Can you remember the time when Tony Stark wasn’t Iron Man? Not a lot of people can but it was once the case. There was a storyline where Tony Stark succumbed to his alcoholism again and took his suit out for a joy ride. He was so wasted that James Rhodes – who later became War Machine – took the suit from him and took over the role.
The Iron Monger story is the final chapter in that storyline and builds towards Tony Stark becoming Iron Man again. Obadiah Stane also known as the Chess Master had been setting up a series of events that would weaken Stark’s resolve and pushed him to drink. In doing this he stole Stark’s company leaving him close to broke and put an end to Iron Man. The Iron Monger story picks up when Stark is again sober with a smaller start-up company. James Rhodes is still Iron Man but is at first threatened by the idea that Stark wants to become Iron Man again.
The stories in this collection are your standard Iron Man stories from that time period but what makes it different is Stark’s inner conflict about whether he should become Iron Man again. Everyone around him like Hawkeye keeps telling him that he should be Iron Man and that the Avengers are at a disadvantage without him. He himself feels that putting on the suit is what led to him becoming an alcoholic in the first place. Due to unforeseen events, he ends up wearing the original clunky Iron Man suit. He continues to deal with several situations while James Rhodes uses the up to date, high tech suit to deal with the regular villains of each issue. They even tussle with each other at one point, meaning that Tony Stark has to outwit his own high tech weaponry while struggling with an out of date suit.
The best part of this story is its conclusion, Obadiah Stane kidnaps all of the people from Iron Mans past such as Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan and fights Stark in his own specialized suit called the Iron Monger. Wearing a brand new suit with a new design, Tony Stark takes up the mantle of Iron Man again and battles against the Iron Monger. Many fans reading this will be familiar with some of the elements in this story as it was the storyline that was re-imagined for The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first Iron Man movie.
This is a good story which tries to weigh up the pro’s and cons of being a superhero and how it can affect the man behind the mask when he tries to live a normal life. However, it does lack in some aspects and falls short, especially when compared to Daredevil Born Again and Wolverines first Solo outing which were both written around that time period. This story needed a bit more emotion and plot to make it stand out. It’s a good Iron Man story that is more suited for die-hard Iron Man fans but if you are a casual reader who is more accustomed to the modern way that Marvel stories are told you may wish to give this one a miss.