When we last left Tony Stark: HO HO HO GREEN GIANT (Because he's a vegetable... get it?)... Tony's tripping in his wasteland brain. He also left a detailed message about how he can be revived. Pepper wasn't happy about it because Tony gets all the breaks at her expense. Maria, Natasha, Bucky and Don decided to give this reboot a shot. While Norman "called off" the hit on Stark, and Whitney hired Ghost to finish it. Well then...
Invincible Iron Man #21: Digging in the Dirt.
I need a witty name for Tony's brain wasteland since it's clear we're going to be here for awhile. Hmm.. let's see how about... Russia. No... no too obvious. How about... Tatooine. Yeah! I like it!
Tony's continuing to dig for that Iron Man chest piece from the last issue. Maria and Howard just stand there and watch him like the nutbar they think he is. He asks them to help him dig, because well, he just wants to break the routine.
Tony: "Faster! Come on, we've done this before--"
Howard: "Tony, we don't seem to know what you're talking about--"
Maria: "What have we done and when did we do it? And why?"
Your parents are clueless man. They're not playing with the same deck of cards you are.
Tony: "These things, this--this, life, this thing--we're in this thing again and again and again. It keeps happening and starting over. We dig or we die."
So Maria and Howard get in and start helping because that's a pretty convincing argument. I mean, I can imagine Tony's frustrated being stuck in the movie Groundhog Day without the mildly redeeming quality of Bill Murray. Especially when the repetitiveness only includes digging. As much as I'd love a giant sandbox in my brain, it would only entertain for so long... and since Tony has a pretty short attention span...
They're digging and they're pulling it out as the things start to come back.
Maria: "We can take it to the huts and hide there!"
Tony: "What huts--? See, that's--heff--that's different. The huts are new..."
They're joined by some of the other random people in his brain who are yet to be explained as people we know or not to help him carry the armor chest piece.
Tony: "Careful--it's so heavy only I can lift it."
See that? For those playing the home game, thats what we call subtle. Tony's statement that only he can lift that chest piece is implying that only Tony can carry the burden of Iron Man. Right? Right? Oh I like that, nicely done Fraction.
Howard: "That kind of thinking is what gets you killed every time. Weight is weight and heavy is heavy no matter who carries it."
But realistic weight limits aren't any fun.
Tony: "Whatever you say, Howard. Whatever you say..."
New York Shitty--er--City:
Masque and Ghost are discussing her relationship with Norman and how it's complicated.
Is she sleeping with Norman too? Jesus, you get around CrazyLady. I wonder if Menace knows that. I would love to see Madam Masque vs Menace in the ultimate showdown to see who gets rights to fuck the crazy guy who could care less about either of you. I mean if they are... bumping uglies... he's using her just like he's using Lily Hollister for the Goblin baby she's carrying... but who knows.
Anyway, Ghost is like whatever I'm supposed to be in the cube, so let's not discuss this and then she starts talking about her relationship with Tony being more complicated. Ghost asks her if the Hood knows that and if he knows about their chat. Whitney has this weird break down as if the Ghost gives a crap about her because she didn't know he knew and he's all, I really don't give a shit let's get down to brass tacks.
So Whitney lays it out: Tony's in a vegetative state. He's under the care of Don Blake in Oklahoma. He's the only doctor for eighty miles. Ghost is all... so... this means nothing to me an Tony could buy sloan-kettering for a head cold (LOL). Whitney informs him that Asgard is there and he's actually being protected by Thor. So the plot thickens, thinks Ghost. It's also assumed that his pals are there also, but Ghost has doubts. He can't get into towns as easily as he can through rooms and buildings. So she gets a magic device to get him in through phone lines. Follow bursts of power and you'll find Tony.
Ghost is in and a hit is placed.
Pepper sits in the lobby writing a letter to Tony. She's teary and trying to get it all out. I'm going to say this: yell, get mad, hate me... but I think Pepper is justified in her anger against Tony. For so so long she has just put up with his crap and it's cost her everything. She has every right to be upset that he just gets it all back because she doesn't get things back when they go wrong. And it's explained in this letter...
