This is a fun limbo contest.
Invincible Iron Man #18: Kids With Guns vs The Angel of Eternal Death and Other Bible Stories.
This first few pages just makes me hot thinking about it, and not in a positive life affirming way. In a, oh god I hate the sun like vampires do, sort of way. Tony wanders through the deserts of Afghanistan
He knows this merciless thatch of land, this jagged snarl of rocks, as though it were the room he was born in. In a way it was. Here--in Afghanistan--Tony Stark is...
Tony narration: Home. Or at least the place where it all began. I don't even know the difference anymore. All I know is... I'll be safe here.
Not if those ominous kids with the missile launcher have anything to say about it. Don't you know, in GTA 4 if the guy walks away you take his ass down!
Tony finds his way to his lab, going inside and finding a big covered thing, that sort of looks phallic but who am I to complain? It is Tony Stark. But it's probably just that first old armor, why? Because that's where this entire arc has been leading and if you didn't see that coming, then you're probably not paying attention.
Tony narration: It'll be cool and dark and I bet I have water in here--this place is perfect. The place where I came in broken and bleeding and corrupted... and emerged REBORN! EVERYONE IS GETTING REBORN!! That's the only reason I capitalized it. Because Captain America REBORN can only be done as such. This is the place where I met Ho Yinsin, a pacifist engineer that looked at me and didn't see a drunk and bloody playboy... but somebody that might be worth something. At least worth dying for... where it all began turns out to be where it'll all end. Fair enough.
Yeah yeah, Fraction. We all saw the movie too.
New York City, Avengers Tower:
Maria and Natasha sit in separate cells, both pressed against the wall and communicating with each other in Morse code. This shit actually cracks me up. Maria taps out: Y O U. T H E R E. N A T. And the reply from Natasha Potts is: D R O P. D E A D. Natasha then gets up when she here's a sound and taps out an SOS to Maria. Ms. Hand of Justice and Not!Masque are walking down the hall discussing the new captives. Yeah, okay.
Hand: "...Natasha Romanova, aka The Black Widow, was running with her... a low-level sitch that moves gray and black-market hardware gave us the heads up. Sometimes it's the smallest things, the tiniest details. With regards to those on the, shall we say, sketchier side of the law. We make tremendous success. Director Osborn just has a way, I suppose."
Masque: "Indeed he does."
Could Hand of Justice sound more like a love sick puppy? I mean really?
Hand: "Anyway, that led to a follow on the Widow and she led us to Maria Hill. Ex-Head of SHIELD turned petty fugitive on the run with some ridiculous hard drive of Stark's... well? What do you think? Doesn't look capable of causing all the trouble, does she?"
Masque: "Oh, I don't know about that. Maria Hill looks like the kind of woman capable of raising all kinds of hell if she set her mind to it."
She stands face to mask with Maria and if that's not a pep-talk then I don't know what is. That is definitely NOT Whitney Frost behind that mask. Sorry kids.
Back in Afghanistan, Tony is working on his computer to get the Iron Man going. He's inner monologuing and there's some Frankensteinesque unveiling action going on. But mostly, he's just getting sadder and it almost hurts to watch. It hurts so good! His narration is interrupted by his own bitching and complaining about how can't really do what he needs to do.
Tony Narration:Typing has become miserable. Let alone still trying to write code when I can't spell anymore.
Tony: "Dammit--c'mon. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete."
Tony Narration: I've double checked, and triple checked--
Tony: "And I think the compiler is ready to run. Get the right switches and--here goes nothing."
Tony Narration: The power surges. The machines think. And then...
Tony: "It's alive."
He stands face to face with the armor, the first gray armor that famously made him Iron Man, helped him escape imprisonment and this would be a good moment, I suppose. If it hadn't been dragged out so long. I mean, I see why it had to go for a year but this close to the home stress and I just want to see some action.
Tony narration: And it's all I have left. The Iron Man Mark Zero. The walking lung that saved my life. I built it with Yinsen and a box of scraps right here in this cave. Took it back to the States and improved it some--onboard O.S., lenses, heating and cooling systems, rudimentary repulsor weapons--and it still looks like an insanely cheap old special effect. Now it's the only Iron Man simple enough for me to operate. Good lord. A repulsor battery powerful enough--buried in a machine simple enough--to take me to the end of the line. The end of my mind. The final swipe deletion of everything I know, or ever knew, like a zeroed-out hard drive, no data left for Osborn to retrieve. No more mistakes left for him to exploit.
