Review by Ian Keogh
Iron Man had been a Marvel headliner for over a decade before the writing team of David Michelnie and Bob Layton became the first to write consistently good stories about him. Time has distilled two highlights. One is Tony Stark’s first battle with alcoholism, collected as Demon in a Bottle, and the second is the two part battle with Doctor Doom. That opens this collection.
Pitting Marvel’s premiere armoured hero against their most formidable armoured villain is such an obvious idea that it now seems incredible that no-one considered it previously during fifteen years of Iron Man comics, but that was the case. When taking time off from plotting against the Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom had plagued Spider-Man, Ant-Man and Daredevil, but never Iron Man. ‘Doomquest’ put that right. It is from the era of superheroes being over-written, John Romita Jr’s art covered with unnecessary thought balloons, but get past that and we still have a decent adventure. Doctor Doom needs some components for his time machine that he can only get from Stark’s company, but Stark refuses to sell them. During an armoured squabble about this there’s a surprise intervention and they both end up stranded in the ancient Camelot of legend. The writers perpetuate an uncertainty founded on neither Stark nor Doom able to get back to the 20th century, and so having to make some concessions to where they are. Arthur is King, and his word is law. While not yet having arrived at his distinctive style, Romita Jr’s art (sample spread) is very efficiently laid out, he knows what makes a good pin-up page and he has an instinct for distilling a panel to its essence.
From 1981 we shift to 1988. Michelinie and Layton are again writing Iron Man, but their second run contains fewer highlights than their first and their second interaction between Doctor Doom and Iron Man has nowhere near the finesse of their first. It’s not helped by Layton also drawing. He can lay out an action page to good effect, but the eye is constantly drawn to strange anatomy or the flat perspective. The armoured pair again travel through time, but to the future where Arthur’s been resurrected as a child. A trivialised Merlin is a poor concept who rapidly becomes tiresome, but much of the plot is played as comedy, and while Michelinie and Layton shovel in the jokes, they neglected to address several plot holes, not least almost the entire opening chapter being a waste of time given the technology involved. The one positive aspect is Iron Man meeting his descendant, which is given a good twist, but other than don’t jump in with much hope. Michelinie and Layton produced a third Iron Man/Doctor Doom story in 2008 as Legacy of Doom.
This opening story is also available along with the remainder of Michelinie and Layton’s first run on Iron Man in the hardcover Iron Man, differentiated from other books of that title via the creators’ names on the cover.