Iron Man volume 3 #33
Marvel Comics (October, 2000)
“Power” part 1: “Heroes”
WRITERS: Joe Quesada and Frank Tieri
ARTIST: Althia Martinez
INKERS: Hunter, Ramos, & Martinez (sounds like a law firm–maybe leave room for first names!)
COLORIST: Steve Oliff
LETTERER: Troy Peteri
EDITOR: Bobbie Chase
Tony and Rumiko finally get to have a night out without interruption. Then she invites him to a party…a superhero themed costume party, which Tony is less than thrilled about. He also learns what the sentient armor did to the New Warriors when he and Speedball show up at a bank robbery where a group of teens end up ODing. That night at the party, Tony and Rumiko learn the host of the exclusive event, Max Power, is handing out drugs that induce superpowers..namely the powers of actual heroes like Speedball (who complained earlier that he felt someone pinch him) as well as an overwhelming sense of euphoria. The lovers are separated and Tony puts on his armor. Iron Man tries to confront Power but the crazed guests get in the way even over Power’s own objections and then Iron Man is attacked by a Thing-ified Rumko who talks like the Hulk!
What they got right: I’m kind of surprised this hasn’t come up more often, the idea of superpower-inducing drugs as a negative. We have seen superheroes who get their powers from some kind of pill or formula like the original Blue Beetle or Marvel’s Sentinel, but exploring a mass power-inducing drug has been limited to the DC Universe’s “tar”, the monster-transforming Gaia Memories of Kamen Rider W, and that one episode of The Powerpuff Girls that inspired a Captain PSA comic I made a few years ago. If your superhero universe has been around long enough these should be more of these. It’s a different sort of anti-drug story. Also the attack on the New Warriors by the sentient armor ends up having repercussions. Too bad it’s Tony dealing with it. The goofball nature of the other party guests even before getting Power’s superpower drugs was cute.
What they got wrong: I like the classic armor as much as anyone else who grew up with it, but the new armor was designed in part because the armor’s energy fields were damaging his body and they couldn’t track how far back it was. Even if it isn’t this far back there were plenty of other armors he designed since then that would be better alternatives. Villains have gotten tougher and this armor is outdated based on the current status of the Marvel Universe. Maybe he should at least get something more recent if, as the story claims, he hasn’t had time to create new armor. It’s this feeling of regression, not helped by the new artificial heart, that has been bugging me ever since Quesada took over the writing duties even before Tieri came on board. The art is also not very fantastic. Martinez did better when she pinched-hit for Chen although it could be the other two inkers to blame. I don’t know which pages she did herself and the art is a bit uneven.
Recommendation: The story is starting out good and worth looking into, even if the art has issues. I’ll let you know if the storyline as a whole is worth it.