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Tony Stark: Iron Man #9: Review

Mar 2019
Dan Slott, Valerio Schiti

Story Name:

Stark realities: Part 4 - With a heart of steel

Review & Comments

4 stars

Tony Stark: Iron Man #9 Review by (March 17, 2019)
The cover of this issue doesn't really lie. It has Crimson Dynamo attacking Iron Man, which happens in 1 panel of memory inside. And it has Black Widow running away (albeit on a motorbike), and inside Amanda/Widow does a runner.

Jim Zub helps Dan Slott with the scripting this issue. And Paolo Rivera helps Valerio Schiti with the pencils and inks.

The argument at the end of the issue used to be based on the idea that all the atoms in your body get replaced over 7 years, so are you still the same person afterwards? The answer given to that was that it was the organisation of atoms that mattered, not their individual identity. The version here is akin to the cyborg thought experiment:- if you replace all parts of your body, 1 at a time, by artificial alternatives, including your brain accompanied by suitable mind-transfer, then again are you still you?

I can throw in here that Tony Stark *has* done the mind-transfer bit. During Dark Reign he destroyed his own mind to keep its secrets out of the hands of Norman Osborn. And afterwards his mind was reloaded from an old backup.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Tony Stark: Iron Man #9 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Stark Unlimited released its eScape virtual reality system. Controller hacked it and reinstated loads of players who had been thrown out for bad behaviour, and then used Baintronics drones to deliver them in the real world the weapons & stuff they had in VR. Cue general mayhem.

Iron Man, Wasp and James Rhodes in his Manticore vehicle tracked Controller to 1 of Baintronics' warehouses, but he was now a giant powered by energy he was siphoning from his VR users. But the Motherboard AI that runs eScape sucked Tony Stark into the VR, leaving Wasp and Rhodey to fight alone ...

... and they're losing. Jim puts out a call for help to the Avengers and ARM (which it seems stands for Avengers Reserve Members [not Advanced Risc Machine]), but everyone's too busy handling the real world problem. (We see Captain America dealing with VR users playing  Grand Theft Auto in DC, Ironheart and other Champions battling players with jetpacks in Brooklyn, and Jocasta trying to wade through the chaos to reach Stark Unlimited to attack the problem at source.)

Controller isn't actually controlling the VR players but his concentration isn't on the fight, and he seems to be talking to someone, so Wasp reasons that he must be controlling someone at the moment who is more important to him than her and Rhodey. So she zaps him in the eye with a stinger blast to distract him.

Controller is actually controlling SU Security Chief Bethany Cabe who has just hit Andy Bhang with a baseball bat to stop him from jamming Controller's network. Andy tells her to back off or he'll push the button. Controller thinks he's bluffing because he hasn't had time to create the jammer. But he can't take the chance so he makes Beth hold a gun to the head of comatose Amanda Armstrong, Andy's girlfriend.

That's when Wasp zaps Basil Sandhurst, which shocks Bethany to her senses. She suddenly realises  that *she* has been the mole she's been hunting for most of this series. She sets her gun to stun and throws it to Andy. Who shoots her just as Sandhurst regains control.

Controller now turns he full attention to Wasp and the Manticore. But he's attacked by Gauntlet, the Security Chief of Baintronics, and a troop of Baintronics guards. Sunset Bain has ordered them in to support her (true) claim that she's not responsible for this mess, Tony Stark is. (Tony's brother Arno Stark standing beside her doesn't disagree.)

Suinset, Jocasta (arriving at SU), Andy (still working on the jammer) and Wasp all want to know where Tony is ...

... which is in the VR in the world of Iron Man's 1960's Cartoon series (complete with theme song). He's got the helmet with points above the eyes (I think the cartoon version actually had the rivetted look) and he's drinking because he hasn't yet realised he's an alcoholic. This is all courtesy of Motherboard who's manifesting in the VR as his (adoptive) mother Maria Stark, backed by a Howard Stark avatar.

They are in the VR's Home room, which is also where the mind of Tony's birth mother Amanda Armstrong is trapped, in an avatar of her young rockstar period. She tries to shock Tony back to his senses but Motherboard has control of his mind and he doesn't know who Amanda is. 'Maria' transforms her rival's image into that of Black Widow in her early fishnet tights costume, and Iron Man reacts to her as the Russian spy BW was then.

Amanda/Widow jumps through a window to escape into the grounds of the simulated mansion (presumably based on Stark Mansion before it became Avengers Mansion). But someone drags her into some bushes, and neither Iron Man nor Motherboard can now detect her. Her saviour is Machine Man who Jocasta sent into the VR last issue because he had a VR interface modified to make him invisible to the system, and he can hide Amanda if she stays close and keeps quiet. Amanda doesn't know who he is, but she knows Jocasta.

IM is searching the area on his boot's roller skates (it was a 60's thing) but can't find Black Widow. So Motherboard pulls him back into the life she has created for him. (We see him with Pepper and Happy, fighting Mandarin and the 1st Crimson Dynamo, and living it up.)

Machine Man tells Amanda that this isn't part of Controller's plan. But when he hacked the system he damaged Motherboard's programming. And now she's created this scenario to *protect* Tony. He thinks the only way to break Tony out of the spell is for Amanda to show she loves him more than 'Maria'.

Tony and some young women are watching a band, which gives Amanda an idea. She asks Machine Man to distract Tony, so he grows large and spouts Soviet slogans. Stark 'leaps' into action very slowly, taking off his suit to reveal the armour beneath and opening his briefcase to take out the helmet and gloves.

By then Amanda Widow has grabbed the microphone from the singer. She launches into 1 of her old songs which jogs his memory. Then she reminds him how he searched the World for her, his real mother (in the International Iron Man series). Maria Motherboard counterattacks by pointing out that *Amanda* never tried to *Tony*. And Maria *raised* him.

And now she adds a further bitter truth. Ever since his resurrection (in IM's Legacy issues after his 'death' during Civil War II) Tony has mentioned that with all his tinkering with his body (such as adapting to the Extremis armour) and the process he went through during 'rebirth' he wonders if there's anything left of the original man. And in that case does he still have a soul. Maria points out that the 1st thing he did after rebirth was create eScape and put his mother's AI in charge of it. She claims that Tony is now more at home with other virtual people like himself.

And the clincher is that DNA analysis she has performed shows that there is no trace left of the original Tony Stark. So she offers him a perfect world to live his new life in. And Tony is convinced she's right.

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)
James Rhodes
James Rhodes


(Janet Van Dyne)

Plus: Amanda Armstrong, Andy Bhang, Bethany Cabe, Controller (Basil Sandhurst), Gauntlet, Jocasta (Jocasta Pym), Motherboard, Sunset Bain (Madame Menace).

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

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