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Invincible Iron Man #23: Review

Mar 1970
Archie Goodwin, George Tuska

Story Name:

The Man Who Killed Tony Stark

Review & Comments

2.5 stars

Invincible Iron Man #23 Review by (January 22, 2013)
Review: Wow! Action so exciting it starts on the cover and continues inside the issue! Enjoy it while it lasts because this issue is marked by a stupid plot wrecking Tuska’s good-but-not-great art. The Mercenary is a high-powered assassin who is master of disguise, right? So why does he walk around wearing such a silly looking costume, with those antennae that resemble rabbit ears? And how was he able to plant listening devices in all of Tony’s vehicles? Surely the garage has guards. And how did he hear the conversation inside the cabin, where he had never been? Why did he not make sure Sandhurst was dead after he shot him? Why did he remove his bullet-proof vest to impersonate Tony Stark? And most importantly, how did Vincent Sandhurst get into the sealed bomb shelter? The one big mystery that is solved is how a mere smuggling ship captain can afford the rates of a high-tech assassin. Simple: the Mercenary is so incompetent that his rates are likely low; his phone number can probably be found on a 3x5 card tacked up in the finest pool halls and waterfront dives. Now the big question is how he can afford all the gadgets he employs during the adventure. Sorry, I’m not omniscient.

Comments: First, last, and only appearance of the Mercenary. Final appearance of Vincent Sandhurst. Inker Mike Esposito is credited as Joe Gaudioso. Fun Fact: this is the eighth cover in the series where we see only the back of Iron Man’s head.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Invincible Iron Man #23 Synopsis by T Vernon
Iron Man swoops down on the ship which smuggled Titanium Man into America and tears it apart, alerting the Navy to pick up the crew as they desert the sinking ship. Iron Man then heads to the grave of Janice Cord (1945-1969) to tell her the smugglers are in prison but that still does not atone for Tony’s part in her death (last issue). As he stands mourning at her graveside, he is caught in the crosshairs of a high-powered armor-piercing rifle, in the hands of…the Mercenary. This high-tech assassin has not been hired to kill Iron Man however; he is waiting for his real quarry, who is certain to seek the help of Shellhead or Tony Stark very soon….
The next day, Tony decides to go away to help him cope with his loss; he is seen off by Jasper Sitwell, who sympathizes with him. Tony drives off, not able to tell Jasper that Whitney Frost may still be alive. A mysterious figure in the back seat forces Tony to stop the car at gunpoint. She is a young woman named Cheryl Porter who apologizes for attracting his attention though such drastic mean. Her story: She joined her new husband Geoff, a sailor, on his latest voyage, unaware that it was a smuggling ship. When she learned the freighter was carrying the Soviet villain Titanium Man, she jumped ship at the next port and headed to New York to warn Iron Man; once there, she placed the anonymous call which led Eddie March, the new Iron Man, to the docks (issue #21)—but word of her betrayal reached the ship’s captain, he hired the Mercenary to silence her. Tony takes her to his remote mountain lodge, while he fills her in on what he knows about the deadly assassin: he was an orphan raised by a criminal combine to be a remorseless killer. But the Mercenary now knows where they are going, since he planted spy monitors in all of Tony Stark’s vehicles….
That evening as Tony and Cheryl are driving over the mountain roads to his retreat, a dynamite trap awaits their passing. Suddenly, the detonator is disabled and the killer is overcome—by the Mercenary. The man with the bomb plot is revealed to be Vincent Sandhurst, Janice Cord’s crooked lawyer, who hoped that killing Tony Stark would end the criminal case against him. The Mercenary dislikes amateurs so he shoots Sandhurst and continues on his mission. Cheryl is nervous but Tony calms her by explaining the improved security measures he had installed after his clash with the Mandarin at the cabin (issues 10-11)—but now the Mercenary is aware of them too, having listened in via bug. The villain uses a jamming device to shut down the security system and burst into the cabin firing at the back of the chair where his audio-fix tells him his quarry is seated—and discovers Iron Man waiting for him. Tony Stark has an anti-bug detector in his car and has set a trap for the assassin and the two antagonists face off. Cheryl, meanwhile, is safely sheltered in the basement with orders to check the TV monitor before letting anyone in. Upstairs, the two battle gadget-to-gadget until the Mercenary slaps a magnetic device on Shellhead’s chestplate, draining his power. With Iron Man now helpless, the villain disguises himself as Tony Stark and calls to Cheryl, who, seeing her protector’s face on the monitor, opens the door to him….
Iron Man struggles to plug his recharge into the socket and gains a power boost—but hears two shots from the shelter below… He rushes to down to find the mortally wounded Vincent Sandhurst boasting of having killed Tony Stark; he then collapses and dies. Iron Man finds Cheryl cowering safely in a corner, and she asks to be taken back to the city to stand by her husband in his time of trouble….

George Tuska
Mike Esposito
George Tuska (Cover Penciler)
George Tuska (Cover Inker)
Letterer: Jean Simek.
Editor: Stan Lee.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)

Plus: Jasper Sitwell, Vincent Sandhurst, Whitney Frost.

> Invincible Iron Man: Book info and issue index

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