When we last read TONY STARK: GOING FULL RETARD, Tony was in a Gorillaz music video before heading off to Dubai to end his deletion process, Osborn was hot on his tail. And Pepper-Not-Masque-Potts was helping Maria and Natasha Potts escape the clutches of HAMMER while Hand of Justice found Masque inside the Crimson Dynamo armor and JARVIS released a virus to render the Iron Man armors useless.
Invincible Iron Man #19: Into the White (Einstein on the Beach)
New York City
A HAMMER doctor is talking to Hand of Justice about Masque's condition. She's curled up, bald with what looks like a hockey mask on to cover that hideous face of hers. She's dehydrated after being locked in that thing for nine hours, she also has burns, abrasions, three broken bones. And the who ever she's being impersonated by is still at large.
Like you haven't figured out it's Pepper yet? I mean really?! The last person who supposedly saw Potts alive last was the imposter Masque... you haven't put two and two together yet? These HAMMER people are dumb, the sad part is they used to work for SHIELD...
The doctor asks if Hand of Justice has told Osborn yet, and she isn't really listening. She's just realized that maybe taking the job as Osborn's answer to Potts wasn't the best idea since where Stark would just fire you; Osborn will hang you by your toe nails and kick you in the face while he giggles for your wrong doing. She says she heard him and that she hasn't told him yet because she needs to kill the imposter first, or else everyone dies.
Disheartenment in the key of Osborn.
Meanwhile, in a random hallway
Maria, Natasha Potts and Pepper Potts (who are still indistinguishable from each other. The only reason I know Maria is Maria is she has black hair) are standing against a wall in their skin tight ensembles. Of course, Fraction... they fight crime in little to nothing...
The Potts twins are on the look out as some HAMMER flunkies are on the other side of the wall, being useless.
Maria: "Pepper Potts."
Maria: "We're being rescued by Pepper Potts."
At this point, they're facing each other and having a bitch fest with Natasha Potts in the middle looking like daddy just hit mommy at the dinner table and now they're forced to eat in awkward silence.
Maria: "Tony Stark's secre--"
Pepper: "Yes, Hill. That's right. The former Director of SHIELD is getting rescued by the former secretary of Tony Stark. Would you rather go back to your cell and work out your own escape plan? Because you and the Black Widow here weren't doing so hot."
Natasha: "Shut up, Hill. Nobody has any problems here at all, Pepper, thank you, in fact."
Maria: "You waltzed in here alone to grab us and now we're out--I was just wondering when the shooting would start."
Pepper: "That's just it. No shooting."
They've made it into an elevator now and Pepper is putting the mask back and hair piece back on to be Not!Masque again.
Pepper: "We're just going to walk out the front door. Just Madame Masque and her prisoners... And I told you--I didn't come here alone. JARVIS? I know you're awake now..."
Eighty-Two Floors above:
Iron Potts stands over a pile of collapsed Iron Man armors ready to fight another day, like the badass piece of machinery it is. Like, this is the sentient armor but much cooler and not even remotely creepy.
JARVIS: "Ah, Ms. Potts. Lovely to hear your voice again. I've executed full-body control of the rescue armor and have just located the Stark Drive."
Pepper: "Excellent. Have they managed to do anything with it?"
JARVIS: "No, Ma'am. The decryption should keep from working for about... 750,000 years."
Pepper: "Great. What about the virus?"
JARVIS: "I've just uploaded our viral payload to Osborn's extant Stark Tech. Shall you be fetching the drive?"
Pepper: "Yes. Where?"
JARVIS: "It's on the thirty third floor. Room nine."
Pepper: "Okay--we're almost to the lobby now. We can--"
Before she finishes, Hand of Justice announces a code red and to lock down the tower. She authorizes HAMMER goons to terminate them on sight which, was the best case for them right? Osborn would probably torture them by making them all look at his hair and try to figure out how it's genetically possible. JARVIS says he retrieve them or the drive but Pepper sends him after the drive. The drive is what they need and if the girls are already screwed, JARVIS needs to screw Osborn.
Osborn is flying over Pakistan and bitching to Walsh about his location. Walsh claims to be having trouble with the Stark tech and locating Tony. Walsh feeds him coordinates to continue going south by southeast (except if you knew a map and where Tony is heading, that's the opposite direction). Walsh is having second thoughts about being a rat. Osborn is convinced something is wrong and tries to get in contact with Hand of Justice who isn't answering him.
