Tuesday, August 17, 2010

70: Tales of Suspense #44

Tales of Suspense #44
May 9, 1963

  • Was this simply the month for Marvel to send all its heroes around the world? We expect to see the Howling Commandos fighting their way through wartime Europe, and Doctor Strange visiting his mentor in Tibet seems commonplace as well, just two issues in. But then there was also amnesiac-Thor's international rampage, and Ant-Man and the Wasp travelling to Greece ... so why should Tony Stark miss out on the fun? Sure, we've seen him play the world traveller before, living up to his image as an international jet-setting playboy, but clinking glasses at a high-society gala in Monte Carlo is a very different thing from going to Egypt and getting down and dirty with an archeological dig. It's only upon seeing these world-spanning stories in such rapid succession, and finding how refreshing the change of settings really are, that we realize that the stories had started to fall in a bit of a rut.

  • Besides nabbing the spotlight on the cover and being teased at tale's start with a massive lack of subtlety, Cleopatra doesn't feature much within its pages till the end. It's instead the Mad Pharaoh that occupies most of our attention, and he's a surprisingly entertaining baddie! While battling Cleopatra's armies he faked his own death - instead putting himself into a state of suspended animation that's only broken two millennia later, when Iron Man helps an archeologist friend locate and open an ancient tomb. The newly-awakened King Hatap then uses his dark magics to whisk both himself and Tony Stark two thousand years into the past so he can revenge himself upon the Queen of the Nile - though Iron Man quickly appears, stopping both Hatap and his various attacks, until the mad king literally slips and falls onto a random sword. It's too bad, really; the sinister pharaoh might not have been the most inspired or original of villains, but he's enjoyable enough that we could easily have stood to seen him again.

  • Which isn't to say that the story doesn't have its requisite share of Goofy Silver Age Writing, of course. Aside from the expectedly convoluted plotting (why does Hatap originally escape Cleopatra by sleeping two thousand years, only to immediately time-travel back to the time he left? Why does Tony Stark point out that Hatap's "Chariot of Time" - a great concept - is just an illusion, yet makes the bizarre distinction that they're still crossing the ages via the pharaoh's dark powers?), this yarn features some of the goofier "Iron Man attachments" we've seen yet. When Stark notices a Roman galley about to attack the barge carrying Cleopatra, he slaps a propeller to his feet, jumps in the water, and launches himself at the attack ship at ramming speed, with devastating results. (Try not to question how the iron suit stays afloat.) But that's nothing compared to the way he takes out Hatap's final forces: by lying down, attaching four tiny wheels to his back and the back of his feet, attaching a jet engine to the top of his head - and aiming himself at the mad king's army, who are thrown to the sky like so many tenpins. If it's not the silliest thing Tony Stark's ever done to his armor ... it's got to be pretty close.

    Oh, I bet she says that to all the guys....