He muses about how he can't believe the old Iron Man even moved let alone saved his life, but now it's the key to the end of it all. He goes about unhooking it and then drops all of the cables on himself before collapsing and cursing himself for being so stupid.
Tony: "Okay, plug it in--repulsors are up and generating a big signature. Big signature means I'll be traceable. Repulsors are traceable. Okay. Okay. So before I get in the suit I have to upload the whosits into the--the thing into--into the typing--I gotta run the thing I typed into the--"
From behind there's a gunshot, Tony jerks being hit in the neckish area by... say it with me... the kids with missile luncher. They also have hand guns. Kids with guns, eh? Well done Fraction. And it's also a Gorillaz reference. You're good at this.
HAMMER OVERCOMPENSATION, somewhere over the pacific ocean:
So Flunky Walsh, who's the guy who ratted out Stark... and if I remember right, from way back in the first issue of this arc, the guy who was so glad to see Maria and Tony leave... has found: say it with me, Tony's repulsor tech signal in Afghanistan. Awesome. This guy is really trying to make himself relevant. His superior sends him up to have a little chat with Norman about having found Stark, and Norman gives him a little schpeal about getting promoted because he found Hill and God high-fiving him because he now found Stark, and he's one of them. He drank the HAMMER kool-aid that tastes like baby blood and Aqua Velva. Walsh doesn't really seem pleased.
Osborn: "I'll talk to your section chief. Make sure you get your thirty pieces of silver or whatever?"
Walsh: "My what?"
Osborn: "A joke, Walsh. Walk with me." Judas. You idiot. He's calling you Judas."
Osborn: "Walsh, c'mon. I don't ask, I order. Now come. You're my guy, Walsh. My lucky rabbit's foot. Everything that was lost is now found through you. The second Stark leaves Afghanistan, Walsh. The second he enters a country we can hunt him in without the Pentagon going all LAPD on me, you let me know the second he's out of the US theater of war. See, they won't let me near their battlefields. So I'll be in the suit and airborne. I'll come down on him like two tons of pain."
Walsh yes sirs and understood sirs until finally: "Sir, is--sir... do you have--I mean due process international law, all that. Do you have authorization to muh--to murd--to terminate Stark with that degree of prejudice?"
No, Walsh. He doesn't.
Osborn: "Tony Stark is half-dumb and on the run in the Middle-damn-East, Walsh. I'm Norman Osborn. That's all the authorization I need."
Sealed with a creepy wink...
Back in the Gorillaz Music Video:
Tony Narration: And I'm thinking--I've been shot. And I'm thinking--I got blood all over my notes. All this before I say the words:
Tony: "Who the hell are you?"
The two kids stand there with a pistol trained on him. They respond to him in Arabic which is annoying because I can't even begin to translate that.
Tony: "Don't--don't shoot me again--okay? I just--Urdu was never my strong suit... even before I wiped half my brain out and got shot in the neck..."
The kids continue to yell at him in Arabic and he types on his computer while placating them with a talk the hand gesture. The kids keep yelling until the armor starts to translate what's being said.
Kids: "Stop it, Tony Stark. Stop typing. Stop with your hands."
Tony: "Okay. You know who I am. You've got the gun and you're not afraid to use it. Now tell me what you want."
Kids: "You're Tony Stark. The great warlord. The eternal angel of death." There's the title. "The infidel architect of Hell itself. Make me great. Make me a great man of war like you."
Tony is not pleased with this. He looks surprised by their words, and almost a little hurt. Clinging to his neck, he looks at the looming Iron Man in front of him before setting his jaw in determination and turning back to the kids with guns.
Tony: "I bet you won't even need the translation for this--"
He grabs the gun still in the kid's hands, pulling it under his chin and looking at them face to face.
Tony: "No. Now kill me or get the hell out of my workshop."
On the Helicarrier:
This needs no real introduction...
Osborn: "Tony Stark. No, no. Draw it out. Enjoy it. Tony Starrrrrk. Hnn. Again. Tonnny... Stark. Anthony... Stark. Stark. Yeah... try simple. Try... Tony Stark. Well well well. Tony Starrrrk. Starrrrrrk. Yes. Of course. Just say it like you mean it, Norman. Tony Stark. I'm going to kill you."
While Osborn is talking to himself like a cliche villain, Walsh is checking for Tony's signal to see when he leaves Afghanistan.
Back there, Tony glares the kids down and they don't make a move after his ultimatum.
Tony: "You're an idiot."
He takes the gun from the kid, punches him in the face and then trains it on the other one. He point it right at the kid's forehead as the kid backs up, terrified.