Walsh: "Um, sir? I, uh--I think she's busy at the--"
Osborn: "--so busy she doesn't have time to talk to her boss, Walsh? Too busy for the man that single-handedly beat back the Skrull Invasion of Earth? Too busy for the leader of the Avengers? Too busy for the Iron Patriot?"
Oh Osborn, your temper tantrums make me giggle like no ones business. You're such a little bitch. You're the Veruca Salt of Marvel. I want a golden goose that lays golden eggs and I want it now!
Osborn: "Where? Is? STARK?"
He emphasizes his hissy with a repulsor blast. Mature, really.
Stark is bouncing along in the old original gray armor. I'm not joking. He's bouncing around. Leaping like a kangaroo. A big, metal, kangaroo. With no nose.
Tony narration: Keep--keep moving, Tony--keep--keep moving.
Tony: "Just keep moving. Almost done. Almost to Dubai. Almost--"
Walsh's superior catches on that Walsh is sending Osborn in the wrong direction. He arrests Walsh for not being a team player, which I guess you're supposed to feel bad for him, but I don't because he's been a jerk since the beginning of this run and I think he's getting his just desserts. Whatever. So this new guy who is unfortunately named Gormley and sort of looks like Peter Sellers on a bad day. He's also Osborn's kind of guy as he sets him in the right direction to find Stark. Great. This will only end in tears and blood shed, but I think we knew that.
He finally gets Hand of Justice to answer him, and this is all very boring now. Can we just get to the action? I want to see some shit go down. 18 issues I had to wait for the shit to go down and now I have to put up with ten pages of boring chatter and Osborn being whiney and then gloating? I WANNA SEE SOME DAMAGE. THE BEST THING WE'VE HAD TO A FIGHT IN THIS ARC WAS TONY VS NAMOR (and I guess Shockwave, but that was a pretty lame battle) AND WELL... IT'S NAMOR!! COME ONE MAN!!!
*RAGE BLACK OUT!*
Hand of Justice is surprised how calm Osborn sounds even calls him chipper. This is how Osborn responds...
Osborn: "I'm twenty-six minutes away from Tony Stark and that precious little mind of his. Twenty-six minutes away from the world's smartest man," (Reed Richards is here now?) "from punishing that stupid little brat that's made me chase him half way around the world like an idiot. So yes, Ms Hand. I think we can safely put today in the win column."
Well then. Stupid little brat, huh? See? The maturity here...
Back in the tower elevator:
The girls are still corner in the elevator and Pepper tells Natasha Potts to push the elevator button and pray, while she takes care of the guards. The HAMMER guys yell fire on the women. Pepper uses her arc reactor for... something that isn't really clear, but apparently she can tear apart metal with it? Well that doesn't work apparently because the doors shut and they nearly get widdled with buwwets!
Pepper checks in wit JARVIS who has now hacked the systems in the tower, no one is doing anything without their say so. And the girls make a plan. Pepper's going to get the Iron Potts, Maria and Natasha Potts are going after the drive. No meets ups. They just run and hope to see each other again. And if not, they die trying. Which, according to Natasha Potts, is pretty likely.
Well then... there go Tony's Angels.
Tony's tired of jumping around like Iron Kangaroo. He can't do it anymore. He's out of power and energy.
Tony narration: --can't fly no more--can't jump--can't--can only--run--let the thing do its thing and--keep run--run good--
So painful. He's so retarded now. And Osborn is closing in behind him. Tony is literally a sitting target. He's just standing there oblivious to the trouble of behind him. Oh this is going to hurt and it's exactly the action I've been damn waiting for.
Osborn: "Oh, God--That tin can doesn't even have radar--SSSSTTTAAAARRRRKKK!!"
Osborn fires on Tony with repulsors and little rockets from his shoulders. Tony just deflects them, he doesn't fire back or move to aggress. He's sort of running away.
Osborn: "Give me just a second of silence. So i can enjoy this, y'know? If you start talking right now you'll ruin this next part..."
Tony: "Something. Something wrong."
