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Invincible Iron Man #500: Review

Jan 2011
Matt Fraction, Kano

Story Name:

The new iron age

Review & Comments

4.5 stars

Invincible Iron Man #500 Review by (October 12, 2012)
Story 2:- This is a prologue to the Iron Man 2.0 series. Although it isn't actually a prologue. It overlaps with the end of #2 and the beginning of #3. War Machine has been on loan to the military, and working for Gen'l Babbage, since #25 or #29. Babbage refers to him here as being an outside contractor, which contradicts what I thought in #25. But he also calls him a Lt Colonel. I don't know whether this was his rank when he left the forces, or if it's a nominal rank given him now. James Rhodes is still really working for Tony Stark. Stark says this is the 3rd nuclear bomb Rhodey has survived in the last 2 years (Marvel time?). I don't know what he refers to. (Skrulls tried to explode nuclear bombs during Secret Invasion in Iron Man: Director of SHIELD #35, but they didn't go off.)

This issue says Tony Stark is 35 now (early 2011). This fits with the long-standing tradition that the start of the Marvel Age is always about 10 years ago. Stark was already the established boss of his company when his Iron Man career started. Thus for instance when it said in #26 and #31 that Carson Wyche had an affair with Pepper Potts 12 years ago, that could be before Iron Man's 1st appearance, and so before Pepper met Happy Hogan. Except that James Rhodes remembers Wyche, and he didn't meet Stark until Iron Man's origin (as revealed in #144), and probably didn't come to work for him until years later. Mandarin says mankind's destiny lies in the stars, which implies that others will go with him besides the Masters in the Titanomechs. But he kills his harem before going, which argues the opposite. The gravestone for Virginia Potts Stark indicates that Pepper will marry Tony. Howard Stark's age 41 in 2052 indicates he'll be born this year. The compression of events in the comics allows everything up to the Future arc to happen in early 2011. But maybe Pepper is pregnant as of #15? If the Future arc could have led to the future seen here, then I doubt Mandarin would have allowed Tony to leave and hook up with Pepper later. (But then she also doesn't marry him beforehand.) Ginny Stark is 22 in 2052. It isn't *totally* clear to me in the comic itself, but presumably she is Howard's daughter, not Tony's. The plot doesn't make too much sense. If success required Tony to destroy the Titanomechs then Howard's sacrifice to destroy *one* of them was somewhat empty. Ginny and Howard's actions don't seem to trigger Tony's action. And "Remember the spider" was supposed to remind Tony about the EMP bombs, not be a mnemonic for building one.

Peter Parker joined Horizon in Amazing Spider-Man in the same month as this issue. This issue repeats the assertion from #7 that Peter Parker used to work for Tony Stark. It say Tony fired him, but #7 said Peter quit. This is all part of the rewriting of Spider-Man's history by One More Day. Stark says the Titanomech is the *only* thing he's *completely* forgotten. He also says he's got most of his memories back. I thought he'd only got the pre-Extremis memories back in his reboot. But this issue does add the the suggestion in #28 that his later memories were returning too. I thought the whole point of World's Most Wanted was to keep Stark's secrets (well, and the Superhero Registration Database) out of Norman Osborn's hands during Dark Reign. Wilbur Day was the original and longest-running Stilt-Man, originating in Daredevil (1st series) #8 and being killed by Punisher during Civil War. But at the time of his death he was one of Iron Man's Registration enforcers, so his anarchist 'Bastard Sons' have chosen the wrong role model.

The art for this issue is dived up between various teams:- The modern day stuff is by Larroca & D'Armata, Ginny Stark's segments are done by Kano, Howard Stark is by Fox & Rodriguez, and the Mandarin & Tony Stark bits are by Giandomenico & Wilson. It is obvious that the superweapon that Stark is worried about in the present is the same thing he has built 10 of for Mandarin in the future. They are here called Titans. What is not so obvious is that they are the Titanomechs that Stark dreamed of during Stark Disassembled, and which he there remembered designing earlier. This future (or at least a variation of it) will be prevented by Tony Stark in the issues that follow Fear Itself, culminating in #526 which is out the same week as I upload this synopsis and comments. Ezekiel Stane will be seen from #513 trying to build a Titanomech for Mandarin. Eventually Mandarin will co-opt Stark to his side in #520 and Tony will start building the 10 Titanomechs in the arc called The Future. In #522 it will be revealed that Mandarin's rings contain alien minds, which will be transferred to the Titanomechs and become Mandarin's Masters.

