On Wednesday, Marvel Comics released Marvel Comics Presents #7, most notable for featuring the latest chapter of The Vigil, the serialized story in which Wolverine meets a young girl named Sylvie, waits until she grows up, and then has sex with her, producing a daughter named Rien who has been pulling big prices on eBay for her first appearance.
Bleeding Cool Rumourmonger-in-Chief Rich Johnston talked about the latest Rien developments earlier this week, but there's another story in Marvel Comics Presents #7 starring Iron Man and written by Ryan North, with art by Rod Reis and letters by Joe Caramagna. This story, titled Market Correction, falls under the Marvel Age banner, a recurring segment in Marvel Comics Presents which tells "untold stories" revisiting an important event in history that Marvel was unable to "fully wrestle with, be it because they happened too quickly or even because they were too raw of a subject." This month's decade is the aughts, and the subject is the financial crisis of 2007-2008. The story's introduction explains the details of the crisis before noting, "While a depression was avoided by various bailouts, laws were put into place to attempt to stop it ever happening again. Despite this, a global recession occurred and many felt those responsible for the economic circumstances that cause the crisis were never held to account."
Now that readers are up to speed, the short story begins with Iron Man battling an armored villain, Subprime Mortgage Man, who first traps Iron Man in his "trademark housing bubbles" before hitting him with "collateralized debt obligations" which send Iron Man crashing into the river below, leaving him, as he says, "like all the other victims of Subprime Mortgage Man…. underwater!"
It turns out this is a dream, and Tony Stark awakens on the day he's set to testify in the trial of a fellow billionaire named "Chuck," who tried to get Stark to join him on his subprime mortgage scheme, admitting that he knew it was illegal and immoral but that the only people who would be screwed are "the public" who will just pay for the loans a second time through bailouts, and that Chuck and Tony can get rich without consequences. Stark, obviously, refused, and he also tells the readers that he's done everything he could to combat the loans and everything he could to fix the damage from the crisis, but that he ultimately failed. Chuck is acquitted, bringing us into the story's third act.
After the trial, Stark, as Iron Man, confronts Chuck in an undisclosed location. He's brought a spare Iron Man suit with him, and he explains to Chuck that despite all evidence to the contrary, he won't accept the reality that the bad guys sometimes win. Instead, Iron Man demands justice, and the way he's going to get it is by forcing Chuck to don the suit of Iron Man armor to reenact the scene from his earlier dream. Except, this time, he's going to beat the crap out Chuck. Maybe kill him? Chuck is terrified, of course, but Iron Man forces him to don the armor and the story ends just as their battle is about to begin.
From a surface read, the story seems straightforward. Unable to obtain justice through the system, Iron Man decides to seek it himself with his fists. Vigilante justice makes up a substantial part of the superhero DNA, as do power fantasies. But a less straightforward interpretation sees Stark as unhinged, more interested in exacting personal vengeance to counter his own feelings of inadequacy at being unable to stop or fix the crisis, and even for his own guilt. Stark is, after all, as he admits, a billionaire himself who knows "there's more I can do" to make the world a better place. Stark views physically punishing Chuck as his "only option" as the billionaire champion of "the little guy." But what will what Tony's about to do accomplish other than making himself, a person too rich and powerful to be affected by the crisis anyway, feel better? Furthermore, once Iron Man begins down a path more familiar for The Punisher, is there any coming back for him?
The visual cues are there throughout the story, supporting this more complex reading. Looking at the three panels posted above, it's easy to see the progression from the bright panels with kitschy Silver Age dialog to the dark and seedy scene of Iron Man's brutal assault on a terrified Chuck. The comic doesn't offer answers to the questions it poses. It ends with the fight about to begin. Will Iron Man even go through with it? The conclusion is left to the reader to decide whether Chuck deserves what he's about to get and whether the price for giving it to him is worth it. What would you do?
Market Correction is exactly the kind of story Marvel Comics Presents was made for, but unfortunately also one of the rare times that this new iteration of it manages to produce a short story as thoughtful as the classic 1980s run did on a semi-regular basis. If you're buying this book to sell appearances of Wolverine's daughter on eBay, you might make a profit, but if you're interested in something more stimulating than a few speculator bucks, buy it for stories like this instead… and maybe Marvel will keep making them.
MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #7
(W) Charles Soule, Ryan North, More (A) Paulo Siqueira, Alessandro Vitti, Rod Reis (CA) Arthur Adams
Welcome to the 21st century! A new age dawns for Logan in his mission to stop the demon Truth! Iron Man faces the biggest financial crisis of his lifetime! And a hero reborn for a new millennium, the Winter Soldier returns in brand-new tale by D.C. Pierson (Crap Kingdom, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and Alessandro Vitti (Secret Warriors)!
In Shops: Jul 31, 2019