His forehead is bleeding already as Iron Patriot comes into full few, dropping down to the ground on the same level as Tony and the gray armor. Tony backs away from Osborn.
Osborn: "Really, Stark? Really? Not even going to acknowledge the paint job? I won't lie to you, Tony, I really went out of my way to try and piss you off with this thing. And you're giving me nothing here. C'mon."
Saying "really" is my thing! Fuck you, Osborn. You can't have it! Go back to crazy town and run things there with Mayor McCheese!
Tony: "Gotta. Gotta go. Gotta--"
Osborn fires on him with more repulsors.
Osborn: "FIGHT ME!"
The 33rd floor of Avengers Tower:
The girls are in the elevator. Natasha Potts questions what's on the hard drive but Maria never asked because she's a soldier and they don't ask questions, just follow the boss's orders. Pepper doesn't give any input but she probably doesn't know either. They finally split up to go and reek havoc on HAMMER in their own little suicide plan. Good morning, Angels.
Maria and Natasha Potts head down the hallway and sneak passed some windows before kicking open a door ninja style. They stand in fighting stance ready to take on whoever wants to go with them. It's pretty badass and Maria seems to be back in fighting form. Go Maria!
Maria: "C'mon--who wants some?"
Random Scientist: "Um. We could plug it in but nothing happened and we don't know why. So... please don't hurt us?"
Pussies. All of them. Angels 1, HAMMER 0.
Tony is down for the count on the desert floor and bleeding from various head wounds now. He's sad and pathetic and now you really start to see the extent of what he's done to himself full swing. He's mentally obliterated and running on basic instinct at this point. Go where you need to go and don't stop until you get there.
Tony: "Don' wanna fight. Get up. Gotta go."
He tries to get up but Osborn grabs him by the throat and tosses him down again with force. He cracks the ground with the blow of his body before Osborn picks him up again and holds him in the air by the neck of the armor.
Osborn: "Stark, come on. Are you kidding me? I mean, Masque--whoever it is you've got pretending to be Masque, anyway--said you were losing it but this proto-Hulk patois is just cliched... I'm not going to let you walk away with all those secrets in your head. All that technology, all the identities of all your friends... I'm a little offended that I've so clearly beaten you and yet you can't even be bothered to look me in the eyes..."
Osborn: "My God. He's really gone..."
He blasts Tony with another repuslor, sending him flying backwards against the ground, before going up into the air to bring down the fury against Tony while he's down.
Osborn: "well, I don't care how retarded you've gone and gotten yourself--you're not going to ruin this for me."
Iron Patriot moves in for a punch and Iron Man grabs his hand and holds on. The unibeam on the Iron Patriot starts to light up and Tony, covered and blood and grunting in the armor grits his teeth and gives in.
Tony: "Fine, Shiny. Fight. FIGHT!!"
He blasts Osborn back with a flame thrower.
Back at the tower,
Pepper (or as I'm going to call her, Farrah) has found her armor so she can finally be in something less ridiculous than the Madame Masque outfit. She goes over to the armor and takes off the helmet before getting ready to suit up.
JARVIS: "Ms Potts! Wonderful to see you again."
Potts: "That's... impressive."
JARVIS: "Every extant Stark suit within Osborn's horrid tendrils will be shut down by the virus soon."
Potts: "You've just very seriously damaged Osborn's ability to make war on Stark's name. Bravo, JARVIS."
JARVIS: "Yes, ma'am. Thank you, ma'am. And what follows? Have we a plan?"
Pepper: "Pray Maria Hill gets the job done then cut our losses and run like hell."
Pepper in the armor busts through the windows of the tower. She flies off talking to JARVIS about the second phase of his cheeky amazing plan. Seriously, if JARVIS doesn't stay part of IRON MAN continuing on into the future of the book, I will cry myself to sleep every Wednesday it comes out!
JARVIS: "Ma'am, while I was in the HAMMER dataspine I was able to link in to the Iron Patriot's repulsor track of Mr. Stark. I've taken the liberty of informing media outlets around the world that Norman Osborn is in Dubai trying to murder Tony Stark."
JARVIS: "Where to, ma'am?"
Pepper: "Anywhere but here. And turn on the news."
Angels 2, HAMMER 0
Dubai GNN Newsroom:
The news room is full of people looking over the footage they're getting from the dataspine. They're speaking in the brackets again so it's clear they aren't speaking English, he's just writing it in English.