The rest is comments on #500:-

This time I've put most of my comments in the body of the synopsis. This was 1 of the first 2 Marvel.1 jumping-on point issues, alongside Wolverine #5.1. #500 showed a possible future, now #500.1 reviews the past. In #28 Justine Hammer said that Tony had met her before, but he can't remember. This issue suggests he met her with her father. If so then his brain reload in Stark Disassembled has affected memories even from before Extremis. This ties in with #500 where he had forgotten the Titanomechs. In #520 we will learn that Mandarin has had a certain amount of control of Stark's brain since at least the reload. Could he have specifically deleted these relevant memories? Stark says only one person visited him in hospital, the one who lead him to AA, would be Henry Hellrung as seen in Order #1. But James Rhodes came to see him in #182. I don't think this issue made a very good jumping-on point for new readers. Tony's words don't explain who the people in the pictures are. We only hear Tony's side of the phone conversation with Pepper, so the new reader would have no idea what they're talking about. And it doesn't ever even say who Pepper is, but given the films that's probably not a problem.

The following is comments on #500.1:-


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Invincible Iron Man #500 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
This story is set in 2 eras:- 2011 and 2052. The 2 strands are interleaved in the comic, but I'm going to separate them.

The presentday section features Iron Man and Spider-Man.

Tony Stark collars Peter Parker on the way to his job at the Horizon Labs think tank. He wants his help about something they worked on together. But it's one of the memories he lost during his reboot in Stark Disassembled. Peter remembers it as something that Tony was always working on in his spare time. It was a super-weapon. Tony says it's strange but it's the only thing he has absolutely no memory of.

Tony is hoping Peter can tell him why he was so obsessed with it. Peter can't help there. Tony is also worried that details of the weapon might have escaped while he lost control of everything during Dark Reign. There Peter can help.

They can't tell if one of the big players like AIM has the info. But if a smaller terrorist organisation has it, then they'll need to buy in specialised parts to make it. So Peter does some Internet research, and comes up with a name:- The Bastard Sons of Wilbur Day, a group of would-be anti-superhero anarchists who want a world without electricity.

Tony suits-up and goes to deal with them as Iron Man. Peter secretly follows as Spider-Man. They burst in on a meeting and easily defeat their low tech weaponry. But then another bunch turn up with better weapons. And a crude version of Stark's superweapon, like a tank on 2 jointed legs. Of course our 2 heroes still prevail.

Iron Man returns to where he left Peter, just in time to miss seeing him change back from Spider-Man. They worry about other groups getting hold of the plans for the superweapon. Peter suggest Tony put a hidden self-destruct switch in the plans, so that if anyone does build one he can kill it. Tony decides to make it an EMP-bomb. Peter suggests making it spider-shaped, and using the phrase "Remember the spider" to remind him of it.

Peter appears to be about to tell Tony that he's Spider-Man. But at the last second he claims to be Human Torch, and they laugh at the joke.

The 2052 section features a world run by the Mandarin, with Tony Stark's descendants opposing him.

Ginny Stark leads a group of (male) freedom fighters called the Black Widows. One of them, calling himself Beast, makes a successful suicide attack with an EMP-bomb against an important installation. Mandarin orders overkill reprisals against the insurgents. A group of armoured raiders led by War Machine (Howard Anthony Stark II) attacks Ginny's underground base.

The aged Mandarin rants that they brought it on themselves. If they'd let him do what he wanted he could have saved the world. Now the Earth will be destroyed as he leaves for the stars the next day.

Mandarin obeys some things he calls Masters. He has Tony Stark as a servant hooked up to machinery. He also has what looks like a Stark repulsor device in his chest. Tony connects their chest devices together to recharge Mandarin, who wonders how much power there is left in Stark's repulsor battery.

Ginny is building another spider-shaped EMP-bomb, using a mnemonic beginning with "Remember the spider" to remember the connections, when the raiders strike. She stays to finish the bomb, but then War Machine finds her.

However Howard is really Ginny's father and Tony's son, and secretly part of the resistance. They stage a mock battle until Ginny escapes to the surface. Howard completes the bomb and takes it.

But Ginny now faces one of Mandarin's Masters called Titan #4. She takes out a raider with a bazooka, but has no chance against the Titan.

Until War Machine does another suicide run and destroys the Titan with the EMP-bomb.

Mandarin leaves Tony Stark for one last night with his harem. Tony remembers Howard and Ginny and "Remember the spider". He puts on a crude Iron Man suit he has hidden away, kills Mandarin's guards, and then the man himself.

