Welcome to another action packed Super Reads! This time around, we're taking an extra close look at Invincible Iron Man #4!
Fair warning time:
There are SPOILERS ahead.
Let's see what we're going to do today...
Madame Masque is usually known as Whitney Frost. Her original name is Giulietta Nefaria and she's the daughter of Count Luchino Nefaria but literally no one actually calls her Giulietta.
Typically, Madame Masque's MO is being a dangerously paranoid crime boss who's well skilled in the arts of hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship. This time around, she's got a mad-on for the magical arts.
Sometimes, you've gotta diversify.
The magical arsenal she's assembling is full of artifacts that aren't exactly FROM this reality. Not that something like the Wand of Watoomb is EVER from this reality but even so, the one she was after was from a DIFFERENT magical plane that Marvel-616 usually goes for it's magical needs.
Iron Man's on her tail because Madame Masque is one of those villains that Tony Stark likes to keep an eye on. They used to date. It's a whole thing.
Tony tracked down Whitney with a little help from Doctor Strange but instead of finding HER, he found a message FROM her warning him about following her.
Oh. He also found a bunch of techno-ninjas who are ALSO on Madame Masque's trail but will settle for killing Avengers if one happens to cross their path.
But what's up with that Doctor Doom guy?
Well, if you're reading Secret Wars, you'll know that Doom set himself up as a god of Battleworld who ruled supremely for eight whole years before two Reed Richardses came around and ruined his fun. We haven't seen how that resolves just yet (one last issue remaining!) but here we are, eight months later, and Victor Von Doom is still running around the Marvel Universe.
Only THIS time, he's not wearing a metal mask to hide his horrifyingly disfigured face. Because it's no longer horrifyingly disfigured!
I know. That was the surprise ending to Invincible Iron Man #1. It was mildly surprising.
We still don't know EXACTLY what Doom is up to in the All-New, All-Different Marvel Now Universe but it appears that he's trying a new strategy: being HELPFUL. And LESS ARROGANT. It's weird. He's helping Iron Man track down Madame Masque and he's doing it while not being a complete Silver Age asshole.
I mean, that's Doctor Doom's WHOLE THING. What next? Megatron joining the Autobots?
They already DID that? DAMMIT.
You may know Mary-Jane Watson from Amazing Spider-Man fame. She's Peter Parker's on-again, off-again girlfriend/ wife who is constantly being threatened by a villain trying to throw her off a bridge because none of us will stop comparing and contrasting her with Gwen Stacy. Or something.
She's the red headed girl who knew Spider-Man's secret identity long before it was cool for everyone to know it.
MJ is one of the most bad ass women in the Marvel Universe. No, really. She's the take charge, be-her-own woman kind of person who makes her own way in the world. She acts. She models. She has fun enjoying life. All without super-powers.
RIIIIGHT up until the moment when she got married to Peter. Then she because a whole lot less interesting. Say what you will about marriages in comics, if that marriage hurt Spidey, it DESTROYED Mary-Jane.
But it's all ok now because it never happened.
Since the Spider-Man comics have no idea what to do with Mary-Jane, it's time for her to move over to Iron Man comics. Tony is in DESPERATE need of a supporting cast.
Invincible Iron Man #4
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: After fighting Biotech Ninjas on the beach, Iron Man visits a bunch of sick children at St. Jude's before being pulled away by Doctor Doom to deal with Madame Masque attacking Mary-Jane's new night club in Chicago.
• Iron Man fights Biotech Ninjas.
• On the BEACH!
• When the fight is over, the defeated ninjas all die when their suits simultaneously explode into electric mayhem.
• Tony returns to his lab to think over the whole Madame Masque/ Doctor Doom adventure he's on but Friday tells him to drop it because he's got an appointment to visit sick children at Saint Jude's.
• She refuses to reschedule it because he programmed her to refuse any rescheduling attempts.
• Tony arrives at the hospital sans armor and meets Iron Max, a kid based on a real kid named Max Levy who is basically awesome.
• Max gets to suit up in Tony's armor for a minute or two before Doctor Doom arrives with a deadly bag of potato chips.
• The potato chips aren't ACTUALLY deadly.
• Tony and Victor take to the roof to talk.