<"Anybody else watching this? Is this legit?!?">
News Guy: <"It came from the HAMMER International Press Corps--">
News Girl: <"Is that--that's happening here? That's--">
News Guy: <"--If the feeds real then yeah, it says this is live, happening now... I mean, am I crazy or does that look like two Iron Man suits beating the hell of out of each other? Man, look at how many other newsorgs were cc'd on that announcement. They must've emailed this to every major media outlet in... in... the world.">
The Staff of GNN move out to cover this story.
Back at the Tower:
HAMMER SWAT guy: "Roger that-- All right, men, listen up. Two of 'em just left floor 33 and are on their way down. They have nowhere to go. They have nowhere to go but through us."
Inside the elevator Maria and Natasha come up with a plan.
Maria: "Well, what's the plan?"
Natasha: "You said it yourself, Hill. You're a soldier. Time to talk like it. And let's hope to god these guys that wnat tokill us still got a little soldier in 'em."
Maybe they have a little Cap'n in 'em too... I mean, if I worked for Osborn I'd be drunk 24/7 365... but I'm also a borderline alcoholic... enough about me.
The door opens and the boys are ready to unleash a field of lead on the the remaining two angels. That is when Maria Hill pulls up her big girl pants and straps on her badass to be the woman that Maria fans know she is. And the woman that Maria Haters love to Hate. A woman who once led these men. She moves her hands behind her back and stands up straight as they train their guns on her and Natasha. She's got the drive in hand.
Maria: "Stand at attention when a superior officer is in the room! Listen up: You're all SHIELD men, or you were once, now you're clowns for him. How many of you are tired of taking orders from a thug and a murderer like Norman Osborn? So dig deep, men, and ask yourself. Whose side are you on?"
I really wanted her to say "do you feel lucky, punk?" but that's not actually the correct quote from the movie and Fraction would know that. Man, hopes and dreams shattered...
The guards step aside and let Maria and Natasha go. Natasha is looking both confused, cautious and slightly impressed. And I officially love Maria Hill. She's looking kind hot now too, with her over grown hair.
Angels 3, HAMMER 0 TKO!
Back on the battlefield
Osborn: "Yesssss. Finally. FINALLY!"
He stands behind behind the smoke and flame while Tony holds his hands up. Osborn I guess... chest bumps him or something, sending Tony's armor backwards before Osborn closes in and slams Tony down face first into the ground, his hands crushing the back of the armor. That's probably going to damage his spine... ouch.
Osborn: "It won't feel so bad this way, Tony. You fight me back a little bit and I'm defending myself... and not just murdering you in cold blood."
He stands above Tony, who now is laying on his back, looking up at Osborn and the helicopters coming into view in the sky above them. Tony holds up his hands and through the holes in the helmet for his eyes you can see he's scared, confused and panicked. I don't really think he knows who Osborn is, or that that armor was one of his own designs.
Osborn: "That's it, Stark. Resist."
Osborn slams his fast into the helmet and it crushes under the blow. Tony looks visibly pained as the helicopters close in on them. The news crew above is taking video of their own now.
News Guy: <"Are you getting this? Is Stark even fighting back?">
News girl with camera: <"Yes. I'm getting this. And no. He's not.">
Tony is still on his back as Osborn pulls up Tony by the head, yanking off the helmet as he does.
Osborn: "Quit whining. Quit begging. it's not manly. It's not--masculine!"
He stares down Tony now that Tony is missing his helmet.
Osborn: "You know what I hate most about you, Stark? It's not that you were the smartest guy in the room. It's that you liked it so damn much. So what do you have to say for yourself now, smart guy?"
Tony takes a beat. He's broken, his face is covered in blood. He's probably barely registering most of this and he can't really keep his eyes open judging form the way they are mere slits on his face. Then, Tony Stark does one last Tony Stark like move. He lifts the corner of his mouth into a smirk before saying:
Tony: "I win."
Osborn loses it after that. Proving his point, sort of, but also it shows that Tony isn't completely gone yet and he's still going to get the last word on this situation. For all of Osborn's gloating, ranting, raving, whining... Tony Stark is still going to come out triumphant even if he doesn't live. Even if he doesn't fight back. Especially if he doesn't fight back? Why? Because Osborn looks like a murderer and Tony has lost all of the information in his head, as planned. He might die today but he's successfully achieved his goal.