Next Tony remotely triggers EMP-bombs he hid in the 10 Titans that Mandarin had forced him to build. (He notes that 1 of the Titans has been destroyed already.) The power of the elcromagnetic pulses means that the world is now without electricity, back to the Iron Age. And his own repulsor battery runs out at last, and he dies.

Ginny digs 2 graves for Tony and Howard Stark, next to one marked Virgina Potts Stark. She puts on Madame Masque's mask and faces the new world.

Story #2

Iron Man 2.0 prologue

Writer: Nick Spencer. Penciler: Barry Kitson. Inker: Barry Kitson. Colorist: Matthew Wilson. Editor: Steve Wacker. Letterer: Joe Caramagna.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

War Machine was sent to Novosibirsk, Russia by Gen'l Babbage. His mission fails with 2 results:- Someone tells him that Palmer Addley is dead, and he almost gets caught in a nuclear detonation.

James Rhodes survives to report back to Babbage, who isn't happy, Rhodes had been sent to investigate and stop a series of nuclear events across the globe.

Rhodey also reports to Tony Stark, who says he'll build him a better suit of armour.

This story will continue, with more explanation, in the Iron Man 2.0 series.

Story #3

#500.1 - What it was like, what happened, and what it's like now

Writer: Matt Fraction. Penciler: Salvador Larroca. Inker: Salvador Larroca. Colorist: Frank D'Armata. Editor: Alejandro Arbona. Cover Penciler: Salvador Larroca. Cover Inker: Salvador Larroca. Cover Colorist: Frank D'Armata. Letterer: Joe Caramagna.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Tony Stark attends an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and tells his life story, with the Iron Man parts referenced obliquely. (Well I suppose although everyone knows Tony Stark is Iron Man, the meeting doesn't know that this Tony is Stark. But no-one recognises him?!)

He starts by saying his parents were away a lot, and he used to invite friends around to the house while they were away. Then they spoiled his 15th birthday by actually being there. He claims that's when he first drank.

He was also insecure, and booze helped with that. It also helped with girls. Lots of them. And drink became a habit, which interfered with his college work. (But I think previous origins have said he was academically successful, so he couldn't have been that drunk.)

He then skips quickly to taking over the family business, and here's where his statements become more ambiguous than the accompanying pictures. He talks about working on a vital project with an older man, and the artwork shows him creating the prototype Iron Man suit with Prof Yinsen.

From here I'll base things mostly on the pictures.

Iron Man's origin here follows the model set in the recent Annual. The boss terrorist is Raza from the movie. And Mandarin is present.

The scenes flash through the evolving armour and the Avengers, and all the while keeping up the playboy lifestyle of wine and women. Tony claims that the lifestyle plus the iron suit were his way of hiding from reality.

But he also manages to turn some of his staff into friends:- Pepper Potts, Mrs Arbogast, Jim Rhodes. And accumulate dangerous rivals like Justin Hammer (seen with a young woman who might be his daughter Justine) and Obadiah Stane. Mandarin is in there too of course.

Tony thinks he had a death wish. Either the booze or the enemies would kill him.

Then comes the low point. Stark becomes an obvious drunk, even in the armour. Rhodey takes over as Iron Man, Stane takes over Stark International, and Stark becomes a bum.

After nearly dying from exposure during winter, an old friend visits Tony in hospital and directs him to AA meetings. This starts his way back up. Eventually he regains his armour and his company.

More villains follow, including Fin Fang Foom. Rhodey becomes War Machine. Tony has a tangled relationship with Bethany Cabe and Madame Masque. (The entanglements had begun long before.)

More cameos follow, of teen Tony, of the post-Heroes Reborn Stark Solutions, and of Mandarin's son Temugin. Then his rise to power as Secretary of Defence, then the Extremis process, then Director of SHIELD. Then the fall via the death of Captain America, Ezekiel Stane, and wiping his own mind during Dark Reign. And now he's on the way up again with Stark Resilient.

After the meeting he calls Pepper and asks her out to dinner. But she finds this awkward. And tells him over the phone that they had sex during the period he can no longer remember.

Tony is stunned. But not too stunned to go out with a woman he met at the AA meeting instead.

Salvador Larroca
Salvador Larroca (Cover Penciler)
Salvador Larroca (Cover Inker)
Salvador Larroca (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Joe Caramagna.
Editor: Steve Wacker.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)

(Peter Parker)
War Machine
War Machine

(James Rhodes)

Plus: General Babbage, Ginny Stark, Howard Stark II.

> Invincible Iron Man: Book info and issue index

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