Welcome back to another exciting installment of Invincible Iron Man. Or... well I guess he's more like Defeated Creamed Corn... (since he's a vegetable...fuck it.)
When we last left Tony Stark and World's Most Wanted concluded, Tony went vegetative state after Osborn publicly beat the shit out of him. Maria, Natasha and Pepper became Tony's Angels and defeated HAMMER with the help of JARVIS and the Iron Potts... successfully escaping with the Stark X Drive. Norman sort of ruined some of his cred with his Tony Stark Battle Royale, and Don Blake was called onto the scene to keep the plug from being pulled. And there was shiny Bucky Cap.
So begins the next arc: Stark Disassembled in:
Invincible Iron Man #20: Counting Up From Zero
Tony Stark's brain is a shitty knock off of a Salvador Dali painting with less clocks and more confusing symbolism. Larroca, your name may be Salvador but Dali you ain't. Tony's digging his hands in... what looks like sand but judging by the sepia coloring of his mind, it could be dirt too. He's digging in the ground anyway, and he finds teeth. Which is weird. And everyone is dressed like they're on an archeological dig site. Which makes sense I guess, since they're "digging up Tony's memories" right? I mean, right?
Who is "everyone?", you ask? Well, Howard Stark for one, who strides up to Tony hunched on the ground and riffling through the dirt.
Howard: "Any luck with anything, Anthony?"
Tony: "Howard, hey, and no--just more and more of... what is this, a tooth? Why are these teeth buried under the dirt?"
I have the same damn question, Tony. Apparently your brain is a really fucked up place.
Howard: "Hell, if I knew that one, son, I wouldn't have to dig it up all the live long day, would I? Put 'em 'neath your pillow and you'll be a billionaire by breakfast."
Tony: "...I'd just lose it all by lunch again anyway..."
Howard doesn't have time for Tony's Self-Deprecation Hour. He turns around and approaches the woman sitting on the ground digging up a car from the dirt landscape of Tony's head. Hmm. Car. I think that's what those in literature call 'a symbol', kids. On closer inspection the car looks wrecked. The front of it looks bent in... hmmm I wonder what car that is?
Howard: "Maria! C'mon gal, let's get a move on before nightfall."
As my dear friend put it, Maria looks a little like an older, Sepia Pepper Potts (Dammit, Larroca, she isn't even a red head!) and turns toward Howard and Tony and wipes some sweat off her forehead. At least, that's what I assume because she's got the back of her wrist against her forehead and she seems to have been working on this car for sometime.
Perhaps Pepper is Larroca's ideal and thus all women must be judged according to her standard and so if Pepper is perfect women in his books must be mistaken for her to be right?
Maria: "Shame we have to stop right now, isn't it? Every time we get some real work done, the war destroys it again. Everything worthwhile here is buried deep down in the ground."
Clever... hold up, war? War? What the hell is going on in your brain, Tony? Pan out to see the landscape littered with mounds that have yet to be unearthed and a few that are in the process. Maria's car that she's been digging up. Someone is digging up a plane, further back there appears to be a coffin and a GIANT FUCKING HAND in the far left right corner...
I've got nothing.
Howard: "I guess that's just the way it goes sometimes. Another day at play beneath the fields of God."
Tony: "Y'know, I never let myself believe in God besides, I think I just found his molar. Something is wrong inside my head."
Really? Ya think?
Some dude comes running at them terrified and screaming.
Dude: "They're coming! Run! RUN!"
Tony: "But I'm not done with my work."
Oh Tony Stark, a workaholic even in his fucked up barren waste land of the brain. I approve of that. So the other people high tail it out of there and Tony stands there like a goon. Howard tries to get him to go with, but Tony just stands there as a giant mechanical thingamagig appears above them in the sky. It's shiny and probably red and gold...
He just stands there staring at the thing like an awed child.
Tony: "Where have I... those are... nth-gen Stark Titanomechs... but the design's all wrong... I don't think I've even built them yet... they're just sketches..."
Howard starts to yell for him again, gets as far as "T-" and then they're vaporized.
A blue Holographic image of Tony in his hay day starts the next panel. He looks stoic, if not a little sad. The following is a six page monologue. Tony ranges different emotions from sad to angry, to outrageous as he speaks to the camera and records this final message.
