One of my favorite comic books stories that I’ve discussed in a Marvel Madness entry was an absolutely insane little story from Iron Man #150 known as “Doomquest,” wherein Iron Man and Doctor Doom travel back in time, meet King Arthur, and help him defeat Morgan la Fey. It’s delightfully weird, and became one of my favorite Doctor Doom stories, which is a high bar to pass. And, as luck would have it, it turns out that there’s a sequel to that story, something I had no idea about until just a couple days ago. See, I’ve recently been checking out an event that Marvel ran in 1989 and 1990 known as Acts of Vengeance. In case you’re not familiar with it, Acts of Vengeance was a storyline that had some loose structure to it, but basically amounted to Marvel releasing a series of comics where the heroes fought random villains. It leads to some ridiculous results, like Thor fighting Juggernaut and Dardevil fighting Ultron, and it’s basically the best. Every story I’ve read from this event has been a delight, and I’m kind of considering doing a whole series on all of the ridiculous Acts of Vengeance pairings. But while I was making my way through the series one completely jumped out at me. That’s right, in 1989 they decided to do a sequel to Doomquest, for the 250th issue of Iron Man that revolved around Iron Man and Doctor Doom being forced to team up again and travel back to Camelot. And folks, while this story may not be as good as Doomquest, it’s somehow even crazier. Because we’re going to the far-flung future of 2093 today to save Camelot from the grim legacy of Ronald Reagan! Buckle up.
The story actually begins in issue #249 to lay some necessary groundwork. And that means we need to check in on both Tony Stark and Victor von Doom to see what they’re up to. And, as you would expect, Doctor Doom is hanging out in exile from Latveria, but still being his usual self, forcing a kidnapped group of musicians to perform a new symphonic arrangement specially written for him, with the threat of death if it displeases him. You know, typical Doctor Doom stuff. Doom is getting pretty bored with the symphony when something weird happens. A glowing artifact suddenly appears in the room, terrifying everyone but him. Doom grabs the floating chalice and takes it off to his laboratory to examine, because something tells him that it holds the key to unimaginable power.
Meanwhile, Tony Stark is arriving at the grand re-opening of a mall in California that he has recently bought in order to save it from bankruptcy. He of course arrives in his Iron Man armor, being essentially the mascot of Stark Enterprises. Which of course means that he has to fly over the crowd while heating up a fake meteor made of popcorn kernels so that the crowd will be rained upon with popcorn. Awesome. Iron Man then begins giving a speech, which is quickly cut short when that same mystical artifact appears over the crowd. He goes to investigate it, and decides he needs to bring it back to Stark Enterprises for closer examination. So Iron Man grabs the artifact and leaves the mall opening, heading back to a laboratory.
Iron Man drops the artifact off at one of his laboratories, puts it inside some device to protect and analyze it, and heads off to deal with some of his own personal stuff. See, this was during a period where Tony Stark had recently been shot and was temporarily paralyzed. At this point he’s out of a wheelchair, but is still walking around with canes when not in the Iron Man armor, and he’s trying to take stock of some stuff in his life. He orders some of his scientists to begin analyzing the artifact, hoping to figure out its secrets, and then heads off to his home, hoping to get some rest. Unfortunately we see that Doctor Doom has run into some issues while analyzing his artifact, and has begun pouring over news reports to see if any other artifacts have arrived on Earth. And, lucky for him, the news of Iron Man finding a mystical object at a grand-opening of a mall was deemed newsworthy, and Doom has a lead. So Doom and some of his goons pack up and head to California to confront Stark at his home. Tony is hanging out after speaking with a then current love-interest in the comics when Doom arrives and terrifies Tony’s maid.
Doom then barges into Stark’s mansion and begins making demands. Like you do. Tony is rather concerned, since in his infirmed state he’ll be unable to reach his armor in time to defeat Doom, and just has to humor him for a while and listen to Doom mock his artistic tastes, because Doom is an asshole sometimes. And once those pleasantries are out of the way Doom just flat out demands that Tony give him the artifact. Tony refuses, saying that while he doesn’t know what it is, the fact that Doom wants it so bad is a red flag. So Doom storms out of the house, ready to make things much uglier. Which means that Tony is going to have to fortify things and prepare for the inevitable attack that Doom will launch to get the artifact. Tony heads to Stark Enterprises and meets up with good old James Rhodes, and the two begin preparing for attack. They place the artifact in an adamantium dome and cover it with explosives so they can destroy it if worse comes to worst. Then it’s time for the waiting game.
And they don’t have to wait long, because Doom quickly launches an attack on Stark Enterprises. Unfortunately he has a trick up his sleeve, and even in his exiled state he has enough influence to send a couple battalions of robots to Stark Enterprises. Iron Man begins fighting off as many of the robots as he can while Rhodey stays in the lab to protect the artifact. Iron Man manages to fight off most of the robots, but while he’s distracted Doom takes his chance and teleports into the lab. Where he finds Rhodey waiting for him with a mini-gun. But Rhodey knows he doesn’t stand a chance against Doom, and instead decides to just destroy the artifact. However, this doesn’t work, and it just ends up phasing through the adamantium dome, and Doom is able to retrieve it. Doom then takes the artifact and heads back to his base. And as soon as he’s gone, and Rhodey fills Iron Man in on what happened, Tony gives chase. He follows Doom to his temporary base, and discovers Doom attaching the artifacts, to no real result. However, as soon as Tony busts through a wall something begins happening. An energy erupts from the artifacts, and quickly envelops Iron Man and Doom. The two men are then thrown through time and space, and suddenly find themselves in a rather familiar setting.
Yep! That’s a recreation of the splashpage in Doomquest where the two learned that they had been transported to Camelot! Except this time they’re in the future. But how have they been transported through time, and where are they? Well, luckily someone is waiting to explain everything. A certain someone named Merlin. Yup! Merlin’s here! And Doom instantly recognizes him and begins treating him with respect. However, Merlin’s also here to start dropping some huge bombs on them. Turns out that they’re now in London, in the year 2093, and Merlin has summoned these two warriors to help him and King Arthur save London from a horrible threat. Doom starts acting like a jerk, trying to posture and prove that he’s a powerful sorcerer as well as scientist, but Merlin quickly schools him and shows off just a modicum of his power. Doom and Iron Man then agree to travel with Merlin to meet the reincarnation of King Arthur who needs their help.
The trio then head into Arthur’s base where they learn some more about the world. Turns out that crime and war has been thoroughly eliminated in the future, and the world has grown very accustomed to peace. But now there’s a threat facing the world and no one knows what to do. Which isn’t helped by the fact that there was a slight mistake with the new King Arthur. He was destined to be alive in 2093, but his parents ended up freezing their embryo to have a couple more selfish years, which has resulted in King Arthur only being a toddler in the world’s time of need. So, since Arthur will be unable to help save the world, they needed Iron Man and Doom, two heroes who once helped Arthur in the past to help him again now. Doom and Iron Man are pretty confused by all of this, and struggle to believe it, until Arthur tells them some things about their previous trip to Camelot that only Arthur would know. This proves it to the two men, and they ask what exactly this great crisis is. And it’s a doozey.
You read that correctly. The failed Star Wars project is still orbiting Earth, and when it’s orbit began to decay a group offered to go up and deal with it, and the satellites now appear to be activated, and pose a great threat to the people of Earth. And Arthur needs Iron Man and Doctor Doom to stop it. This however was not what Doom wanted to hear, and he becomes furious that he’s being treated like a lackey, and flees from the base. He then flies off into the future, looking for a way to recreate his famous time-machine and return back to the present. And along the way he ends up robbing some slack-jawed bystanders and taking their rocket-belt, proving to himself that the people of the future are complete push-overs. At which point he realizes that the best plan may be to go back to his home time, and return with weapons to take over this future.
But while Doom is off being a jerk there’s still the matter of the giant space-lasers to deal with. And Iron Man is perfectly willing to help them stop them, but there’s a slight issue. His current armor isn’t equipped to travel to space, so he won’t be able to do much. However, with the right equipment he may be able to modify his suit and make it to space. Which means that Merlin and Iron Man are going to have to head out to get scientific equipment. And there’s only one place to do that. The mall! And more specifically, Radio Shack! Yep, Radio Shack is still around in the year 2093, as are malls, and they now sell the equipment that Iron Man needs to make his armor space-worthy. So Merlin and Iron Man head to Radio Shack and pick up all of the equipment he needs, while getting snarked at by the salesman who thinks he’s better than Tony Stark.
Meanwhile, Doom has found a laboratory in the city, and decides that it will have everything he needs to make one of his time platforms. So he breaks in and easily scares off all of the scientists, since they’re so unaccustomed to violence, and gets to work building his time machine. And he’s not the only one who was busy, because with the future’s advanced technology Tony is quickly able to modify his armor so that it’s safe to travel to space. So, adorned with Radio Shack logos, Iron Man heads into space to figure out what’s going on with the Star Wars satellite. And almost immediately it’s clear that something nefarious is going on. We realize that the satellite has a bunch of terrorists on it, and they’re being lead by some mysterious person who is also wearing armor. Tony gets to the satellite, and to protect it’s secrets the terrorists send out a couple waves of robotic soldiers to fight him off. But Iron Man is easily able to fight off the robots, clearing a path to the satellite. Which is when the leader of the group is revealed.
And he’s wearing some modified Iron Man armor. Not only that, the guy starts monologuing and ends up telling Iron Man that his name is Andros Stark, and that he’s a descendant of Tony. Apparently the Stark bloodline continued on the Iron Man tradition, building more and more sophisticated sets of armor to protect people. But when global peace was declared the armors were locked up and forgotten. But Andros has taken a set of amour, and is helping run this terrorist attack. Tony obviously has a lot of questions, but the Star Wars satellite is turned on and begins firing down deadly lasers on Earth, killing people, so he has bigger fish to fry. Iron Man and Andros begin fighting, and it quickly becomes apparent that Andros’ armor is much more advanced than Tony’s, and things start to go bad. Andros rather quickly gains the upper hand, and begins pummeling Iron Man. He even grabs him and starts inching him toward the Star Wars’ laser beam, hoping to disintegrate him. Tony is able to avoid this, but still gets hit by a powerful blast from Andros’ suit, and his armor ends up being horribly damaged. Tony then loses control of the armor, and begins plummeting back down to Earth.
Luckily though part of the armor upgrade Tony did included some sort of reentry safety pod thing that extends from his suit and keeps him safe during reentry. It’s a rough landing, but Tony survives his ride back to Earth, and has to set out to figure out what to do about Andros. And he’s not the only one running into problems, because back at that laboratory Doom has completed his time platform and has found that there’s something wrong. Despite everything functioning correctly, the platform refuses to transport Doom back to his own time. And because Doom obviously did nothing wrong, there’s only one explanation. Merlin. So Doom heads back to Arthur’s base to confront the powerful sorcerer.
And while all of this is going on it’s time for the story to throw another curve-ball at us. Because it turns out that Andors isn’t the brains of the operation. He’s working with someone who is hiding out in a Stark Enterprises laboratory. Andros heads back to Earth and confront his secret partner, Victor Von Doom. Yep, Doctor Doom is still alive in the year 2093, albeit mostly a cyborg at this point. Doom has apparently gone even more insane in the decades that have passed, and now that the world has become completely pacifist he’s decided it’s time for this ultimate plan. He’s done the math, and has figured out that only 34.2% of the population of Earth is necessary to keep things running, and has decided to kill off the rest with the Star Wars weapons, leaving it much easier for him to take over control of the entire world. Thing are obviously tense between Andros and Doom, both knowing they can’t trust the either, but they also know that there’s a chance that this Iron Man could ruin their plan. They both decide that the only logical explanation is that this is the original Iron Man, who has traveled through time, and they also decide that that must mean Doom’s younger self is also in the present. So they’re going to need to take care of that.
Meanwhile, our Doom has returned to Arthur’s base, furious that Merlin has done something to time. Merlin explains that because Doom traveled through time thanks to magic, that’s the only way he can return. And, not only that, because he came to the future with Iron Man he can only return with Iron Man. So he’s going to have to help them out and stop the threat to the world. Doom agrees to these terms, but that still doesn’t give them an idea on how to stop Andros. Luckily, li’l Arthur has a plan. To consult the Lady of the Lake! So Doom, Merlin, and Iron Man head to the magical Lake that the Lady resides in, and find that it’s been paved over for a parking lot. This pisses off Merlin. but he’s able to use magic to return the Lake, and the Lady. She then just tosses out Excalibur, hoping to speed things along. Doom obviously grabs the sword, assuming he’ll be worthy to wield it. To no success. So Tony gives it a shot, and is stunned to find that the sword accepts him, and also repairs his amour. Tony now has the weapon he needs to defeat Andros and the Star Wars satellite, and Doom decides his efforts will be best spent attacking whoever is pulling Andros’ strings. So the two separate for their missions, and fly off.
Iron Man flies right up to the Star Wars satellite and begins destroying it, causing Andros and his men to get sucked out of the satellite due to explosive decompression. Iron Man then fights Andros, easily defeating all of his weapons with the magical sword. Hell, it even automatically blocks blasts from Andros’ lasers. However, when all is said and done, Tony can’t bring himself to kill this man who is related to him, and instead just knocks him unconscious and returns him to Earth for prosecution.
And while this is going on, Doom has located the hidden Stark Enterprises laboratory that his future self is hiding out in. Doom is obviously shocked to find that he’s survived to the year 2093, and is pretty disgusted that he’s mostly replaced himself with machinery. Future Doom tries to explain that it was a necessary evil, and then attempts to capture Doom with a device he created to defeat Andros when the time to betray him came. Unfortunately this isn’t enough to defeat Doom, who quickly gains the upper hand. Future Doom then realizes he’s lost, and knows that our Doom will have to destroy him, as he once destroyed a future version of himself when he was placed in this exact same scenario. So Doom destroys his future self, and returns to Arthur, Merlin, and Iron Man. They’ve succeeded in keeping the world safe, and it’s now time for Merlin to return the two men to their own times. However, right as they’re about to head home, Doom drops a bombshell. While he was building his time machine he did a little research, and the history books have proved that Iron Man is Tony Stark. Tony is obviously terrified that Doom knows his secret identity, but there appears to be nothing he can do about it. Well, until they’re thrown back in time, and their memories are completely wiped of this entire adventure. Good job Merlin. So the two men find themselves in Doom’s castle, confused about what’s going on. But the artifacts that drew them together are gone, so they decide to just roll with it and leave each other alone, pretending that this never happened.
This story is so goddamn much fun. I will say, it’s not as good as Doomquest, but it’s somehow even more crazy, which I appreciated. You wouldn’t think that there was any way for them to make a story crazier than the one where Doctor Doom and Iron Man went back in time to save King Arthur from an evil army of goblins lead by Mogan La Fey. But then you read this, and find that the inclusions of Merlin, Radio Shack, the future, Andros Stark, and a cyborg Doom somehow is able to get it across that threshold. This story is absolutely bonkers. It stuffs so many insane ideas into one over-sized issue that it almost feels like it was trying to set up some new universe for an ongoing to take place in. We learn all about Andros Stark, the world of the future, the rules that Merlin and Arthur have to deal with, and countless other weird quirks of this future, which I assume were never explored again. I can’t believe that they made a sequel to Doomquest, and that it’s this nuts. Part of me wants to research and see if they returned to the well and tried this story a third time, but I think it would be best if I stumble upon that fact organically. I don’t think a third Camelot story exists, but holy crap would I be delighted if it did. We just get so much great stuff from Iron Man, eventually leading to him wielding Excalibur to defeat his future ancestor. Plus we get some great Doctor Doom action, especially that ending where he’s so disgusted that his future self would disrespect his own body by becoming a machine. I adore Doctor Doom, and any story the guy is in is going to be a winner for me, but this one in particular was a whole lot of fun. And don’t worry, from what I’ve seen there’s plenty more where this is coming as I begin to dive deeper in Acts of Vengeance.
Iron Man 249-250 were written by David Michelinie, penciled by Bob Layton, lettered by Janice Chiang, and colored by Paul Becton, 1989.