Iron Man volume 3 #73
Marvel Comics (December, 2003)
“The Best Defense” part 1: “Acquisition”
WRITER: John Jackson Miller
ARTIST: Jorge Lucas
COLORIST: Oscar Carreño
LETTERER: Rus Wooton
ASSISTANT EDITORS: Marc Sumerak & Andy Schmidt
EDITOR: Tom Brevoort
After a series of new weapons and armor tests by the government go horribly wrong, Stu Conrad of the President’s Chief Of Staff tries to get Tony to sign up as a consultant, despite his differences with Sonny Burch, a former Stane employee and current (incompetent) Under-Secretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. (I don’t know if that exists in the real world but given the Marvel universe it seems likely.) The companies he has working for them are messing up spectacularly. However, Tony has reasons not to work with munitions again but Stu gives him a recording of a failed mission that might change his mind, plus helping Captain America rescue a sub during another weapons test shows him that Birch has been using sealed patents via a legal loophole as part of his race to become Secretary Of Defense. Realizing his technology is again being misused, this time by an opportunistic jerk, Tony decides the only way to protect the world from his more dangerous inventions is to become Secretary Of Defense himself.
What they got right: I do like the conversation between Captain America and Iron Man, as Steve tries to make the case in favor of Tony taking the consulting job. It’s not preachy and it’s not pushing one viewpoint against the other but an honest debate among friends, the fun part being it’s done while “working”, a bit of shop talk. I like when long-running superhero universes have those moments. The art is also good.
What they got wrong: I should tell you at the start of this storyline that this is the one that led to me dropping the title from my pull list. As a story idea I do see the advantages and from a critic’s perspective there’s nothing bad about it at this point. My problem with it is purely personal. You know how I’ve been complaining for a few arcs now about the lack of supervillains and limited superheroing stuff? Well, outside of the rescue scene it’s all out the window here. I didn’t pick up Iron Man stories for political intrigue stuff. I wasn’t into The West Wing either. SPOILER: This story ends with Tony becoming Secretary Of Defense, which felt like a good time to leave. This isn’t what I picked up this series for.
Recommendation: As a story it works, but as an Iron Man story it feels like it really misses being a superhero story at this point. This is not a good comic to see old Shellhead at his best but critically it isn’t bad. We’ll see how well the arc tells it’s story over the next few issues but that’s the best way I can fill this slot in the review for now.