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Tales of Suspense #56: Review

Aug 1964
Stan Lee, Don Heck

Story Name:

The Uncanny Unicorn!

Review & Comments

3 stars

Tales of Suspense #56 Review by (March 30, 2012)
Review: I always thought the Unicorn was cool, especially after he got a more streamlined makeover, so what happened? Why did he go on to be merely a second-string Iron Man villain? Maybe because, as a Soviet killer with some high-tech armor he was just another variation on the Crimson Dynamo/Titanium Man. So they experimented with making him different, teaming him with Count Nefaria, the Red Ghost, or the Mandarin, and giving him a terminal disease, trapping Mandarin’s mind in his body, or just flat-out driving him insane. And it worked for a while. Then they killed him (IRON MAN #154) and haven’t brought him back. At least they knew when to quit trying. As for this issue, the plot is largely the same formula we’ve seen before: supervillain breaks into Stark Industries to sabotage the place (Soviet backing optional) and fights Iron Man. Yeah, yeah. The real point of interest is that Stan is trying to expand Tony’s characterization so for the first time we learn of his deep frustration with being trapped in the iron armor by his health (which hasn’t been mentioned for a while); this will be a major subplot running through subsequent issues.

Comments: Second story: Text story, reprinted from MYSTIC #39; part one appeared last issue under the title “The Atomizer.” Third story: Thing and Mr. Fantastic appear in cameos; maybe Sue too if she’s invisible. Inker George Roussos credited as Geo. Bell.

Comments: First appearance/origin of the Unicorn.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Tales of Suspense #56 Synopsis by T Vernon

Tony Stark, filled with rage and frustration at being trapped in the Iron Man armor by his weakened heart, throws a tantrum in his lab, destroying equipment with his metal gauntlets. The noise is so frightening that Pepper Potts calls in via intercom to see if he is in trouble but he angrily tells her to mind her own business. Resigned to the weakened heart that may kill him at any moment, Tony resolves to give up being Iron Man and enjoy what time he has left. He leaves the lab and arranges a date with a glamour girl, not noticing that Pepper is pining for him. The Avengers call the office, looking for Iron Man to join him on a mission but Tony tells them Iron Man is on a long vacation. Confused and frustrated, the heroes carry on without him. While Tony and his date are at a swanky supper club, an intruder breaks into the Stark munitions factory; it is the Unicorn, whose helmet contains a horn that casts a deadly beam. He begins destroying equipment, challenging Iron Man to come fight him. Happy Hogan attempts to stop the villain but he is tossed aside and blasted by the Unicorn, who then takes Pepper as a hostage to ensure Iron Man’s coming after him. Tony is contacted at the club and immediately hurries to the hospital, regretting his lapse into selfishness. Meanwhile, the Unicorn fills Pepper (and the reader) in on his background: he is a Communist agent, given weapon-filled armor and the deadly horn by the Crimson Dynamo (presumably Anton Vanko before he defected). The horn is able to destroy, levitate objects, and create a protective force field around the wearer—and he is assigned to destroy Anthony Stark’s lab. Tony, meanwhile, suits up as Iron Man and uses a black light projector to track the villain to his hideout. He bursts in and quickly overpowers his foe, giving him time to fly off with Pepper. But the Unicorn follows them back to the factory where he plants a bomb set to detonate in fifteen minutes. He confronts Iron Man and tells him of this new development, demanding he surrender and be taken as a prisoner back to the Soviet Union. A violent superpowered battle ensues as the clock is ticking down and Iron Man is unable to overcome his enemy. He promises to allow Unicorn to take him on the plane bound for the East and the villain stops the countdown. As the plane heads across the skies toward Moscow, Iron Man casually mentions that he agreed to board the plane but gave no guarantees for what would happen afterward. The hero then destroys the plane, watching the crew parachute to safety but there is no sign of the Unicorn. Unseen by Iron Man the villain has used his own hidden flight technology to make it safely away. The next day, Tony visits Happy in the hospital and learns the big lug will recover. From Pepper’s relief he begins to wonder if she really has feelings for happy after all, and considers that a match of Happy and Pepper would be best for all concerned….

“Pouf! [The Atomizer Part Two]”
Writer: Unknown. Artist: Unknown.
Synopsis: Continued from last issue: Charlie keeps a thief from recovering the mystery atomizer he stole from a government lab!

“The Watcher’s Sacrifice!” 
Writer: Larry Lieber. Plot: Stan Lee. Pencils: Larry Lieber. Inks: George Roussos. Colors: ? Letters: Artie Simek.
Synopsis: The Watcher visits a world where a civilized nation has been invaded by a barbarian tribe; he falls in love with the defenders’ Queen Kalthea. He bends his rule of non-interference by showing himself to scare off the enemy. The Queen asks Uatu to marry her and be king but his position requires him to rebuke her and depart, breaking both their hearts. At that time on Earth, Johnny Storm is thinking the Watcher has the easiest job in the universe, standing around and doing nothing!

Don Heck


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Human Torch
Human Torch

(Johnny Storm)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Pepper Potts
Pepper Potts

(Pepper Hogan)


(Janet Van Dyne)


Plus: Giant-Man (Scott Lang), Unicorn.

> Tales of Suspense: Book info and issue index

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