• Mary-Jane Watson opens a night club in Chicago, hoping her latest club won't be destroyed by super-villains because it's not in New York City.
• Madame Masque shows up and destroys it anyway, taking out one of her old accomplices.
• Iron Man and Doctor Doom arrive to stop Madame Masque and destroy the rest of MJ's night club.
We left Iron Man facing down a horde of techno-ninjas in what MIGHT have been Madame Masque's Marina Del Rey hideout. We start this issue with Shellhead being blasted out of that house and on to the beach.
After analyzing the situation for a moment (and switching back to a stealth mode that'll prove useless), Tony learns (from Friday, his AI personal assistant) that these ninjas aren't leaving much of anything to detect. The tech is brand new. Their faces and hands are covered.
Tony decides to roll with it. It's a "good old-fashioned Moonlight Ninja Fight Beach Party." For one bright and shining moment, that sounds awesome.
And then that moment is over and Iron Man gets sand kicked in his face from his own repulsor blast being deflected off of one of the techno-ninjas' swords.
Iron Man can hold his own due to his own remarkable abilities (he's really strong and he can fly) but the ninjas have laser swords and, y'know, ninja skills. And NUMBERS. They decide to go with a singular tactic: laser sword Iron Man's head off.
Stark decides to get serious, using some shoulder-mounted guns to keep the ninjas at bay while he loses the useless stealth mode for a little samurai-inspired armor. He even ends up stealing one of those laser swords, fending off two other ninjas in the process.
Friday recommends withdrawing from the fight but Iron Man feels pretty good about his chances at this point. The sword definitely helps his confidence.
After igniting a "zero point energy bubble blast" and lowering the Iron Man's power down to 33%, Tony grabs a stunned ninja and tosses him into the ocean. This causes the rest of the ninja's suits to shut down and reboot, leaving them wide open for Shellhead to unleash some sword mayhem on them (by this point, he's grabbed a second sword). In just a moment, it's over.
And then Tony spends the next page explaining to the "Biotech Ninjas" how he beat them, causing Friday to digitally roll her eyes at his "monologuing."
Tony tears off the mask on the nearest ninja and starts questioning him. The defeated assailant speaks a foreign language. One source says it's Chinese but since we're dealing with ninjas, I think it's more likely that it's Japanese--however, I can't recognize EITHER so I'm just going with "foreign language. Whatever the case, he doesn't say anything useful. It's all "I am dishonored" and "I have failed." And then there are tears. You can guess what happens next.
Did you guess that all the suits would electrify their wearers at the same time? Because that's what just happened.
By the time the police arrive, the ninjas are fully barbecued. The cops ask if he "accidentally" killed the ninjas, leaving Tony to explain at least the last part of the battle to them. The rest, he's sent in email form to the head officer, included in his report and official statement. With that, the Invincible Iron Man is off to figure out what the hell is going on.
Or... at least that's what he's LIKE to do. It's gonna take him a few more issues before he ACTUALLY gets to the bottom of this (probably) but he goes back to his lab to do as much figuring as he possibly can. Friday tells him about a break in at his tower in Tokyo that happened a few days ago but was only filed as of this moment. We saw it happen back in the first issue. That was Madame Masque. Coincidentally, that's the first time we saw those Biotech Ninjas, too.
Tony has Friday fire the Stark Tower-Tokyo Security Chief, not because Madame Masque broke in on his watch but because it took him days to file a report about it.
As much as Tony would like to focus on this case for the rest of his life, Friday won't let him. He's got an appointment to visit some sick children at Saint Jude's and he SPECIFICALLY programmed Friday to refuse any rescheduling. She even shows him a holo-recording of himself, lecturing on the importance of not blowing off these kids again (he already rescheduled three times).
And so, Tony Stark goes in to visit some sick children at St. Jude's.
In this scene, we meet an eight year old kid named Max who is based off of five year old Max Levy. Max was diagnosed with Hemophilia A as a baby and with her sister, Zoe (age 8), created the Hearts 4 Hemophilia calendar with proceeds going to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Why is he included in this comic other than because it's awesome? Because as part of his treatment, Max got a port put into his chest and his family decided to call him Iron Max.