I keep trying to get these thought out of my head an onto paper but (scratched out) it's too hard. I could never say these things out loud. Too (scratched out) I'm throwing a tantrum and I know it. Of course I'll do whatever you (scratched out) ask to (scratched out) help bring you back. Because thats what I do/have always done for you, right? You ask and I come running. And I know this is all (scratched out) so much bigger than me or you and me. But dammit Tony, When s it m time? When do I get to stop living to support your life and start living my own?"
(Remember the kids Happy and I had that were neglected in to retcon non-existence?)
"When does heaven and earth move to help me or to bring my dead husband back (scratched out) from the dead? Or the flaming wreckage that was my life? When do man and god alike work to alleviate my pain for once? When is it the movie about me and not Tony (scratched out, I bet it said fucking) Stark? I want a sign, I want some sort of sign that things will get.."
Pepper is interrupted by:
She turns to see Rhodey (who is no longer a cyborg) and CAPTAIN FUCKING AMERICA STEVE ROGERS OMG SQUEE!
And that Doctor guy whose name I still don't remember, but he saved her life in Five Nightmares and was hanging out in a van with her in Worlds Most Wanted.
Rhodey: "Look who we found."
Steve: "Ms Potts, it's been a while..."
Ms. Pepper Potts, your sign has been received. You're welcome, Love Jesus.
Pepper: "Steve--oh thank God--"
Pepper gives Steve a great big hug and he returns the hug because this is an adorable tender moment and I seriously teared up. As a friend of mine said, she looked at this frame and literally thought Steve's here now, it's going to be okay. And I agree. Steve will fix this because he's Captain America, and Bucky will help because he is also Captain America.
Rhodey: "What, we get nothing? The dead guy gets a hug but me the doc who brought him here get nothing?"
Pepper: "Oh do shut up--"
Doctor: "Lt. Colonel Rhodes, Don't begrudge the poor woman her reunion hug."
She hugs Rhodey too so he'll shut up and for about five seconds everything seems alright. And then we have to remember that Tony's retarded upstairs.
Pepper: "I don't understand. Why are--not that this isn't an amazing--why are you all here?"
Steve: "Because Iron Man is in trouble. And we're all going to bring him back." So I can put him right back into his coma when I beat him with my shield for being such a big douchebag for the past year or so...no? Okay, maybe he didn't say that last part.
Pepper pauses like, oh right this isn't about me... "Of course. Yes, sir. Room 26, upstairs."
They start going upstairs and she stops to go back and get her letter, crumpling it up in her hand.
Hello Make Shift Surgical Theater!
Tony's got another message from the boobs of the Iron Potts, and you know he planned that too strategically. Like he giggled to himself in the middle of the night while making the Iron Potts and putting in the message "haha they're going to talk to her boobs..."
Tony: "What's up, Doc? If you're hearing this, Rhodey escorted you to where I've been hidden and we're ready to start surgical prep. As you're the man that saved Pepper's life by putting all this crazy Iron Man stuff in her, now you'll save mine by taking it back out. Gathered amongst you--all of you, why you're all so important to this, why I needed you all here and all on the same page--is that between you all, are the bits and pieces I need to be made whole again. The first step-- and Pepper I'm sorry about this but we can put a new one back in you later--the first step is removing the repulsor unit from Pepper's chest and inserting it into mine."
The panels that follow are Tony... they finally closed his eyes... unconscious with a breathing tube down his throat and Pepper lying beside him looking at him before she gets knocked out for surgery. The next panel is a shot of Pepper's letter to him and the words "You ask me and I come running" pointed out as a HERE'S THE POINT flag of non-subtle proportion. Okay, I got it. Pepper gives everything up for Tony. Hey... HEY! Leave that dead horse alone.
Tony: "That's the key, that's the heart of the operation if you will. This electromagnetic repulsory battery is going to fuel my entire biology from now on..."
