Iron Man #284-291 (1992): Tony is dead; 1st War Machine

Oh my God!  Tony is in a coffin!  Is he dead?

No, he isn’t.   

Tony Stark “dies” at the very beginning of the first issue of this arc, and he bequeaths upon James Rhodes the War Machine armor.

Tony also left his entire company to Rhodey, which basically means he’s the full Iron Man/Tony Stark now, only black.  As you can see, above, he even calls himself Iron Man and not War Machine (yet).

James Rhodes and the world react to the news of Stark’s “death” and Rhodes being named CEO of Stark International.

Tony’s girlfriend kills herself.  Wow.  That’s pretty extreme.  

There’s a new villain, too.

Atom Smasher.

Rhodey beats him.

And also Rhodey teaches Atom Smasher the meaning of nobility.

Atom Smasher will return one more time–in War Machine #1.

A fight with Living Laser.

Spymaster brings together some old favorite villains and we see scenes of Rhodes in the Iron Man armor fighting various villains who are trying to capitalize on Stark’s absence, while Tony is frozen in storage having flashbacks that tell us, gradually, the story of his death.

Rhodes has nightmares about it.

Firepower is back and gets a beat down.

Rhodes struggles to learn how to use the armor, West Coast Avengers try to figure out if its’ the same dude inside the suit, etc.

We’ve seen this stuff before, but it’s still fun.

But the significance of these events is undercut by us knowing Tony is still alive.  Also, these issues would be more fun if we hadn’t already seen Rhodes don the armor (twice), and experience a lot of these same events.

Although, we haven’t seen this before…

Villains shrunk by Hank Pym and stuck in a baggie.  That bumps this story up a full grade. I mean, ziplocking villains is awesome.

At the very end of issue #286, the true “big bad” is revealed to be Morgan Stark, Tony’s cousin.

Tony’s coma is full of flashbacks about his childhood, so it’s clear we’re now in the middle of a family feud.  

Morgan infiltrates Stark International using fairly standard techniques of corporate espionage (more stuff we’ve seen before in Iron Man comics).

But here’s an odd thing…

When Stark finally comes to and Rhodey learns he’s alive, Rhodes is angry and seems to treat it like a betrayal.  That doesn’t make a lot of sense, really.  I mean, I understand him being upset that Tony was hidden from him by a cabal of docs and technicians fighting to revive him, but it’s not like Tony did this to mess with Rhodey.

Anyway, next issue is a big double-sized anniversary story where Tony will get new armor.

Actually, he’s not in that armor.  He’s controlling it remotely.  And he gradually starts shaking off his paralysis.

With tech.

And still, after all this, Rhodey is not called War Machine yet.

Kevin Hopgood pencilled all but one issue; Tom Morgan fills in on #289.

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