Osborn: "You... You..."
Hand of Justice pipes in.
Hand: "Director Osborn! Director Osborn! This is Hand! Stop! You have to stop fighting Stark... it looks like you're killing him... someone leaked your location and now the entire world is watching this...! Do not kill Tony Stark! You'll make a martyr of him...!"
As Hand gives this warning, Osborn doesn't listen. He lifts both hands and about to fire a repulsor beam right into Tony's face. The helicopters tape it. It's on the giant screen in Time Square and the new commentary is:
"And we're seeing... I don't know what Iron Patriot isn't moving and-- wait, something's happening to Stark--"
The world watches with varying looks of sadness and dismay on the crowds faces.
Tony lies on the ground, apparently in the same blood puddle from a few issues ago, his eyes wide open in shock and his body rigid. It appears he's had another seizure, or he was repulsored in the face... depending on what you perceive from the video feed...
Osborn: "He's a criminal! This man is a wanted criminal--a dangerous--a danger... get down here! Get down here now! I just captured Tony Stark."
The helicopters leave Osborn standing there alone, with Tony's body at his feet.
The next panel is a heart monitor screen registering what looks like a pretty slow but steady heart beat.
The next is a HAMMER physician and Osborn, with Tony's broken and bloody body on a bed behind them covered in machines and blankets, tubes and wires. A bandage around his head. They didn't even bother to clean the blood off of him, which... is kind of cruel. To make the whole thing sadder, and so much more eerie... Tony's eyes remain wide open.
Doctor: "A skull fracture, a broken nose and a shattered cheek, concussion, a gunshot wound to the neck, six broken ribs, burns, cuts, bruises... topped off with a persistent vegetative state."
Osborn: "He's brain-dead?"
Doctor: "No, that's a different thing."
Osborn: "What's with the air-tubes then?"
Doctor: "Whatever the cybernetic grafts that connected his metabiology to the repulsor generators were... they connected to his brain stem. Stark deliberately inflicted damage to the whole of his mind--including the part that knew how to breathe. But, here, watch--"
The doctor pokes Tony's foot with a pin and his toes curl in reflex reaction.
Doctor: "--He can still respond to stimuli and the like. But any awareness, consciousness, or knowledge is lost forever."
Osborn: "What can we salvage?"
Doctor: "There's nothing left to salvage, sir. His mind no longer knows how to make his body breathe, let alone something like... his social security number."
I bet it's five.
Osborn: "Or the contents of the super human registration database. Or how to make a repulsor battery."
Doctor: "Yes, sir."
Osborn: "Pull the plug."
Osborn goes to leave making his way down the hall and out of the room where Tony's being kept alive by machines. The doctor follows in a hurry. This is all very sad that Tony's body is in the custody of HAMMER.
Doctor: "Director Osborn, we--"
Osborn: "--Have a million things to do before we get home, Doctor McGraw. We have to organize not one, but three nationwide manhunts for all the balls Hand dropped--We need to doctor footage of the Iron Man fight so it doesn't look like I was beating up an invalid, we--"
Doctor McGraw: "Sir we cannot pull the plug on Tony Stark!"
Osborn: "Why the hell not? Dump him in the ship's furnace and we'll say we're even recycling--"
Doctor McGraw: "Director Osborn. The HAMMER charter states that the helicarrier is, in essence, a flying embassy--meaning that US law is recognized onboard and--"
Doctor McGraw: "So, Stark has a livig will and transferred his power of attorney over to his personal physician. Legally this is an end-of-life decision only Tony Stark's doctor can make."
Osborn: "Give me the damn thing and let me read it for my... Who the hell is "Doctor Donald Blake"?"
"Hello? This is Don Blake. Hello, Doctor McGraw."
Maria with the drive in hand, Iron Potts holding her helmet, Bucky!Cap and Black Widow all stand in the motel room with their heads bowed as Don sits on the edge of the bed, head also hung, face saddened as he speaks to the man on the other end of the line.
Don: "Yeah. I've been expecting your call..."
And so brings an end to World's Most Wanted...
Next month starts the new arc: