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Tales of Suspense 92
"Within The Vastness of Vietnam!"


STAN (The Man) LEE and Gentleman GENE COLAN
Combine Their Titanic Talents With
FRANK GIACOIA (Inker) and SAM ROSEN (Letterer)
To Bring You A Block-Busting Saga Of Startling Suspense.. !

(Originally Reviewed On November 6th, 2001)

And within those selfsame confines of Vietnam, an American soldier takes aim at a most unusual target... The Invincible Iron Man, with tracer shells, in this wartime test! (Holy Rifleman, Batman!)

Shell-Head is pleased with the progress of the tracer shells, which catch up with him, even when he's in flight, and fortunately for him, they are not armor-piercing, or else it would not be gratitude he'd be feeling. Hurtling earthward, Iron Man remembers how as a boy, he wasn't allowed to ride roller coasters, and how his old governess would have a cow if she could see him now! With the memories done, Iron Man lands, and is greeted by the soldiers, who are pleased with how well the test went, and how his boss, Tony Stark was right on the money about the arsenal, even as the colonel requests to see him...

The Colonel regrets that Tony Stark couldn't be here so that he'd know how much the new weapons mean to them, but they can depend on Shell-Head to forward the message, but there is another reason for why Iron Man was asked to come to Vietnam... Atop the heavily fortified mountain designated Hill 38, lies a castle which intelligence reports have indicated that a new weapon is being built, one so deadly, that nothing will be able to withstand it, and The Golden Avenger knows he is the one who must enter the castle and destroy it. The Colonel warns him that the castle is commanded by a Red called Half-Face, who Iron Man knows as the Reds' answer to Tony Stark, and since no one has ever seen him, it's up to Shell-Head to sock it to Half-Face! Minutes later, a helicopter prepares to take Iron Man to his objective, in order to preserve the precious transistor power he will no doubt be needing. He waves to the soldiers, who know that The Golden Avenger will be in for the fight of his life...

After an hour, the jump-point is reached, and with the helicopter covering him from the Cong, Iron Man soars through the flak, into the heart of the Ack-Ack barrage! He wonders if Half-Face is another name for The Mandarin, but The Mandarin is a solo player and has no love for The Reds than for their side. The helicopter pilot returns to base, impressed at meeting Iron Man and hoping for his return.

On the ground, Iron Man's sensors detect the presence of a tree-top sniper within a hundred feet of him, and pretends not to spot him, and walks, hoping that they are using small arms. PWITEEANG! PITIKKA PIKKA PIKKA THWEEEE! Iron Man could shrug off the shells like they were mosquitos, and now sees the snipers, who believe him to be a demon...

Using the power of his transistors at full intensity, Iron Man grabs the tree, and shakes the hapless snipers out of their perch!

Shell-Head likens the remainder of his walk to a stroll through Central Park, and soon sees the castle ahead, which overshadows the valley, itself. Even as he keeps to the shadows in hopes of keeping his presence a secret, it has been noted by the scientist known as Half-Face, whose perception scanners have monitored his incursion, knowing that Iron Man is on his way to find out what lurks within his locked vault, a secret which threatens the entire world! A click of a button and Half-Face soon begins to bring his creation to life!

The electricity intensifies, and now nothing can prevent his creation from coming to life! Half-Face is confident that his creation would be able to smash a dozen Iron Men. Outside, Shell-Head sees lightning bolts radiating from the castle, and is aware of the awesome power in his midst, while Half-Face has made precautions so that nothing will interrupt his greatest creation, and intends to deal with his metal-bound intruder...

From the castle, a turret emerges, and a point-blank blast from the solar-powered destructo-ray strikes the ground beneath Iron Man, who savors the time when he can get his repulsor rays on his unknown foe, and as another blast begins to head his way, Iron Man calls up rocket speed and dodges the blast!

Before another blast can be sent, Shell-Head smashes through, where a group of soldiers begin firing at him, but an ultra-frequency dose of repulsor rays soon have them napping! Done with the hired guns, Iron Man seeks Half-Face, and intends to move from the outer courtyard to the heart of the castle...

KLLLANNG! Iron Man kicks down the metal door, and Half-Face views on the monitor how intent his foe is on heading for him in his own castle, and Shell-Head soon sees a trio of mechanical monsters coming his way! (Holy Fleischer, Batman!) Steel jaws begin to clamp onto his armor, but a swing of his arm sends one of them to the scrapheap!

ZUNG! Another punch takes care of the rest, while Half-Face grudgingly admits to the power of Iron Man, but now his creation is ready to awaken, and when he does, Shell-Head's days will be numbered, as the figures begins to stir beneath the sheet, and the door to the vault is opened! Iron Man pauses before the steel door, which begins to swing open, and something huges begins to head his way...!

As with Daredevil, Iron Man makes a visit to Vietnam, and one wonders what would have happened if The Marvel Super-Heroes had gone there to fight, as well.

An issue of The Nam (#30s or so) by Doug Murray, Geoff Isherwood, and John Romita SR had the soldiers reading comics and imagining Shell-Head, Wing-Head, and Goldilocks dealing with threats on land, sea, and air, as well as catching up with Ho Chi Minh, himself! The art evokes a touch of the Silver Age and is well worth seeking out. The cover has Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man breaking through a map of Vietnam.

We see the fruits of Tony Stark's labors as a munitions supplier.

Like a certain other Doctor, Half-Face is slightly disfigured, wearing a brace to support his head and neck.

It is interesting to see Iron Man running through Vietnam, and taking on the likes of soldiers and such.

Perhaps since The Avengers answer to The U.N. in their charter, the group is prohibited from interferring in the war, much in the same way that The JLA wasn't able to enter into Markovia, a move which would have Batman leave the group and form The Outsiders back in 1983.

Giacoia compliments Colan's pencils quite well, while Sam Rosen has a field day with the pinging of the bullets coming off of Ol' Shell-Head.

Half-Face's creation is a technicality, for it is actually an old foe of Iron Man, and not only are the talents of the creative team "titanic", but so is the return of this foe, indeed.

In the letterspage, Tony Isabella from Cleveland, Ohio, compliments Stan on how great Iron Man is! For the first time in months, he hasn't a single complaint about Suspense. The Melter is not an overused villain, Senator Byrd has stopped bugging Stark, and is actually friendly, and the Tony/Pepper/Happy triangle has been resolved. Stark has spent some of his millions, and Mr. Isabella is pleased by the loyalty Stark's employees have for him. The letter worries the bullpen, who aren't accustomed to such lavish praise without a single "but" thrown. Since he even likes the villains, Stan suspects that Tony has reached the rank of True Believer Sine Qua Non! He receives many thanks, for being such a frantic one from The Man.

I would love to hear how Tony reacted when he read his letter in this issue, how things have changed in the format of letterspages (what he thinks of them now), and how in those days, what it was like to receive a reply from Stan The Man, himself (I would be on cloud nine!). If any titles were his favorites to write to (he has mentioned being printed in Challengers of The Unknown by Murray Boltinoff), and what impact it had on him when choosing a career in comics. Might make for an interesting article in his Tips column, too.

Steve Chung
"Within The Vastness of The Review!"