So this time, as many others, I feel it is necessary to explain my own biases and presuppositions that I brought to this text, and not just what was on the page. Because we don’t just read the text, the text reads us, as they say.
I’m reading this as a part of my run through the Darkhawk series. Usually I would say that this places me at a disadvantage regarding the Iron man or Avengers West Coast segments of the story, but seeing as this will be the sixth Darkhawk storyline I’ve reviewed and that five of them have prominently featured other heroes, I’d say that is pretty much par for the course at this point.
But actually, this is less a Darkhawk story than it is an Iron Man story.
Let me try and explain how this came about.
In the ’80s, Marvel tried the then-unique experiment of the Secret Wars, in which all the most popular heroes teamed up in a giant, epic, 12-issue mini-series with crossovers and ties to the main titles. It was a tremendous success, and so Marvel would of course repeat the process many times. Virtually every line-wide crossover owes something to Secret Wars, but the first true successor was The Evolutionary War, which changed the format from a mini-series to running through the 1988 annuals. This was also a success, and spawned the even-more successful Atlantis Attacks, but it must have been hard to manage, because they later switched to doing Annual-Crossovers in small batches, rather than in line-wide sweeps. Examples of this included The Kings of Pain, Citizen Kang and The Hero Killers, and usually involved crossovers between sections of the Marvel Universe which might cross-pollinate readership. For example: both the X-Men and the New Warriors deal with teens with powers, ergo their books collaborate for Kings of Pain.
The common theme or element in Assault on Armor City is the armors themselves, as both Darkhawk and Iron Man are wearers. The Avengers West Annual gets dragged in simply by virtue of Iron Man currently chairing that team.
This story acts as a sequel to the immensely popular Iron Man storylines Armor Wars and Armor Wars II, and it references those stories copiously.
In the first chapter, which takes place in Darkhawk Annual #1, Iron Man attacks Darkhawk and Savage Steel and attaches scanners to them to determine whether or not their armors use stolen Stark parts, continuing the basic idea of the original Armor Wars.
I need to stop here and back up a bit.
Sometimes, comic-book logic is just so messed up that it makes me wonder if Fredick Werthem was right all along.
And I bet at least one person reading this is so assimilated to comic-book idioms, they don’t even know what I mean.
Let me say it a different way: Tony Stark suspects that somebody might have stolen a part of his suit because it’s the same brand as his suit, so he physically ambushes them.
Yeah, getting it yet? Maybe that’s what the “Assault” in Assault on Armor City is meant to mean.
Iron Man is committing an unprovoked, unnecessary assault here. And he is doing so with the Iron man armor. That’s assault with a deadly weapon if I ever saw it. And he has no evidence, outside of “that guy wears armor too!”
And the worst part? He’s wrong! Darkawk’s armor has no Stark Technology in it whatsoever. This is where the whole “Armor Wars” process falls apart. Because there’s due process when one suggests industrial espionage.
But Darkhawk is understanding (for some reason) and the two team-up to save War Machine, who Iron Man learns was captured; continuing into the second part in Avengers West Coast Annual #7. To its credit, Wonder Man, Spider-Woman, and the rest of the Avengers West DO question Stark’s actions, recalling the trouble he got into during The Armor Wars.
Don’t get me wrong with all this: I love Iron Man as a character, especially that he’s a complex character. But I defy anyone who thinks he’s miscast in Civil War. The man is nuts.
The Avengers West team with Darkhawk, as US Agent gets sent on a mysterious mission and refrains from radio communication with the rest.
It is around this Agent plot-line and the middle of the second chapter that it really becomes obvious that Assault on Armor City is less about a crossover between the “Armored Annuals” or even a third-act to the Armor Wars plot-line, and is mainly a marketing tool for Darkhawk / The Avengers. There seems to have been not enough communication between the writers regarding the parts, and it especially shows during the Agent scenes. There are far too many asterisk’s referencing the other parts.
Example: there’s a one-page US Agent cameo in Part 1 where he’s approached during a drug bust stakeout to go on this special mission, with an asterisk telling us we can learn more in Avengers West Coast Annual #7.
First of all: no shit. It’s the second part of the story. Where the fuck did you think we thought it would continue?
Secondly: when we GET to Avengers West Coast #7, they act like we know more information than we do, with an asterisk telling us to see Darkhawk Annual #1 for the details. Great job.
And the asterisk’s aren’t even used the way / where they should be, to reference “real” past events for someone not intimately familiar with the Iron Man like me. The asterisk’s almost exclusively reference titles currently on sale, because I guess some marketer at Marvel realized that they could be used to sell comics.
We discover that a lot of this has to do with Professor Power, a villain that’s little-known but got play all over the Marvel Universe around this time. He was thought killed by US Agent, back when he dressed as Captain America. It’s about then that a gaggle of hunter-seekers attack, which segues us into part three in Iron Man Annual #13.
War Machine is freed and infiltrates AIM using the Mauler armor. All the Avengers West Coast, War Machine, Darkhawk and Iron Man team-up to defeat the Hunter-Seekers, eventually narrowing the field to Iron Man and the the revealed leader: a man named DeWitt. He boasts inferior armor, and Iron Man defeats him.
Stark reflects that it is no use to try and stop people from copying his armor, and that all he can do is take solace in the fact that while his armor keeps getting better and better, the copies armor only gets weaker and more diluted.
And so with this last-page revelation, we get (supposedly) the end to what I guess can now be called The Armor Wars Trilogy. And while it is very pale in comparison, I’d be remiss to say that this revelation didn’t serve as an apt end-cap.
I would also note that each of the Annuals contains back-up stories. They’re all pretty lackluster (but serviceable), with the best being in Iron Man and the worst being in Darkhawk.
I have to share the Darkhawk examples, they’re too funny:
“Top Ten Darkhawk Villains”: while this was standard in the Annuals in the ’90s, it’s silly here because: Darkhawk doesn’t HAVE 10 villains. They end up counting Spider-Man villains and Midnight from the Round Robin crossover.
“Fishing Trip”: Chris Powell events a bullshit reason to go on a fishing trip to test his powers while expositing them to the reader.
“Darkhawk Origin Revisited”: it was not long enough ago to warrant a revisiting.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“The common theme or element in Assault on Armor City is the armors themselves, as both Darkhawk and Iron Man are wearers. The Avengers West Annual gets dragged in simply by virtue of Iron Man currently chairing that team.”