Did someone say I should get to Invincible Iron Man #2 in my Super Reads feature?
OK. I'll do that. And YOU will beware because...
There are SPOILERS ahead.
So, let's review the basics of what happened last issue.
You know Madame Masque. She's the former love of Tony Stark named Whitney Frost. Masque has seven or eight other names but "Madame Masque" and "Whitney Frost" are the most common so let's just stick with them.
Last issue, Frost racked up the frequent flier miles as she raided locations in Beijing, Osaka, and Latveria for unknown items all in the course of an evening.
While we don't know what she's been stealing, we DO know that one of them glows. Glowing items of mystery typically turn out to be insanely dangerous. Or glow sticks.
It's possible she's just REALLY into raves.
So what was Tony Stark, the Invincible Iron Man, doing while his ex was raiding the world for items of great power or whatever?
He was building a better Iron Man suit and going out on a date.
The date was with Doctor Amara Perera, a biophysicist who intimidated Tony with her intelligence. And also because she had invented a "cure" for being a mutant on a whim.
She's keeping that under wraps, btw.
The date didn't end in a kiss but it DID conclude with the idea that there might be future dates. That's good because Perera isn't Pepper Potts and comic book Tony Stark has no good reason to date Pepper again.
It also ended with Stark donning his new armor for the first time so he could begin tracking down Madame Masque after her latest raid in Latveria.
So, to Latveria we go!
The old European nation was long ruled over by Doctor Doom but some even in the recent past (Secret Wars, probably) has caused Doom to abdicate his throne.
Without any other strong leader to take over, the country has fallen straight into civil war but as awful as it is, at least it isn't written by Mark Millar.
In reality, it wouldn't ACTUALLY be termed a "civil war" because the country seems to have destabilized beyond there being any centralized government. You need some form of "state" to have a civil war. When that's gone, the war is all the more uncivil.
When Iron Man arrived at the abandoned Castle Doom, he was eventually greeted by one of the local militant groups. When his charms refused to work on them, he was rescued by a sonic attack delivered by...
That guy in the picture. Who is Victor Von Doom. Doctor Doom. Sans armor. With a mostly fixed up face. He only has that one scar near his left eye.
So if you were trying to avoid Secret Wars spoilers and you read this, you TOTALLY FAILED. Sorry. That's how this works. In fact, that's how All-New, All-Different Marvel Now works.
So, thanks all around.
Invincible Iron Man #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez
Color Artist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer & Production: Clayton Cowles (from Virtual Calligraphy)
Assistant Editor: Alanna Smith
Editors: Tom Brevoort with Katie Kubert
In this issue: Victor Von Doom and Tony Stark form the beginnings of a beautiful relationship and Stark chases Madame Masque to a hotel in Montreal.
• Victor Von Doom and Tony Stark confront each other in Latveria.
• Doom gives Iron Man the Wand of Watoomb, revealing that the one Madame Masque stole was a fake.
• When the Castle is surrounded by enemy militia, Doctor Doom uses his magic to teleport a stubborn Tony Stark to the Bronx Zoo in New York.
• Friday refuses to plot a course back to Latveria, explaining that the battle there is already over and that they would be better off just tracking down Madame Masque.
• In Montreal, Madame Masque kills a male hooker and the ex-Hydra woman that gave her intel on Doom's Wand of Watoomb.
• Because she has realized that the Wand is a fake.
• Having reached her murder quota for the day, Masque takes a well deserved shower.
• When the shower is over, she's greeted by an unarmored Tony Stark who has taken her mask and emptied her gun of bullets.
• She demands the mask back and Tony eventually gives it up.
• Stark realizes that Madame Masque and Doctor Doom aren't working together which throws his entire world view into disarray.
• When Whitney attacks Tony, she ends up breaking her hand on his invisible Iron Man armor.
• Thinking the fight already over, Iron Man is unprepared for Madame Masque's magical attack.
We begin this issue right where we left off, in the ruins of Doctor Doom's capital building, Castle Doom. To clarify for those that aren't up on their Latverian geography (IE: Me), The capital CITY is called Doomstadt, the capital BUILDING is called Castle Doom. Or sometimes, Castle Doomstadt. And other times, the CITY is called Castle Doomstadt. Does that clear everything up?
Good. I'm glad that works for everyone.
It's more of a town than a city, anyway.
