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Tony Stark: Iron Man #3: Review

Aug 2018
Dan Slott, Valerio Schiti

Story Name:

Self-made man: Part 3 - Non-player character assassination

Review & Comments

4 stars

Tony Stark: Iron Man #3 Review by (August 19, 2018)
Rachelle Rosenberg helps Edgar Delgado with the colouring.

The (Alan) Turing test is a theoretical system to test whether an AI can fool a human into believing it's human too. Because of limitations of computers in the 1950's when it was defined, it wasn't intended to check whether the AI looked and acted human, but only whether its responses seemed human, and the responses were given as printed output and slowly. (The hidden computer was to be matched against a hidden human who was constrained to also give his answers equally slowly in print. The test wasn't whether the answers matched or were right, but that a human could have given them.)

Machine Man adopted a more human look with synthetic skin in the Nextwave series, and kept it up until now.

The Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation initially and mainly existed in the Thing series. The female wrestlers pictured here are Ms Marvel (Sharon Ventura), Poundcakes and Lascivious.

Dazzler Nation were on stage before Amanda Armstrong, and they consisted of people or AIs in the various Dazzler outfits.

Rawhide Kid and Two-Gun Kid are seen in the Wild West Town.

A recognisable robot in the bar is HERBIE from the Fantastic Four.

Ka-Zar and Zabu are of course in the Savage Land.

Captain Marvel (a male with a flat cap and Carol Danvers' costume) and Adam Warlock are seen somewhere in the eScape.

Clea, Scarlet Witch and Modred the Mystic are Tony Stark's backup in the Mystic Zone.

The talking cat and dog from #1 are here again (in the real world) playing chess this time.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Tony Stark: Iron Man #3 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
The hands of a brown-skinned female open up a package labelled Stark Unlimited eScape Interface. She dons the Iron Man facemask within and is welcomed by a recorded Tony Stark message to the beta test version of SU's new virtual universe. He hopes that the non-player characters in here will be indistinguishable from the players so there's a reward for every real human you can identify - and a bigger reward if you spot Tony himself. She muses to herself that this is not so-much a beta test as a Turing test.

He himself will not appear as Iron Man but the beta-testers will be. And our viewpoint character sees herself clad in Iron Man armour surrounded by loads of other different Iron Man suits (including the 1 with the nose). (Surely this defeats the object if all the human users look like Shellhead. But later we'll see other users not in this guise - are they not beta-testers and it's they who must be tagged?)

We now flashback to yesterday in SU's Washington Square Park HQ where Tony explains the plan to his staff. Andrew Bhang asks Amanda Armstrong to sign 1 of her old LPs for him, and she invites him to join her in eScape tomorrow. She's going to appear as her old self and give a concert - he can jam with her. James Rhodes doesn't want to join in because there are no war games in the v-world, and says he knows Tony's *real* reason for doing this.

Outside the office the AI robot Jocasta asks if she can play or would she muddy the waters? But then her boyfriend Machine Man/Aaron Stack approaches and berates her for taking part in this offensive scheme. He accuses Stark of "appropriating robo-culture" when he dresses up as Iron Man, and claims that eScape oppresses its AI NPCs. Jocasta apologises for him, saying he's become a militant mecha-activist (and dropped the synthetic flesh look he's sported recently). They exit arguing, watched with interest by security chief Bethany Cabe.

In the present our POV character enters the sports zone where the Motherboard AI explains that she could become any sports star. She sees a beta-tester in the clunky old yellow armour in the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation arena who confronts a Demolition Man look-alike with 3 female wrestlers. That IM accuses D-Man of being a user living out a fantasy but is proved wrong, and Motherboard says that's 1 of his 3-strikes-and-you're-out.

Our POV, who appears to be in a very early red & gold armour, enters the rockstar arena where the Amanda Armstrong Experience are playing. She tags the singer and guitarist because no AI could be *that* bad. She's right, and gets 2 points. But we see they were Amanda and Andy, who decide to go for some real world burgers.

Our beta-tester now reaches Wild West Town. She asks an inhabitant if there've been any incidents lately, such as train robberies. Meanwhile someone in a bulky silver armour is asking someone else if they've just got a new sheriff in town. But the scene is interrupted by Machine Man who has hacked in and proceeds to blast beings indiscriminately. AI NPCs get disrupted and users are logged out.

Another flashback takes us to last night in the Uncanny Valley, a secret bar for robots. Aaron enters and demands a drink. 1 of the other patrons slips him an eScape box with a mask that resembles his old X-51 face (he now has a silvery fairly human face). She tells Stack it's a skeleton key that will allow him total access and invulnerability. She claims to be 1 of Tony Stark's creations that he now considers obsolete. But when she leaves we see that behind the image inducer is Bethany Cabe, but under the control of the Controller.

Stack appears in the virtual reality in his old X-51 form. We see him blasting his way through the Savage Land, Cartoon Corner and ending up in the Mystic Realm where Stark has organised a last stand.  Tony is disguised as Dr Strange and he tells all magic-users to copy his spells. Machine Man finds himself assailed by computer code from all directions. Our 'Iron Man' is here too and learns that she's the last beta-tester standing.

Aaron Stack responds by using his master access to attack Stark's jacked-in brain. He threatens to discover the *real* reason for eScape that Rhodey hinted at. Our POV tries to zap Machine Man but he's too-well defended. She offers to shoot Stark to break his connection but Tony says the link to MM would tear his mind in 2 (and Stack confirms it). So she takes another option - she blasts *herself*, severing her own connection and closing down the game as the last beta-tester.

And back in the real world our tester switches off *her* image inducer to reveal Jocasta.

Later she packs her bags and leaves the apartment she shared with Aaron. Her lover tells her he couldn't distinguish her from the humans. Jocasta responds that means she passed the Turing test. And Tony isn't pressing charges because Aaron helped him iron out some bugs in the system.

At the office Bethany Cabe claims that Aaron Stack had cloned and used Jocasta's security clearance. And that *he* was the 1 behind the data thefts in the previous issues. (But we know it was actually Ms Cabe herself when under the Controller's domination.)

Tony sees Jocasta arriving with her luggage. He tells *her* the real reason for eScape - he wanted to see if humans and AIs could coexist as indistinguishable equals. But then we learn more about what he told Rhodey last issue. During Dark Reign he erased his mind, and then reloaded it from a backup. And over the years he's re-engineered his whole body. So he wonders if *he* is now an AI, with no soul. But Jocasta replies that *she* knows that *she* has 1.

Jocasta now makes an empty cupboard her 'sleeping' place. But she puts on her eScape mask and enters the virtual world. There she goes to sleep in her image inducer form in her own bed in the apartment, but with Motherboard to bid her goodnight.

Valerio Schiti
Valerio Schiti
Edgar Delgado
Alexander Lozano (Cover Penciler)
Alexander Lozano (Cover Inker)
Alexander Lozano (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Travis Lanham.
Editor: Tom Brevoort. Editor-in-chief: C. B. Cebulski.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

James Rhodes
James Rhodes


Plus: Amanda Armstrong, Andy Bhang, Bethany Cabe, Controller (Basil Sandhurst), Jocasta (Jocasta Pym).

> Tony Stark: Iron Man: Book info and issue index

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