Tony: "My name's Tony Stark and I'm an alcoholic. No? Wait, I'm sorry. Wrong meeting... beats crying anyway, yeah? Yeah. Yeah. OKay. So... so I'm recording this on my last morning as Director of SHIELD. When I'm done uploading to the MK 1616 suit that I'm leaving for Pepper, I turn the keys over to Norman Osborn. By lunch he'll be abusing the Superhuman Registration Database and God knows what all else. If you're watch this, I'm right, and everything's gone horribly wrong. But... at the same time, if you're watching this, things are about to start going horribly right again. I promise... umm... that might sound weird, I know. Because if I'm write--and c'mon, it's me, so I am--I'm probably lying there. Persistent vegetative state, right? Right."
I suppose there's an outside chance I'm dead somehow you've managed to--well, whatever. MK 1616, if I'm dead seize the Stark drive X and fly yourself into the nearest active volcano. Please."
He pauses and waits.
"Okay. Assembled here--almost, between you all--are the tools and the knowhow needed to bring me back. To reboot me if you will. But first you need to take a minute and talk amongst yourselves and figure out--and ask the question--do you want me back? Can you forgive me? Because, here's the thing--I'm not apologizing. What happened, happened and it happened because it happened and that's that. And you shouldn't apologize either. What's past is prologue. I...okay. None of us get into this line of work because of the great 401k, right? I ran a good race--I ran a great race--and had a good and great life and maybe I helped out a little along the way. Every single one of us knows there's no promise of a happy ending. We die. Heroes... die. Cap--Bucky--Thor--you guys know that lesson all too well. Bill Foster knew it. Janet--Clint-- This is the job. This is the job. Dying is the super hero retirement plan. And lately a whole lot of us are on it. So here's the deal--the bad guys are waiting around for us to fall apart, and I don't want to be in the falling apart business anymore."
So I guess that means he's quitting as Iron Man. Which is fair, because when he does wake up A) Iron Man might be a little hard to pilot or even remember and 2) well... does anyone really want him to be Iron Man again, especially his former allies?
"We're doing the divide part of their divide and conquer routine. We're putting our heads on silver platters for these guys again and again because--because--because we're letting us get in the way of stopping them and... so I'm done. I've destroyed everything at SHIELD I created that Osborn could exploit. He'll have some old suits but no repulsor power, so you'll be okay when it all comes down. The 1616 is uploaded with a viral assault for Osborn's dataspine. Whatever Osborn has left should be negligible at best for the men and women that handed Ultron his ass a half dozen times. Zeke Stane's attacks on Stark Industries crippled our repulsor power production capabilities. Oz is too stupid to figure out how to make repulsors on his own anyway. Pep, you've got the very last repulsor generator in the world. Be good to it and it will be good to you."
Fair enough. Tony really has a point here. I mean... hello? They've spent so much time breaking off into separate groups lately no wonder Osborn could climb so easily to the top with the shot heard round the world.
"So--so that's it. My side of the street is clean and if I die I'm dying with as clean a conscience as can be expected... it's going to to take the three of us--Cap, Thor and Iron Man-- working together to clean it all up. Y'know they say in certain rooms... they say "Let go and let God," and this is me letting go. And I've never let myself believe in God, but..."
Tony starts to get choked up and pinches the bridge of his nose.
"...I don't know how to say this. Captain America and Thor were... whatever sense of a higher power I've ever had in this life came from them. From you. And from who you thought I could be. Whenever I looked up you were who I was looking at. For guidance, for leadership... and now absolution."
Tony then gets up to leave.
"That's it. That's all. Think it over and let the MK 1616 know what you decided and we'll get into the how of it all."
Tony leaves, but then comes back for a real quick one more thing. He basically lays out if he doesn't come back how things will go down with Osborn's fall and is reference of Osborn squeezing too hard on the world. They'll beat him in chaos and there will be blood and thunder and Tony totally saw the previews for SIEGE. Because he sees the Future. Damn Futurists. He uses an analogy of Osborn's team being like speeding cars that crash into a pile up and then tells the heroes to think like a school of fish and work independent and interdependent at the same time. He then warns to expect heavy casualties because of how Osborn plays his games and then Tony leaves and the image disappears.