He then proceeds to release the amo and toss the gun aside.
Tony: "The eternal angel of death forgives you."
He turns back to his work.
Tony: "Dammit. Bled on my stuff."
Your priorities are bigger than that right now, Stark! You're nearly brain deleted, you've been shot and you're worried about blood on your stuff? God, you're vain.
He gets suited up in the old armor and says to himself that this is it. The last mile. He blasts his way out of his lab.
Tony narration: I am Iron Man. And seven hours from Doomsday. Now I just hop I can get to Dubai and die quietly before Osborn can sic the whole of the Western hemisphere down on me...
Walsh is sitting at his terminal. He sees that Tony is on the move and prays that Ms. Hand of Justice isn't sitting at her terminal right now. He's hoping to God that he doesn't have to finish his decent into being Judas because he's misses SHIELD, remember? And he probably doesn't want to be "that guy" when Osborn inevitably loses his grip on the world. You know Walsh, you're kind of like a Nazi. When it all ends, you can tell the world you were just following orders...
See how that works out for you.
Meanwhile, Hand of Justice is not at her terminal, she's staring out the window longing for an out. At least, that's what I would be if I was Norman Osborn's personal assistant with a pseudo-punk red streak in my hair...
Off page HAMMER Flunky: "Ms. Hand? Before we destroy the find, we need your order to do it. Director Osborn has ordered all exo-mechanical suits to be--"
Hand: "Do it."
Off Page HAMMER Flunky: "When we sifted the wreckage of the Stark lab in Russia, we came across this suit. It's an old Crimson Dynamo, we think. And--and it's making a sound, ma'am. From inside. We've scanned it for--for everything--bombs. Traps. Any kind of anything and... and we wanted you to be here to see what's inside. Whatever that may--"
They slice the armor open with a laser down the middle and pry it open to reveal a brunette woman sitting up from the smoking wreckage. Hand of Justice reacts the same way that everyone does to Whitney Frost's maskless face, with a little throw up in her mouth.
Whitney: "She took my mask! Stark's wench! Stark's wench took my mask--!"
Cue Not!Masque running down the hall. By a show of hands, who isn't surprised that Potts is the one behind the mask? Yep, that's everyone. So Not!Masque stops in front of Maria's room where she's sitting on the floor cross-legged and rather smug looking for a captive. Maybe she's getting some of her sane back.
Maria: "We finally gonna get shot, or what? I could kind of use the rest. Ever since SHIELD became HAMMER and I got fired I don't have any health care and I've been having these real bad dreams lately..."
Not!Masque: "Hill... shut up."
She takes off the Masque that also apparently has an attached wig, to reveal Pepper Potts. And there's a resounding silence of not being surprised. Though, I'm not surprised, I actually liked the fact that Pepper has her own set of balls now and could kick Whitney's crazy ass. Like I really do. Make her something other than Tony's assistant and sometimes love interest with a dead husband. She got a taste of Hero in the Order and she likes it. Go Pepper!... just stop making out with Tony. It kills your cred.
Maria: "Pepper Potts? Seriously? Tony Stark's secretary?"
Personal assistant. They are vaguely different.
Maria: "I honestly don't know who Osborn is going to kill first..."
Natasha: "Now that you've infiltrated Osborn's headquarters completely alone, do you have an exfiltration strategy or--"
First of all, it's not like Pepper doesn't know this place like the back of her hand since she only worked there. That and has worked for Tony most of their adult lives. But you know, lets not give credit where credit is due or anything like that.
Pepper: "Who said I came alone?"
In Osborn's hall of stolen armors, Iron Potts activates with JARVIS:
JARVIS: "JARVIS online. Solar power reserves at 10%. Rescue rebooting. Please stand by. Uploading virus into HAMMER mainframe. Virus uploaded. Virus unpacking."
Elsewhere, the Iron Patriot stands ready to leave, while I puke in my mouth at the site of it.
Osborn: "Something's wrong. Dammit, what just... Walsh, are you there? Where is Stark going? Walsh? Where the hell is he? I'm flying blind."
Walsh: "I, uh--Roger that, uh, Director Osborn, he--there's a thing--technical thing here and I can't--that is to say, uh, Tony Stark is--is--he's going toward Pakistan--going east, sir. I can manually lay in a course for you from here."
Walsh regrets his choice and buries his face in his hands.
Iron Patriot takes to the air, after Tony's trail.
Osborn: "At last. Tony Stark dies today."
One more issue kids....
See you October 21st.