For those of you who have played D&D or other cooperative role-playing games, you know how hard it can be for the person running your characters through their adventures and that some of those people fall into the horrible pitfalls of being bad at planning a story. There’s one particular pitfall I like to call the Firm Boot of the DM, for when the story needs you to go somewhere and doesn’t care if you want to or not. Say there’s a wizard giving you a quest for no other reason than exactly that. Here’s your quest, go on and go adventure. You, as a player, may have questions or concerns or want some motivations from that wizard, but nope! Wizard is wise and unknowable and invincible so don’t start any fights with him, just take your quest and go. There’s always some larger war that wizard has to fight or some terrible burden he must carry, so don’t expect this Wizard to help you, just leave him alone to do some other grander thing and figure what to do next by yourself.
At least Doom gives Iron Man a next plot point to get to.
So we open issue two with Doctor Doom and Iron Man still standing off in the ruins of Castle Doom in Latveria. Doom, once he’s proven himself enough to Iron Man and shown that he still possesses a powerful talent for magic, sets about telling him the plot to this trade paperback arc: Whitney Frost, Iron Man’s old flame and arch-villainess Madame Masque, is going about gathering interdimensional items of power and she can’t have them! Before Iron Man can ask why she can’t have them in particular and what exactly these items of power are, Doom hands him the Wand of Watoomb. Okay, a Wand of Watoomb as apparently items of power are taking a more ‘Kurt Busiek writing JLA vs. Avengers approach’ and slipping through the “cracks of the world”. Basically, items like these can go across dimensions and so you can have all the Infinity Gloves perhaps? It’d be a nice thing to establish since it looks to be the major part of this story. Before Iron Man can ask why he has to stop her and not, say, Doctor Strange who might know more about items of power or what Tony Stark supposed to do with this Wand to protect it, Doom shuffles him out the door of his ruined laboratory, tells him to track Madame Masque’s energy trails from Doom’s old castle and sets about leaving as Latverian rebels arrive. Before Iron Man can ask why are they rebelling, what do they want or even if is Doom fighting them, Doom magically teleports him to the Bronx Zoo.
See what I mean? I know Doom works in mysterious ways and there are a lot of questions leftover from Secret Wars which might be answered in other books, but it just feels so much like Iron Man (and the reader by extension) is getting pushed through this plot to the next point without input or control. All of this took the majority of the book and we have no weight to the stakes, no answers to questions raised, just go and do the thing.
The next part of the issue is where Tony Stark goes and does the thing. In Montreal, Madame Masque confronts her informant in a hotel room on the Wand of Watoomb’s location and kills the informant and her male escort for the perceived misinformation. Madame Masque then takes off her mask, takes a shower in a series of tiny comic panel boxes then comes back out to see Tony Stark sitting on the bed in the hotel room waiting for her. It’s abruptly intimate and probably the best part of the issue. Tony as Tony (with an invisible suit of armor on) tries to get the truth out of Madame Masque, only to realize that Doom was probably telling the truth and either has some other game to play or really wants Iron Man to stop Madame Masque from gathering these items of power. For her part, Madame Masque seems to have more up her sleeve (or bathrobe) that previously known as she tries to kill Iron Man with a pinkish lightning that’s probably magical in nature.
For a book with so many words, not a lot is told to the reader. On the other hand, the art is too good, too pure for this world. David Marquez is just knocking it out of the park with with everything from his glorious scenic shots of Doom’s ruined laboratory to cityscapes that really put this book in a cinematic widescreen. The body language in the last scene of the book between Tony and Madame Masque is descriptive and fluid, getting across more than the word bubbles on how strong and heroic (or not so heroic) these characters are. There are little subtle hand gestures Doom uses while the larger effects of magic are at work, the new armor design makes a little more sense now that I know it can sort of shape-shift and turn invisible (thus the Apple-like design to make it more sleek), I just really can’t explain in words how amazing this art is for this title.
All you need to know is that Madame Masque is gathering interdimensional items of power, Iron Man must stop her and it won’t be easy. To be honest, Doom is just here to be the Call to Adventure and hopefully we’ll get his story in another book down the road.