Comic Book Review: Iron Man: Director of SHIELD #20: World War Hulk

The Revolution strongly disliked the last issue of Iron Man. The last issue was the perfect example of why I hate tie-in issues. Last issue was a complete and utter waste of space and time. Unfortunately, Iron Man #20 is also another dreaded World War Hulk tie-in issue. I dig Cage as a writer, but he doesn’t have much to work with in these obligatory World War Hulk tie-in issues. I’m sure that Iron Man #20 is going to be another sub-par read. Let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Butch Guice

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: We begin with the Hulk attacking the SHIELD Helicarrier. Hulk breaks into the bridge of the Helicarrier and asks Dugan what happened to Nick Fury. Dugan responds that Nick has gone underground. Hulk says that Nick was one of the people who tricked him into getting into the spaceship that launched him into space. Hulk says if Dugan tells him where Fury is located then the Helicarrier will be spared.

Dugan says that it wasn’t Fury who tricked the Hulk. That it was a Life Model Decoy. Hulk says he is going to go ask Tony Stark if that is true. Hulk says if it is a lie then he will come back and destroy the Helicarrier.

We cut to Dugan meeting with Lindsay and Clay Quartermain. Both men had served with Ross’ Hulkbusters. Lindsay counsels conceding Manhattan to the Hulk and letting him get his revenge on the few people he wants to and then maybe the Hulk will leave.

Quartermain argues that they shouldn’t sacrifice Manhattan and that the Hulk won’t leave after he gets his revenge. Quartermain says that they need to attack the Hulk now. Dugan agrees with Quartermain and tells him to get an inventory of all the weapons they have that could cause damage to the Hulk.

We cut to Dugan alone in the Director’s office. Tony’s armor is hanging on the wall of the office. Dugan talks out loud about what a mess Tony has left him in. Suddenly, the Iron Man helmet springs to life. We see a weakened Tony lying on a prison floor controlling the Iron Man helmet remotely. Tony says that the Hulk’s supporters placed an Obedience Disk in him that keeps Tony from fighting them. That just talking to Dugan is excruciating. If Tony took direct action, he would pass out.

Tony tells Dugan to not try and rescue him. Tony tells Dugan to access Tony’s computer for a secret plan that is a Doomsday plan. The plan has the schematics for a series of transmitters when placed correctly around a locating like Manhattan they will open a dimension portal sending everything within their perimeter to the distortion area of the Negative Zone. It is where positive matter will collide with the Zone’s antimatter and annihilate everything instantly.

Dugan says that such a plan will destroy all of Manhattan as well as Tony himself. Tony tells Dugan that Dugan is the only man Tony trusts to know about this plan and the only person Tony trusts to decide when to use this plan.

We then see someone walk into Tony’s cell and zap him unconscious. Dugan grabs the Iron Man helmet and calls out for Tony. We cut to Dugan telling his SHIELD officers that they will continue to follow Director Stark’s plans. We then shift back to Dugan sitting in the Director’s office holding the Iron Man helmet. Dugan looks at the helmet and says “Come on, damn it…say something. Please.” End of issue.

The Good: Iron Man #20 was a solid read. Gage really surprised me and got me to actually enjoy a World War Hulk tie-in issue. This issue is probably the best World War Hulk tie-in issue that I have read up to this point. Gage actually manages to take the events of World War Hulk and create a pretty interesting plotline for this title.

Unlike many tie-in issues, Gage actually advances the story with this issue. Gage develops Tony Stark’s current situation on the Hulk’s ship, Dugan’s struggle to run SHIELD in Tony’s absence and the revelation of Tony’s Doomsday plan to deal with the Hulk. Not too shabby for a tie-in issue, huh?

Cage crafts a well paced issue as we get some action in the beginning of this issue and then plenty of dialogue heavy scenes that provide for some quality drama. Gage’s crafts some fine dialogue. Gage simply knows how to write both Tony and Dugan and each men have a nicely developed and unique voice. Plus, Gage generates some fine chemistry between Tony and Dugan.

Gage continues to impress me with his work on Iron Man. Gage has a wonderful feel for Tony Stark’s character. Whenever the Knaufs decide to leave this title, (And I hope that that doesn’t happen for a very long time.) I would like to see Marvel turn this title over to Gage’s capable hands. Gage writes a fantastic Tony Stark. Gage’s Tony is tough, heroic and always prepared no matter what situation he finds himself in.

Tony is trapped on Hulk’s ship with an Obedience Disk inserted into him to ensure that Tony can’t raise a pinky against Hulk’s forces. However, Tony manages to summon the will power to fight through the pain and the control of the Obedience Disk in order to educate Dugan on Tony’s Doomsday plan to deal with the Hulk.

I dig that no matter how dire the situation, Tony always has a plan to deal with the crisis. And Gage shows the reader how heroic Tony by his willingness to implement a plan to stop the Hulk that would mean his death. Gage also shows the reader how pragmatic Tony is with Tony’s belief that sacrificing Manhattan is worth it in order to save the world from the Hulk and his army.

Tony’s Doomsday plan to deal with the Hulk was a cool little plot twist. Even though we know that our heroes won’t have to resort to this Doomsday plan, it still increases the tension in the reader and exemplifies the extremely dire situation our heroes have been placed in with having to deal with a seemingly unstoppable villain in the Hulk.

Gage also uses Dugan as a literary tool to give Tony more cred as the Director of SHIELD. Dugan’s respect and loyalty to Tony shows what an excellent leader Tony is. I also dig how Gage demonstrates that just because Dugan is a career SHIELD soldier and immensely talented doesn’t mean that he has what it takes to be the Director of SHIELD. Dugan is clearly more suited to dutifully carry out orders rather than being the Director and having to make all the critical decisions. This shows how Tony is incredibly talented and manages to make being the Director of SHIELD look easy.

The final scene of this issue was wonderfully done. Gage shows how the crown weighs heavily on Dugan’s head. That Dugan desperately needs Tony’s guidance in this moment of crisis. This ending does a good job emphasizing the importance of Tony Stark and his leadership as well as painting the picture of an ever increasing hopeless situation as there seems to be no other way to stop the Hulk outside of Tony’s Doomsday plan.

Guice provides some solid art. I actually liked Guice’s art on this issue more than I did on the last issue. Guice’s dark and sketchy artwork fit the overall gloomy and grim mood of this issue.

The Bad: I am enjoying Cage’s work and this is pretty good for a tie-in issue. However, I can’t wait for the Knaufs to return and continue the excellent story that they were building on this title before the obligatory tie-in issues started.

Overall: Iron Man #20 was a good tie-in issue. It is about time that I finally enjoy a tie-in issue. I have certainly had to suffer through some rather poor Amazons Attack and World War Hulk tie-in issues lately. It was nice to finally enjoy a tie-in issue.