Monday, December 12, 2011

The Terminus Factor 2: Iron Man Annual #11!

We won't run this bit again, but it was a nice chapter lead.
Today, we have the second chapter of "The Terminus Factor," Iron Man Annual #11, "If the Termini Come..." Written by Roy and Dann Thomas, pencils by Tom Morgan, inks by Randy Emberlin. It's surprisingly downbeat.

Near Seattle, Machine Man is staying at his friend Gears Garvin's shack, with his psychiatrist pal Peter Spaulding, while trying to repair the severed head of android/sometime Avenger Jocasta. The robot is a bit moody right now, claiming to no longer answer to the name "Aaron Stack," but their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of a Termini-infected bear. During their fight, the bear sheds it's fur; or rather, it falls off to reveal a new metal form. The bear eats Machine Man's arm, putting him into a form of shock. Spaulding manually activates MM's boot-jets, launching him out of danger, and the robot grabs Jocasta's head on the way out. Spaulding doesn't make it out himself, though: covering the escape, the bear kills him.
Spualding's death was both surprising and brutal...and often the fate of supporting characters from a cancelled book.
Meanwhile, Tony Stark is visiting the new Baintronics plant in Seattle, taking a tour with the company's head, Sunset Bain, aka Madame Menace. Bain, like Gears and Spaulding, were supporting characters in the old Machine Man book. Bain receives notice of a radar contact, causing Tony to raise an eyebrow that such a company would have that level of surveillance running. Tony leaves, to return as Iron Man; the contact being the still unconscious Machine Man. Iron Man had equipment to revive him at the Avengers West Coast base, and leaves them with Bain while he goes to get them.

Which is of course, dumb. Tony had no reason to distrust Bain, or to really suspect she was a super-villain, but he had to know a little something about industrial espionage. Using a machine apparently swiped from the Star Trek episode "What are little girls made of?" Madame Menace has Machine Man duplicated in a spinny machine. It's given a little more technical explanation, and it's lampshaded that she had the "Duplicatron" built to crank out android copies after they finished their own Machine Man knockoff. While she does that, though, the Termini-bear attacks her factory. Bain calls Iron Man back for help.
I didn't realize the implication, that the Machine Man of the 2020 series may be a duplicate...
Fighting the bear, Tony recognizes the glazed look in its eyes from his zombification the previous chapter, and the name "Terminus" comes to his mind, even though he never met him. Trying the cooldown trick that worked last time, Tony dumps a vat of subzero-freezing liquid titanium on it--wait, shouldn't liquid metal be hot? Regardless, it doesn't work, and the increasingly-less bearlike creature absorbs the metal and grows.

Menace's crew keeps working on their duplicate, until they see the claws of the Termini and flee. A power surge revives Machine Man, who leaps into action without noticing he wakes up on a duplicating machine. (Seriously, if you woke up on that thing, you'd be afraid.) Bain, ditching her mask, is rescued by Machine Man; as Iron Man tries the opposite tack and dumps a vat of molten metal on the creature, destroying it.

Unfortunately, the bear wasn't the only infected animal out there: more metallic fish, bugs, and birds are swarming the city. Machine Man returns to his lab for repairs, to learn of Spaulding's death. As Iron Man and Machine Man rush to avenge themselves against the Termini, Jocasta is apparently forgotten; while back at Baintronics, Bain plans to release their fully owned, patented, and proprietary robot in a few months, maybe in a female form...

Along with the plotline for the annual storyline, this issue also tries to connect some dots from Machine Man's old book and his 1984 limited series set in 2020 or so. It doesn't really pan out, though, since the Marvel U. isn't full of robots now. I'm not even sure if X-51 (mistakenly called X-15 several times this issue!) would appear again after this crossover for eight years, until Cable/Machine Man. It's worth noting again, that even though he had his own series twice, a limited series, was a major character in Earth X, had creators like Barry Windsor-Smith, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko work on him, and is somehow an Avenger without ever serving any length of time with the team...Machine Man was never a breakout character until he started drinking.

This issue does mention a Terminus appearance in Quasar #7 that I had forgotten: Quasar and the cosmic-powered Spider-Man toss the giant into space, with Quasar taking away the powered lance he used for propulsion.

The scans this time are all Machine Man, but, well, you know what Iron Man looks like. The rest of the issue features "Mediawatch," basically retelling the Termini story from the point-of-view of news reporters. Think of it as the precursor of Front Line, and likewise kind of terrible. "Mobility," about a disabled-rights protest that nearly ends in tragedy, is better; and "The Awesome Origin of Mrs. Arbogast" is an amusing trifle--although Ditko draws Whirlwind in a modern costume, but oh well.

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