So while they take the repulsor out of Pepper, Tony tells us basically the plot of her getting it in the first place, which I'm not going to rehash here. Basically, she went boom in a building and then she got the repulsor and without it she'll be fine now, just normal amazing Pepper. And Tony's brain doesn't remember how to work his brain so they're going to fix him with:
"Surgery, Science and Cool Machines." The three s--wait...
Tony: "Not long ago I faced a rogue biological weapon called Extremis. Extremis was a bioelectric enhancile that transformed the human body into a remarkably efficient piece of organic technology. To stop the first subject, I underwent the procedure myself. You might remember that phase where I could just think at the armor and it would fly across the room toward me. That was what it made possible. Fun while it lasted but not even Extremis was safe from the Skrulls. They attacked the upgrades and shut me--and Extremis--down permanently. Anyway, the procedure alters the human body. Extremis allowed me to recreate and redesign the way my insides worked. So don't be surprised if you get in there and you see stuff that shouldn't be there."
To which Don replies, at least I think it's Don: "Are those... wires... in his lungs?"
Excuse as I die from how hilariously cracktastic that is! And how amazing that it brings my love of Extremis to a whole new level!
Tony: "Pepper's suit has detailed instructions to walk you through installation, Doc. It's not that different than what you've done before. Just some more cabling."
HAHAHAHAHAH omg... that's so priceless. I have a whole new view of what Tony's insides look like. Someone needs to draw that... like an Operation game layout of Tony with Extremis. That would be too funny.
Tony: "Next comes the brains of the operation. Which was Maria Hills department... she was tasked with recovering a very special hard drive for me and since she's her I'm sure she did it. Get it now. If we think of our minds as ou body's operating system and Extremis was an upgrade, I did what all good geek would do before installing it. I backed myself up."
Which technically doesn't make a LOT of sense considering his brain wasn't a computer system BEFORE Extremis so without it how would he have the capability of such but... you know details like that are handwaved all the time and retconned... right Potts-Hogan kids? Right. Quoth my friend: "Maybe SI has special brain hard drives."
Tony: "The only thing in the world that drive plugs into is the back of my neck. Go ahead and hook it up. Once the repulsor disc is on, it'll serve as a boot disc and install itself into my mind. After Ezekiel Stane's terror attacks on Stark Industries we no longer have a repulsor facility capable of reactivating the RT battery unit you've just taken from Pepper and put in me. That's where War Machine, Captain America and Thor come in..."
Doctor Whatshisname comes out of the room to where Cap has apparently been pacing, Maria, Rhodey and Natasha are. He gives them sort of a somber look.
Doctor: "Your turn."
Meanwhile, at Mos Eisely Cantina
Tony and a group of gray haired dudes that live in his brain, including Howard.. (hey, maybe these are previous generations of Stark men... like grandpa, great grandpa... one of those dudes has the most amazing mutton stache ever...) they've arrived at the huts (not Hutts) with the chest piece.
Howard: "Turn it to the--yeah--almost on-- There. you know it's got some switches on the back?"
Tony: "Where? I can't see it."
He now has the chest piece on and is trying to look behind him as Maria keeps watch for those fucking machines that want to pwn them to death.
Howard: "You'll need some help to turn it on."
Tony: "I can remember that. I think I can remember that."
Howard: Can you, son? Will you? Knowing you need it and asking somebody for help are two different things. By my lights you're not a man who knows the difference."
Tony: "Needing help and asking for help are two different things. I need help, I need help, I need help. I can remember that. I'm ready Howard, okay."
Wow... so much for the subtle. We're just going right for the jugular with this stuff. Okay, we know Tony is a guy who doesn't ask for help even when he knows he needs it and it's Howard that's pointing it out to him, which is slightly ironic because you know Howard is the one who taught him about being self reliant. You just know it. And here they are clueless of their connection, and Howard is helping Tony with the chest piece... helping him remember that he doesn't have to do everything alone... and.. god that's deep.
Tony sits with his eyes closed in the chest piece for the Iron Man. Howard has his hands on his shoulders.
Tony: "I said--"
Howard: "I know what you said. I threw the switches and nothing happened."