Well. I have one input on this: Some people call this emotional blackmail. I to some degree see him doing this because well for one thing, it's out of his hands and I think he knows that the other heroes and friends won't go "well fuck it, let him die" because then they wouldn't be the good guys. On the other hand, I don't think he wants to come back if he keeps having to play the bad guy when he clearly isn't. This isn't really all his fault, he just was the fall guy and he might have made a lot of trespasses against those he loves, but he never did them with the intention of being cruel. One thing a lot of people forget about Tony is that he is in fact a good guy, and he always has the best intentions. His heart (Or whatever is subbing for it at the time) is always in the right place, no matter how misguided he may be.
And that is why, I'd like to take this moment to say: Thank You, Matt Fraction for not making Tony Stark puss out and apologize for being himself.
Thank you for keeping his integrity.
On the the next page Maria Hill, Natasha Potts, Bucky!Cap, Don Blake and Pepper Potts stand staring at the MK 1616 which delivered to them the final message from a lucid Tony Stark. Before them, Tony lies in a hospital bed, vegetative, with bandages on his shoulder, arm, head and nose. And tubes in his nose and mouth to breathe for him. This is also the first time in a few issues I would call the art, decent. If Tony looked like Coma!Tony in every panel, I might actually like Larroca's art again.
Why does Peter Parker get to be pretty and Tony looks like that?
Iron Potts: "The message terminates there."
Don: "Maaaaan, Tony."
Natasha: "Was he this insane when you worked for him, Hill?"
Pepper says nothing.
The heroes then discuss what they plan to do. Bucky!Cap steps in first to immediately say they're bringing Tony back. Which of course, surprises me because well Bucky and Tony aren't exactly BBFs but you know, I can see that he's probably not in the business of just pulling the plug on people... no matter what they've done. Don agrees with Bucky since Tony's sick and that's his job to heal him. Maria also agrees, and Natasha as well but for mostly selfish reasons, so they don't think they wasted their time trying to save him.
Iron Potts lets them know there is a presentation to be played on how to reboot Tony. Which reminds me, I really miss that show Reboot... but that has nothing to do with this. Iron Potts asks if Pepper is in and she leaves the room telling them she needs some time, in a mess of tears.
Pepper is probably so emotional because TONY'S EYES ARE STILL FUCKING OPEN. SERIOUSLY! THAT'S JUST CREEPY.
Close his eyes, let him sleep, so retarded vegetable Tony isn't just staring at everyone vacantly while you discuss his fate. God.
Pepper runs down the stairs of wherever they are, I guess it's Don's hotel . Maria goes after her. And now we have Pepper/Maria shippers going "YES!" and everyone else going, oh that's weird... but of the group in that room currently they're the closest to Tony and subsequently each other.
Pepper: "Dammit. Stark, you are unbelievable."
Maria: "Potts! Potts, c'mon."
Maria: "Hey! Pepper--Pepper. C'mon. What's--"
Pepper: "I don't--"
Maria: "--it's okay--"
Pepper: "I don't--I don't understand why--after so many people got hurt--after everybody died at Stamford, and Stane and the Invasion, and--and--and after Steve and Bill and--and after Happy all died--why is it Tony that gets to come back? Why is it that Tony Stark is the one that gets everything back again?"
While most people sit back and initially say "ouch" you also realize that well... Pepper Potts, you may have a pretty good point there. The answer of course is because Tony planned his death... but you know, the devil's in the details.
On second thought, let's not go back into Tony's brain... it is a silly place.
But we're there and now with the teeth he's dug up some oranges.
Tony looks pretty confused by the oranges. In the Godfather, whenever a character has oranges near them or around them it's a signal that the character is going to die soon. So maybe that's something. And teeth are a sign of losing your mind or fear of losing your mind, which if you read Haunted... Tony did sort of battle with going nuts. But then he could have joined the schizo club with Hank and they could beat their wives together.
That is assuming Tony's Dick of Death doesn't kill her before he says I do...
I think Bethany Cabe is busy with Robo!Rhodey these days anyway.
Howard comes over to him again as he's staring at the oranges in his hand. I think they might actually be tangerines. But whatever.
Howard: "Any luck with anything?"
Tony: "No, Just--Deja vu. Howard, hasn't this already happened before now? Isn't this just happening again?"
Howard: "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a tangerine. Put 'em 'neath your pillow and--"
Tony: "Yeah, yeah, a billionaire by breakfast. I'm digging. Why am I digging?"