The "shocking" ending of Invincible Iron Man #1 featured Iron Man confronted with Victor Von Doom. That in and of itself ISN'T so surprising. These two have faced off a number of times. What makes THIS time different is that Doom has a near perfect face. And we know that because instead of wearing his typical super-villain suit, Victor is wearing a business suit.
Even though Friday, Iron Man's onboard AI and personal assistant, confirmed that this was Victor Von Doom through all of Iron Man's scanners, Tony asks the unscarred Doom to confirm his identity. Once that's done, Iron Man unleashes a repulsor attack on the villain.
The attack is blocked by Victor's magical defenses. They are purple in color. Get used to that. Magic is purple. Repulsors are blue. Just letting you know I was thinking of you.
Damn you, poetry. You win this round.
When the repulsor attack fails, Tony shuts those down and, again, asks Doom to confirm his identity. To prove that he's really Doctor Doom, Victor recollects a previous encounter with Stark where they traveled back to medieval England, to the days of King Arthur, Camelot, and Morgana Le Fey. This happened back in Invincible Iron Man #150. It was pretty great.
Even Doom seems to have enjoyed this trip to the past. At some point, Victor started a romance Morgana Le Fey, even though he needed to time travel back to her era to keep the fling going.
When Doctor Doom remarks on how much he enjoyed their adventure in the past, Stark shouts "You tried to murder me and leave me there."
Doom: "I said I looked back on it fondly. I didn't say YOU did."
This is the part where Tony switches his armor configuration to "Hulkbuster" and tries a physical attack.
And that's pretty damn interesting. Last issue, Tony said that this armor would have all of the abilities of his older suits and he wasn't just talking about his basic models. This thing can bulk up to Hulkbuster size! Somehow!
Of course, this assault is just as effective as his repulsor attack.
If you're looking for answers to why Doctor Doom's face is healed or why he's not in his armor anymore, you aren't going to get anything at all solid. The face is all down to him "getting better" and the armor is gone because "this is the NEW [Doom]." He'll later say that he stepped down as Latveria's monarch because he is fulfilling a higher purpose. So we're getting a lot of vague answers.
Since attacking Doctor Doom isn't working, Iron Man decides to listen to what Victor has to say while having Friday continue scanning Doom for any signs of weakness. Hint: she's not going to find any.
It all comes back to Whitney Frost. Madame Masque. Doctor Doom mentions Tony's history with her and we're treated to a quick flashback montage that quickly sums up their entire relationship.
I'll do it too: Confusing and awkward.
But Doom doesn't need to see any kinks in Stark's armor so Tony just tells the former dictator that he knows who Madame Masque is.
Iron Man switches his armor back to it's basic configuration and follows Doom through the wrecked remains of Castle Doom. Victor explains that Frost has begun a quest to gather together terrible and mighty items all over the world and the end result of someone like Madame Masque getting these powerful artifacts is... bad. She could break the world.
Hinting at the nature of these items, Doctor Doom tells Iron Man that the Earth has played host to about a billion inter-dimensional visits, Incursions, breaks in time and space, and other messed up events that take things from one universe and deposit them in another. Powerful things. "Items that do NOT follow the rules of our physics or our biology tend to fall through the cracks."
Doom leads Iron Man to his hidden laboratory within Castle Doom. The place is a wreck. From a small, unassuming chest near the debris, Victor pulls out...
The Wand of Watoomb. This device can be used "to multiply, focus, or redirect mystical energies." Iron Man knows that Doctor Strange has the Wand of Watoomb but Doctor Doom claims that this is ANOTHER Wand. From a different universe. He hands it over to Iron Man for safekeeping, believing it to be better of with Tony than Madame Masque. Or HIM, for that matter.
This is a gesture on Doom's part to build trust with Iron Man. He claims that they will be working together and the only way that's going to happen is if Tony TRUSTS Doctor Doom.
Which seems like something that would never happen but now it HAS to.
Since Doom's Wand of Watoomb is still on the premises, it means that whatever Madame Masque left Castle Doom with is a fake. Doom was expecting someone like Doctor Strange or Mephisto to show up for it.
As our hero and villain have been talking, the militants have regrouped and are at this moment, converging on Castle Doom, looking for Iron Man. Victor Von Doom tells Tony to fly off and begin tracking Whitney Frost. Getting involved in the Latverian conflict would just be a wasted effort.
At this point, Doom laments the state of his former country. He kept thing from falling apart and the people were secure. Now, these militant groups hurt everyone.
Of course, Iron Man isn't going to just leave.
