#6: Iron Man: and Call my Killer … Modok! by William Rotsler.
The author is a four-time Hugo Award winner for his art and the author of many Star Trek novels as well as the author of the novelizations of the movies Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Futureworld. He died in 1997.
By now the cover artist signs his work: Bob Larkin, cover artist for many Marvel magazines.
The book is “packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.” Len Wein is the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans
Released May 1, 1979; the book is 189 pages long, although the story begins at page 9.
Gratman: Evanier Electronics is mentioned as a business. Mark Evanier? He had no connection to Iron Man and at the time of this paperback, he worked mainly with DC Comics. However, the next book, #7’s Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts: Nightmare is dedicated to him, so it is likely.
AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics, a science-based terrorist group) attacks Tony Stark during a college lecture. Stark, as Iron Man, fights them off successfully but still sustains some harm to his already-damaged heart. Cue origin recap.
One of the sergeants in charge of the failed kidnapping faced AIM’s mysterious leader (we comic book fans – and those who remember the title of the book – have a pretty solid idea who the leader is). The kidnapping having failed, the leader thinks up another cunning plan – he shall create an army of Iron Man suits!
He activates two of his sleeper agents in Stark International to create a diversion to successfully steal the Iron Man armor blueprints.
Modok tries to sell the blueprints to the highest bidder, but Stark outmaneuvers Modok by auctioning off the Iron Man suit directly. At auction, it is bought by an Arabic businessman. Modok kidnaps the businessman and his suit.
Surprise! The suit is really Iron Man himself! He is defeated by Modok and unmasked as Tony Stark. Stark is then forced to create a new Iron Man suit for Modok’s #1 henchman.
Meanwhile, Happy and Nick Fury & Shield find Modok’s hiding place and attack. Iron Man and the henchman in the new suit duke it out. Ol’ Shellhead then sets his sights squarely on Modok!
The author does an excellent job of juggling the superhero action and the “civilian” moments of Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts and employees of Stark International – we even read moments with the AIM sleepers and soldiers. It makes the novel more … grown up.
It would have made a nice juxtaposition to show Stark creating the original Iron Man suit in Viet Nam with the new suit he was creating for Modok. It would have put the origin flashback near the end of the book, which may have been a drawback being too close to the big finish.
Speaking of that, twenty pages is spent recapping Iron Man’s origins in the jungles of Viet Nam. It is excellently done! The author tells us how Tony met and hired Happy Hogan in a later 15-page flashback. Modok’s origin takes about five pages. More than 20% of the novel is flashback.
Interestingly, I tried to listen to Tony Stark/Iron Man speak in Robert Downey Jr’s voice but could not. Despite his (deservedly) owning the role in the recent spate of movies, and being able to hear his voice in the recent comic books and animated TV shows (where such an imitation is likely done intentionally), I can’t hear Downey speak these lines. Only when he is Modok’s captive and Stark’s dialogue is more smart-alecky and defiant does the current version of Iron Man seep through.
And the author does a wonderful job, despite the sometimes comic-booky dialogue. It does not happen often, but when it does, it is jarring; especially considering how wonderfully the rest of the dialogue is written.
Examples: “Iron Man swears it!” and (I am not kidding you) “I, Modok, knew at once how he hoped to trick me. Me, Modok, he tried to trick!”
Yoda-speak this reads like does…
Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry
Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.
I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.