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Tony Stark: Iron Man #8: Review

Feb 2019
Dan Slott, Valerio Schiti

Story Name:

Stark realities: Part 3 - Factory settings

Review & Comments

4 stars

Tony Stark: Iron Man #8 Review by (February 16, 2019)
The last bit of the story makes the cover not a lie.

The events here increase support for the idea that the Motherboard AI is descended from the AI that controlled the original Arsenal robots in Avengers Annual #9, which Howard Stark had based on the brain-patterns of his wife Maria.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Tony Stark: Iron Man #8 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Tony Stark put his eScape VR system on general release, but last issue Controller hijacked it and filled it with disgruntled players who'd been thrown off for breaking the rules. And he also co-opted Baintronics' drone delivery system to give all these players in real life the weapons and other stuff they had in the VR. So now they are running amok treating innocent bystanders as VR adversaries.

In Moscow we see people with the eScape interfaces (which look like Iron Man masks) and swords hacking at passersby and calling them (strangely defenceless) orcs. Darkstar, Vanguard and Ursa Major of Russia's Winter Guard try to defend the populace but Crimson Dynamo tells them not to remove the masks because it will cause brain damage.

In Rome a member of the Carabinieri is upset because he had to shoot a mask-wearing girl because she was shooting other people.

In Pasadena, California a kid with a jetpack suicide-bombed a building expecting to be respawned in the VR. A news reporter says the jetpack was made by Baintronics. And in Manhattan Sunset Bain tries to divert press attention to Tony Stark to ask him why all the perpetrators are wearing Iron Man masks.

Tony is currently in his Iron Man armour backed up by Wasp plus James Rhodes in his Manticore assault vehicle. They are at the Baintronics site in Cranbury, New Jersey where they tracked Controller to, and are trying to stop the flow of drones delivering deadly packages. But Tony points out they're wasting their time because other Bain factories worldwide are sending stuff too. They have to attack the source of the problem, the Controller.

The Manticore blasts an opening, but inside they're faced with innocent employees under Controller's control. (Even though they're plugged into eScape via masks they're presumably *controlled* by Basil Sandhurst, unlike the other players.) Sandhurst is in continuous contact with Stark and is treating this like level 1 of a computer game. Our trio have to use non-lethal methods to get through them. Stark gets Friday, currently back as his armour's onboard AI, to connect him to the eScape VR where he asks all the players to stop, but they aren't listening.

Janet Van Dyne wonders what Controller's plan is. Tony tells her it's the same as always. Sandhurst drains mental energy off all the people he controls (this also applies to all the VR players as we'll learn below) and converts it to physical power for his body. He's not trying to take over the world or anything.

Rhodey detects the main power source and Iron Man uses up some of his armour's energy to force open some large doors. And behind it they find an extremely large Controller. (Tony wishes he'd brought the Hulkbuster armour.) Basil congratulates him on reaching the Boss Level. Iron Man switches his weapons to lethal setting.

In Stark Unlimited Andy Bhang has been left in command (on the basis that he's the only employee hired after Controller made his 1st move, controlling Fin Fang Foom with 1 of his standard control discs in #1, and so the least likely to be under Sandhurst's control). The press and presumably the authorities want to talk to Stark, but Andy has to tell them that he's away dealing with the problem as Iron Man. They don't like being fobbed off with the Chief Roboticist that no-ones's heard of. But he suddenly abandons his post because he's had an idea about getting back control of the VR system.

He goes to the medical bay where Head of Security Bethany Cabe is watching over Tony's biological mother Amanda Armstrong whose body is in a coma while her mind is trapped in VR by her eScape interface. He's realised that Controller must have insinuated his control/draining tech into the eScape masks (via someone he controls in SU). But he's been working on that interface since he joined and reckons he can work out how to block Sandhurst off from the masks. We know that Cabe has a control disc, and Basil can take her over at any time without her remembering it afterwards. He acts now and she raises something to hit the scientist with.

Meanwhile Amanda's mind, sheathed in an avatar based on her young rockstar days, is in eScape's Home room. With her are some little robots, the rules enforcer based on the Arsenal robots, a Howard Stark construct and the ruling AI Motherboard manifesting as Maria Stark. 'Maria' claims to be more Tony's mother than Amanda. Amanda just produced the baby's flesh while Maria moulded his genius (before she and Howard died). And their son has proven that he'd rather spend time in Motherboard's VR then with Amanda. And she'll prove it by calling Tony here.

And in another meanwhile the intrepid 3 are trying to wear Controller down. But he claims he's only using a fraction of the power at his disposal. Tony's having more success needling the villain's ego.

Then Friday tells him he's got a call from his mother. This is obviously not a good moment so Tony tells Friday to tell Amanda he'll call her back. The AI informs him it's *not* Amanda on the line, which confuses our hero. The suit AI then reveals that it is really Motherboard not Friday, who was deleted when she was uploaded into the Iron Man armour. His 'mother' then uses the mind-link between Tony and his armour to take him to a "better reality".

In the real world Iron Man has stopped helping Wasp and Rhodey fight the Controller. He sees them as Wasp and Giant-Man fighting Hulk in the earliest days of the Avengers, and leaves saying he's heading home to get the Hulkbuster armour. Jim assures Jan that Tony must have a plan.

Time for a brief interlude with Jocasta and her ex, Machine Man. Last issue Stark told her to get Aaron Stack to use his illegal eScape interface to sneak into the VR. But when she found him she collapsed because she'd forgotten to recharge her robot body overnight. Now she regains consciousness to find herself plugged into a recharger in Aaron's apartment. And she's concerned that she's naked, ie not wearing the clothes she's used lately to try to blend in at Stark Unlimited. Aaron likens this to Donald Duck wearing pants.

Stack is also now in the VR in his Machine Man avatar (which #3 showed was invisible to the system). Jocasta tells him not to make a move yet. She'll return to SU and co-ordinate their strategy.

Back in the VR Home room Tony enters dressed in an old armour (the 1 with the pointy bits above the eyes - Tales Of Suspense #48-53) and greets 'Maria' as his mother. 'Howard' pours his son a martini. Tony has regressed to a time when he hadn't realised he was an alcoholic, and he drains the glass in 1 go.

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


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Ursa Major
Ursa Major

(Mikhail Uriokovitch Ursus)
War Machine
War Machine

(James Rhodes)

(Janet Van Dyne)

Plus: Amanda Armstrong, Andy Bhang, Bethany Cabe, Controller (Basil Sandhurst), Crimson Dynamo (Dmitri Bukharin), Jocasta (Jocasta Pym), Motherboard, Sunset Bain (Madame Menace), Vanguard, Winter Guard.

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

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