Tony thinks that Doom will take on the rebels and then retake Latveria but that is NOT Victor's intention. Like I said earlier, Doctor Doom is done being king. Now, it's time to do something else.
When Iron Man STILL refuses to leave, Doom tells Tony that they'll talk later and that the new armor looks swell. Then, our reformed super-villain uses purple magic to teleport the Golden Avenger to...
The Bronx Zoo.
It takes a moment for Friday to come back online but she informs Tony of their current location and then REFUSES to chart a path back to Latveria. When Stark asks for a reason for her refusal, Friday tells him that "hacked satellite footage" reveals that the Latverian confrontation is already over and that their time would be better served finding Madame Masque. So they do that instead.
Friday also puts out a call to Doctor Strange. Then, she starts mocking Tony for his new best friend.
Great AI you got there, Stark.
While Friday is busy "triangulating" Madame Masque's location, let's just head over to Montreal to see what Whitney Frost is up to. Don't worry. Tony will get here eventually.
But, holy crap. Whitney is GLOBE TROTTING.
In a certain upscale hotel room, a lady is bringing a man back for a little nookie. The lady is ex-Hydra. The man is a prostitute. The woman already in the room is a stone cold killer.
Yeah. It's Madame Masque.
The the man sees the woman with a gun in her hand, he freaks out. He was just trying to make some money, not get involved in any gun play. Sadly, his terrified antics just get him killed quicker. Don't annoy the lady with the gun.
Now, the ex-Hydra agent was Masque's informant. She's the one that fed Whitney the intel on Doctor Doom's Wand of Watoomb. Madame Masque has learned that the Wand was a fake and blames the ex-Hydra Agent for wasting her time. The ex-Hydra knows that Doom had the ACTUAL Wand but she does admit to being at fault.
Her fault was thinking that working with Madame Masque was a good idea.
Whitney shoots her.
After all that killing, Frost decides to take advantage of the free room and get a shower in. When it's over, the grabs her robe then reaches for where she left her gun.
It's not in the same place she left it.
The murderer panics a bit then reaches out for where her gun has been moved and checks it for ammo. It's empty.
In comes the voice of Tony Stark, telling her that he emptied the gun. He's also taken her mask.
If you look at that mask, you'll see that it's different from her old golden mask. It's see-through. It's like gold has been drizzled over the eyes in a unique pattern but the rest of it is opaque. Later, we see that the mouth can open and close. So it's kind of a cool upgrade to her usual look.
And, speaking of usual looks, we also know that Whitney Frost's face has been fixed up. In fact, that means we're dealing with two villains who usually have scarred up faces that now have their looks back. Unless Whitney purposefully re-scarred her face. Which is possible.
The mask, however, is a comfort for her, scars or not. She demands it back and Tony eventually relents, tossing it back. The gun will remain without bullets, though.
Tony claims to have left his armor behind so that they could have a conversation that doesn't devolve into fighting. After all, Stark has some questions he wants answers to.
First off he talks about the two dead bodies. Whitney tells him that they are of an ex-Hydra assassin and a prostitute but you know that Stark isn't going to see that as a good reason to kill them. He tells Frost that despite their occupations, they had people who loved them (or at least families who saw them as disappointments but that's the SAME THING!).
What Tony REALLY wants to know is why Madame Masque would be working with Doctor Doom. When Whitney legitimately has no idea what Stark is talking about, Tony finally realizes that Doom is actually trying to do the right thing. Or... at least not the WRONG thing. It causes our genius billionaire to throw up his hands at the insanity of the world.
It also causes him to let down his guard, such as it is. The whole time he's been talking to Madame Masque, Whitney has been warming him to leave. Or die.
Since he's still here, he's obviously chosen to die. Without his armored suit, he's got no chance to last more than three seconds.
We have now learned another feature of the new Iron Man armor: stealth! This is a lot more elaborate than "stealth," of course. It basically projects a three dimensional image (in this case, of Tony Stark) instead of showing off it's armored look.
And it's just plain cool. Madame Masque's failed attack ends up breaking her hand. An armored Tony Stark thinks he's gone this fight in the bag but it turns out he's just pissed off the bad guy.
Remember how Whitney has been gathering up items like the Wand of Watoomb? Well, that means magic and while the Wand proved to be fake, the other ones are quite real. It's not clear exactly what item she's using HERE, but what IS clear is she's just gone from a villain losing a fight against Iron Man, to someone who has the Golden Avenger on the ropes, using the purple power that is magic.