Howard: "Shame we have to stop right now, isn't it?"
Maria shows up behind Howard. It's pretty obvious here that Tony doesn't remember Howard and Maria as his parents. He knows he knows them, they seem to have some kind of relationship but not a parent to son sort of conversation. With Howard that isn't surprising, with Maria and Tony that's a sign that in Tony's head, they don't have any relation to each other. Fellow diggers in the Daliesque wasteland.
Tony: "And now the screaming and running starts and the giant things come--"
Haha! He is so over this. Tony calls shenanigans on this. He keeps digging.
Maria: "Tony, something's coming."
Random person: "RUN!"
Howard: "We have to get out of here--"
Tony stays put he wants to do some more digging and he doesn't want to keep playing his own in head version of Groundhog Day without the mildly redeeming quality of Bill Murray. But not really all that redeeming.
Tony: "Digging, I was digging for something here right here--"
Maria is trying to drag Howard, Howard is trying to save Tony and Tony is down in the dirt continuing to dig so that he can figure out what he's trying to find in there.
Tony: "There's something under here! There's something iron buried under here help m--"
New York City, Avengers Tower:
Awesome. Just when you think you're done with Stormin' Norman, he's back with a shit eating grin on his face. How's that shit taste, Norman? Does it taste of Wictory? (Everything is funnier when you replace V with W, like Wanda in that crappy Avengers cartoon. Case and point: Wictor Won Doom)
Basically what happens here in two pages of Norman Osborn is he calls all his goons failures and removes the bounty from Tony's head with no reward going to anyone for capturing him, and then he tells them to get out of his life, he has to run the world. Also, he doesn't want Tony touched because he'd rather let him rot as a "a good little vegetable". So no more bounty. And no one is to kill Tony. And then he thanks Whitney for all her help lately. And Hood is all "...what?"
Whitney, of course, doesn't give to thoughts about the bounty. It was never about the money for her with Tony. She wants to end him because well she has her own personal politics and it has to do with apparently Tony's former company. That and well, she's a woman scorned I guess. I'm not really sure why she's going on about his company since it doesn't exist anymore. Long story short, she hires Ghost to take out Tony.
Ghost is in.
In the Stark Wasteland
Tony's found more oranges and more teeth. The long range shots of Tony are not consistent with the close ups, just so everyone knows. He looks completely different when you have a full head few than when you have just his face, which doesn't make any sense to me.
Tony: "Just a bit ago I thought about an orange and now... what the hell is going on?"
Howard: "Any luck with--"
Tony: "Howard. All of this is happening again. So help."
Howard: "Help? Ahh... I just don't get what it is you mean by help."
That's right, because Howard is a jerkface and he would never be helpful in anyway, I mean... if this was actually life.
Howard and Tony start to dig and Maria shows up behind them.
Tony: "Howard, help me dig this up, man."
Howard: "I'm trying to--"
Tony: "It's about elbow-deep, c'mon."
Maria: "Shame we have to stop right now, isn't it. Tony, something's--"
Tony: "Maria I know they're coming for the love of god get down here and help me dig--"
They stop. They have apparently found something, or what they were looking for because this panel has all three of them looking down into the dirt and taking in the sight.
Maria: "What are we--"
Tony: "There, right there--did you feel it?"
Howard: "Well I'll be damned. What is it?"
From the above view, we see they are all looking at part of the exposed chest plate of the Iron Man, complete with the glowing center arc reactor. Well then. Guess we know what Tony was digging for now. So here is my amateur attempt at the symbolism. Tony was in his mind digging up the Iron Man and before finding that chunk of the armor he found teeth because the Iron Man has nearly driven him insane on many occasions or caused him the fear that he would go insane. Or maybe even the idea of battling evil in a suit of armor is insane. The oranges, if they mean death, are because the Iron Man has nearly cost Tony his life a billion times over... including this time.
Maybe? Who knows. I guess time will tell.
The giant mechanical monster arrives again. Tony stares at it face on and Maria and Howard cling to each other for support because they know shit is going to go down here.
Tony: "I don't understand. What did I do?" What do I have to d"
The rest of this issue after this isn't story but "If you haven't read Iron Man in the past ten years or haven't been following until now, here's what you missed."
Bite me. I'm not going to dignify it by including it in the recap.
See you next month.