Also: because it's awesome.
When Tony shows up in his civies, Max demands to see the Iron Man armor, not believing Stark when he claims that he didn't bring it. Eventually, Tony gives up the game, claiming that he actually "brought a BUNCH of" armored suits. In strolls the Hulk Buster Armor, the Superior Armor, the Extremis Armor, the Silver Centurion Armor, the Heroic Age Armor, the Secretary of Defense Armor, and the Classic Armor. As the various armors greet the children, Tony offers Max the chance to suit up in his current suit.
Since the new suit is capable of on-the-fly modification (like the samurai version he came up with earlier, for example), Tony changes it to something more kid-sized.
Since Tony's a world-class super-hero, he's got Friday doing constant scans for any villains who might want to take advantage of a situation like this. In particular, she's looking for Doom but isn't finding any traces of him.
That would be great except he's standing in the doorway, casually eating a bag of potato chips.
So he's invisible to Tony's tech. That's good to know.
Stark can't believe that Doom would show up like this in a hospital filled with sick kids. Max, still in Tony's armor, holds up his repulsor palms, threateningly. Still, Victor Von Doom isn't doing anything menacing, unless you count eating potato chips in a room full of sick children.
Tony orders Doom up to the roof for a meeting with him and all of his armored suits. When they get there, Doctor Doom chastises Tony for "playing the clown" for the children instead of using his talents to "cure them." He even manages to get a disparaging comment in about Tony's applied field: Robotic Systems Science.
Stark demands that Doom get to the point... and we switch scenes...
To later that night!
In Chicago, Mary-Jane Watson is opening her latest night club: Jackpot. This is opening night and even though everyone is hear to dance the night away, Mary-Jane stands up in front of the crowd and gives a speech about why she opened up a nightclub in Chicago.
If this reads like EXACTLY the advertisement given for Invincible Iron Man's upcoming companion title, International Iron Man, that's because it's pretty much the same. The reason MJ opened a night club in Chicago is because her New York night club was destroyed by super-villains. NYC has all of the heroes and also all the bad guys. The pitch for International Iron Man is that some super-villains have actually learned that they would be better off doing super-crime ANYWHERE ELSE than New York and... I guess Iron Man is going to go stop them. Internationally.
It's not exactly a NEW concept. Hell, in the back-up story in Uncanny X-Men #600 (the Iceman story), a bad guy attempts to steal one of Hank Pym's inventions at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, figuring the lack of super-heroes will make his job easier. That story is was originally published in Bizarre Adventures #27 back in 1981. The fact that the world's super-heroes are all centralized in New York has been something Marvel's super-villains have been trying to take advantage of AT LEAST since then. The problem is, they always do it RIGHT when some super-hero is on vacation in the exact spot they'd like to commit heinous crimes.
ANYWAY, it's also the reason Mary-Jane opened her latest night club in Chi-town. She figures that all she'll have to worry about here is REGULAR criminals. Those guys use WAY less pumpkin bombs.
After she's done telling her new friends why she decided New York was a terrible place to run a business, she at least gives everyone free drinks for the night. So everyone is happy.
Oh, remember those regular criminals I mentioned earlier? One of them is actually IN the club, partying it up. His name is Behilio and he made the mistake of having an active Twitter account and tweeting what he was doing this evening. That means anyone looking for him would know EXACTLY where to go.
Guess who's looking for him? No, not another ordinary criminal scum. It's Madame Masque.
Behilio tries acting tough in front of the super-villain but we've seen how that goes in past issues. Instead of pulling out her gun and making Behilio dead, she blasts him and his companions was some of that purple magic mojo she's been using lately. The results are technically the same. Behilio is still dead. It's just that purple magic is a WHOLE lot more destructive.
As the crowd starts freaking out and running for the exits, a bewildered and dismayed Mary-Jane is left with only one question: "Why?"
And that might have been the end of things, really. Madame Masque blew up a wall or something while killing a past informant (or whatever) and then she MIGHT have left, leaving the rest of the night club intact even if it would now be a crime scene.
However, this is the part where Iron Man shows up to stop Madame Masque. He's brought Doctor Doom with him.
Chances are the rest of Jackpot is going to be gone PRETTY soon.