Friday, July 24, 2009

The sudden and violent end of Whiplash's winning streak:

In Iron Man #26, as Tony goes down in flames after fighting Whiplash (on New Year's Eve, 1999!) he thinks he hears a voice say, "Help me, Tony--I'm dying." It's not from a blow to the head, or a relapse: the combination of Whiplash's directed lightning strike, Y2K, and wishing really hard, the armor he was wearing has become sentient.

Show of hands: who thinks that's going to end well? Come to think of it, when was the last time the newborn A.I. was greeted with open arms? These stories always go one of two ways: Artificial intelligence is created, goes evil in about 20 minutes; or A.I. created, is innocent and peaceful and gets burned at the stake by fearful, stupid man.

By this point, the armor has as much as declared his love for Tony; and convinced him to suit up for a test. The armor has seemingly proven trustworthy, since it could've bypassed Jocasta (the robot Avenger, she was currently without a body but had recently been rescued by Stark) and taken off; and Tony figures he can handle it. Either he can override the armor, or he's the only one that would get hurt. Yeah, about that...

As Tony and the armor warm up, Whiplash has already entered Stark airspace. Whiplash has geared up with multiple whip-slinging robotic arms, and is confident as hell. Like we saw, he's had a pretty good showing against Iron Man lately.

But the armor not only predicts all of Whiplash's moves, it remembers Whiplash was the one that hurt it before. It not only takes Whiplash's arms and jets apart, it pummels him for information.
Since the armor is both super-strong, and metal, this is a pretty brutal beating; but my sympathy for Whiplash is diminished a little by the fact that he had picked dozens of fights with Iron Man, and it never occurred to him that something like that could happen? Did he always just count on Iron Man being the good guy that wouldn't really hurt him, no matter what he did? Well, he's right on that count regarding Tony, but the armor was a wild card.

I had to go back and look, since I didn't scan it: I thought there would be a panel of Tony's eyes, trapped behind the Iron Man mask. The armor is more than capable of moving, and at this point, Tony is no more than ballast. As Whiplash says he's only doing this to get his son back, Tony can only watch as the armor murders Whiplash. And not with a dainty, neck-snapping "KR-RRAK!" but with a horrible "SPLURGCH" that implies a squishy brokenness.

Like a child, the armor shakes Whiplash, who won't wake up. Then it more or less shrugs, and drops the body into the ocean. "Oh, well." I do believe that was the last we saw, of Mark Scarlotti.

From Iron Man #28, (2000) "The Mask in the Iron Man, part three" Written by Joe Quesada, art by Sean Chen and Rob Hunter and (in these scans) Alitha Martinez and Rodney Ramos. I think Quesada was doing a pretty solid job of following Kurt Busiek; and I guess his run was only cut short by taking the editor-in-chief position. He did have a tendency to have to keep ramping up the cliffhanger endings: "Tony, your secret identity has been revealed!" "Tony, that was a dream, you've had a heart attack!" "Tony, your armor is alive!" "Tony, your armor is evil!" Quesada wasn't done yet, but I have to wonder how far he would've taken that...

No comments: