Coming late in 1966, Tales of Suspense #84 isn’t a bad issue but it’s a very odd one. The first story, “The Other Iron Man” (Stan Lee, Gene Colan) has Tony Stark finally. testify before Sen. Byrd’s committee. He’s running late because he spent one issue flying to Washington, then had to battle the Titanium Man. Having decided to reveal his secret identity, Tony’s stressed out, which coupled with exhaustion from the fight leads to him collapsing.The rest of the issue has Happy, who knows his boss’s double life, donning the Iron Man armor to quell suspicions Tony is secretly Iron Man (Tony having decided his collapse is a sign from above that he should stay mum). It’s quite fun watching Happy try to master the armor but what makes it odd is the scene above. Tony’s wearing a chestplate that’s not his Iron Man chestplate? Since when? It’s always been clear that while he carries the rest of his armor in a briefcase, the chestplate stays on; we saw him covering it up with a shirt right before he flew to Washington.
Once again I find myself wondering if the Marvel method is at fault. Did Colan intend it to be Iron Man’s chestplate and Lee decided that didn’t work so he had the color changed? Happy’s stunt would, after all, be a lot less convincing if there was that much evidence Tony was Iron Man.
Equally weird is Senator Byrd declaring that Tony “has always been a man of honor.” Say, what? Byrd, from the first, has made it clear he thinks Tony’s a worthless playboy taking credit for his staff’s inventions. He doesn’t trust Tony Stark and never showed any sign of respecting him as a man of honor. This is like J. Jonah Jameson testifying to Spider-Man being a good guy. It’s not even necessary for the plot — Byrd could just as easily insist Tony’s faking until the doctor says otherwise.
“The Super-Adaptoid” by Lee and Jack Kirby is more entertaining because it’s one of Kirby’s all-out action issues. Right before SHIELD broke up AIM, the crime cartel unleashed the shapeshifting Adaptoid to replace Captain America. Having failed last issue, the android lies inert while Cap shows it to the other Avengers. As the scene below shows, this did not work out well for Captain America.Captain America, of course, doesn’t back off but the fight goes against him.(The Adaptoid would refer to his ability to clone himself when he shows up in X-Men a couple of months later; it was completely forgotten after that and the Official Handbook writes it off as a delusion).
At the climax the android battles Cap on top of a bridge and hurls the star-spangled Avenger to his doom. What follows looks utterly ridiculous but Kirby almost makes me believe Cap can pull it off.The odd part is that the fight’s not even close: the Super-Adaptoid utterly crushes Cap. That’s unusual because Silver Age Cap embodies the idea that nothing can stop a man who won’t be stopped; it’s almost shocking to see him so thoroughly stopped. Perhaps Lee and Kirby noticed that too because the ending strains to give Cap the win.“He didn’t drown” is setting the bar rather low for “ultimate victory.” It would make sense if the battle resumed next issue but nope, we’re off on an unrelated adventure. Steve doesn’t spend even a second worrying that the Super-Adaptoid is running loose. We know the android has decided to hole up and hide, worried that the lack of orders from AIM (destroyed by SHIELD, remember?) means they want to destroy him (this doesn’t make sense either); Cap, however, doesn’t know that. Nor does he know that the X-Men will take the Super-Adaptoid down soon enough.
I still had fun reading this issue but it’s still a head-scratcher.