Iron Man volume 3 #4
Marvel Comics (May, 1998)
“Trouble In Paradise”
WRITER: Kurt Busiek
PENCILER: Sean Chen
INKERS: Eric Cannon & Sean Parsons
EDITOR: Bobbie Chase
Morgan chooses Isla Suerte to debut their new Starkware line, with a new web browser designed by Tony Stark. It’s there he learns that Pepper and Happy are now divorced, and meets Rumiko Fujikawa, whose grandfather’s company bought Stark Enterprises while Tony was in Franklin’s pocket dimension. She uses him to tweak her parents, who won’t let her work at the company because she’s female (90s Japan, people) so she opted to be the rebellious daughter. As Tony tries to duck Sunset Bain and figure out what Rhodey is doing here the island is attacked by a new Firebrand, who needs a containment suit to control his flame powers. While Iron Man chases him off after damaging his containment suit and Rumiko is able to pull the island medical staff to help the injured, Firebrand returns as everyone is coming up with a new strategy and reactivates the extinct volcano!
What they got right: In the climate we live in as I write this seeing someone willing to create a supervillain who has an extreme view of their own political perspective would be unheard of (while treating anyone of an opposing opinion as an extremist whether they are or not has become the norm) so seeing the rich-hating psycho in this comic is interesting. (I would like to think I could write a right-wing supervillain and a left-wing supervillain as equally evil without slamming mainstream holders of either perspective.) This is also the debut of Rumiko Fujikawa, and you’ll be seeing I’m often of mixed feelings about her throughout her appearance in the series, but in the end I learned to like her. Here I see the potential she would later show. Also my congratulations to the art team (although the coloring was done by a studio who doesn’t name it’s workers) because the art is beautiful, especially by 1990s standards.
What they got wrong: I’ve been hinting about it for the past few issues, but here it is. I HATE the fact that Busiek decided to end Pepper and Happy’s marriage, and remember he’s one of my favorite writers so you know that declaration isn’t given lightly. I know he’s against superhero marriage (we’ve even debated it over Twitter and he was a lot nicer about it than other Marvel creators defending the end of the Spider-Marriage) but if this is any indication he hates married couples in comics period. Why did they have to be split up? Heck, did they even need to be brought back if he’s just going to ruin their happy ending and undo their evolution into a couple? Yeah, I know, couples split up all the time, but that doesn’t mean every marriage in fiction needs to be undone if they’re allowed to happen at all. I don’t see any real benefit here. I am not happy with this decision and do not see the point of it.
Update: If you look in the comments Mr. Busiek himself dropped by to clarify, both on his supermarriage thoughts (which I oversimplified apparently) and on the ending of Happy and Pepper’s marriage. Apparently I have writers who came before him to blame for this decision and he simply came up with actual reasons. I’m still not happy that the marriage was ended, but he does note in his comments that he used the opportunity to bring them together as part of Tony’s theme of rebuilding after Heroes Reborn. I think I’ve just seen too many reunion movies and sequels where they break the couple up (Ghostbusters and the Antonio Banderas/Catherine Zeta Jones Zorro movies come to mind) just to bring them together again like they did in the first movie or original TV show rather than let us see where their relationship is now as they’ve grown closer. It’s a reunion plot point I honestly never want to see again…although I know I totally will.
Recommendation: A good story thus far and worth picking up due to it’s importance in Tony’s life and the debut of two new characters, Rumiko and the new Firebrand.