None of that matters, because the machine things are on their way.
Back in the real world
Tony: "Rhodey, man. I hope you brought your tool box."
Rhodey sits in a room and he's taking apart the Iron Potts with instructions coming from said Iron Potts. That's kind of awesome. Poor Rhodey, how much of this crap does he have to go through with Tony? And really, poor everyone involved. Except that Doctor guy. He hasn't had time to learn, yet.
Tony: "You're the only guy on Earth after me that I'd trust to strip a stark suit for parts..."
Iron Potts: "There's another .75 meters of cable available in--"
Rhodey: "I know, I know."
Tony: "Get every inch of cable that's reinforced to carry full repulsor current loads stripped out of the suit and braid 'em all together. Take out the mounting clips from torso undersheath K and attach them to the repulsor battery. And attach the mounting clips from undersheath L to the other ends of the cabling. And then you'll need to get me to a rooftop. And doc--er, Doctor Blake... we'll need your... partner.. for this next step."
"Stark Industries used to have repulsor generator facilities all over the world, but between Stane and Osborn--and me, let's be honest here--we're going to have to improvise activating the repulsor disc. It's going to sound and seem counter-intuitive. But if you follow my instructions exactly, I'm almost positive that this probably won't kill me."
Cue everyone taking Tony to the roof. Maria is tenderly cradling the head of the Iron Potts. Captain America squared is carrying Tony with Rhodey's help. Natasha is holding the door and Don has his Thor... stick... Awesome. They get Tony settled and Steve puts the shield down on the ground.
Doctor: "This is completely insane."
Don: "So was Tony. Wen you get down to it, I mean."
Are we already talking about Tony in the past tense? He's not officially dead yet guys... so much for hope. Geez. Well, they're all pretty convinced this hair brained scheme isn't going to work as planned, because to be honest it is crazy and well... it's only the second issue of the arc. We have four left.
Rhodey: "Listen, if Tony says this is going to work... not matter how insane it seems... it usually works. Usually."
Doctor: "This will kill him. It will electrocute him or blow up his heart or set him one fire. Doctor Blake, surely you understand the danger involved here--"
Tony doesn't have a heart, silly.
Don: "Tony's Tony, Doc. If he says this is how we get him back, this is how we get him back. I'm just worried about the shield."
Steve: "The shield can take it."
Bucky: "It'll be fine."
Steve: "Just smack it dead center."
Bucky: "To make sure."
This is adorable and I love how suddenly Bucky's all game and grins. I think it's because he's happy Steve's back. Or maybe it's because there's still a part of him that's Winter Soldier and is getting hard at the sadistic idea of Tony getting electrocuted...
Doctor: "Blake, you can't seriously be considering--"
They've connected the shield at the other send of the make shift jumper cables. So for those who need extra help in the home game, it's connected to Tony's repulsor disc and the shield. Metal is a conductor of electricity and...Don stands with a grip on his stick and determination in his eyes as the sky erupts with lightening...
Two page spread of Thor's hammer slamming down on to the shield and sending an amazing amount of electrical current into Tony's chest. His body arcs on the gurney as Natasha and Maria cover their heads and Steve watches in anticipation. THis is an amazing page of awesome and definitely worth the tease in the variant cover that ACTUALLY OCCURRED IN THIS ISSUE!!
Tony's eyes open wide and he lets out a yell of probably pain.
On Tatoonine Tony clutches his chest and lets out the same cry.
Doctor Whatshisname holds out his hands toward Tony, as Maria stands stunned beside him, calling out his name.
Great, now he's dead and on fire. What exactly was that designed to do? (he's not really on fire, for the record, I'm just being snarky.)
On the planet furthest from the bright center of the universe, Tony lies on the ground with Howard above him, and Maria running over. He's unresponsive.
Howard: "Tony? TONY!!"
Ghost found the burst of energy and makes a phone call to the Sooner Inn. The fat receptionist answers the phone but there's no one there. Must have been a wrong number. The Ghost is in the inn.
See you next month. And Happy Holidays :)