This issue of Iron Man continues directly from Captain America #339, and contains one of the classic Cap/Tony dust-ups. In case you haven’t been following along: In Captain America #332, Steve Rogers resigned the Captain America name, costume, and shield to the Commission, an agency of the U.S. government, after they demanded he start following their orders. Soon thereafter, he chose the name “The Captain” and adopted a red, white, and black costume… but he still needed a shield. So he called his old friend Tony Stark, who offered to help, not only to aid a friend in need but also to earn his gratitude in the hopes that he won’t interfere in Tony’s bid to get his tech back from the U.S. government (in the current “Stark Wars” storyline in Iron Man, more popularly known as “Armor Wars”).
The issue opens with a slightly expanded version of the final scene from Captain America #339, titled with an English translation of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?, a question that, in a slightly different translation, is closely linked to another famous comics series (on which someone might have, once upon a time, edited a book). And oh yeah, there’s also a fella tossing a shield around, accompanied by some fawning exposition noting his reflexive skill with the shield and his resilience in the face of his recent name change.
The shield isn’t perfect, as it turns out… but it’ll do.
As we noted last time, Tony makes an odd comment about not charging his longtime Avengers ally, the living legend of World War II, the Sentinel of Liberty (no matter what the government says), for the shield—and I hope he feels like a chump after Cap’s heartfelt thanks.
Soon, as Tony meets with James Rhodes in a diner to discuss getting his tech back from the Guardsmen, a special government security force (seen briefly in Captain America #334), Steve Rogers shows up—now apparently going under the name the Blue Hood—and asks Tony nicely not to attack a government facility.
Tony leaves the table and tells Rhodey they’re going, so I think you can guess what’s coming next. After Rhodey impersonates Spidey’s foe Electro and gets taken to the Vault, he disables the site’s defenses, allowing Iron Man to sneak in, followed by Cap. Once he realizes Tony has released gas into the facility…
…he remembers what the flight attendants always say. (He’s probably the only person who still listens to the instructions every single time he flies!)
Tony and Rhodey fight the Guardsmen for a while, until someone asks to cut in.
“Dammit, Cap—that’s not why I made you that shield!”
The Guardsman catches himself before he uses Cap’s “old” name, but Tony just calls him “you.” (He probably stopped himself short too, before he said something he would regret.) Cap argues the government’s side for keeping the armor, based on national security, while Tony argues intellectual property rights—in a way, this is the reverse of their positions later during the Civil War, but property rights often don’t get the respect accorded to ones considered more “personal.” (Don’t get me started!)
Cap reconciles himself to having to fight Tony when he notices the Guardsman going down, and when the man refuses to accept Cap’s air supply, Cap is struck by his bravery and patriotism, which only convinces him even more to save his life. This is not unlike Cap surrendering to a bad guy holding a hostage…
…and what do you know, that’s exactly how Iron Man acts, as he takes advantage of Cap’s sacrifice to further his own ends. (Although, the self-congratulatory “I would have done the same thing” is a little much, Tony.)
Oh, but he feels really really bad about it… something he should have said to Cap, although I don’t imagine it would have helped.
Tony meets up with Rhodey, who confirms that all the Guardsmen outfits have been destroyed—their circuits fused with negator packs like the one Tony was holding above—but when Rhodey thinks he recognizes the guy with the shield, Tony doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s just too broken up!
Don’t think this is over: Cap will confront Tony soon enough, in Captain America #341, and nothing will ever be the same.
Iron Man (vol. 1) #228, March 1988: David Michelinie and Bob Layton (writers), Mark Bright (pencils), Bob Layton (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Janice Chiang (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #338 and Iron Man #227 (February 1988)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Captain America #339 (March 1988)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #340 (April 1988)