, and is drawn into conflict with Arno Stark, who makes his true first appearance in this mini-series. This tale was a lot of fun, looked GREAT, and served as a nice little bookend to the cancelled MACHINE MAN series.
Unfortunately, the rest of the collection is nowhere near as good. There's a Death's Head/Iron Man 2020 throwdown from DEATH'S HEAD #10 with nice art by Bryan Hitch, but mostly this issue served as a painful reminder that Death's Head is a great character that has been featured in awful stories.
From there, we get an IRON MAN 2020 one-shot written by Walter Simonson, which is totally forgettable, a six-part digital series that was awful, and a short, virtually unreadable tale from WHAT IF? #53 that was abominable. (It did have a snappy little ending, though.) There are some nice extras, including original Trimpe/Windsor-Smith art, covers from a few MACHINE MAN collected editions, and a few pages from MARVEL AGE. Overall, a very meh collection, made bearable by the grim Spider-Man story and the excellent MACHINE MAN mini-series. The rest of the book is just wasted potential...an interesting character that no one could be bothered to do anything interesting with.
IRON MAN 2020 earns a meager five out of ten gears: