Welcome to Madripoor: Iron Man's Vacation Guide

Tony Stark gets to know the locals and finds himself in a world of trouble as he visits deadly Madripoor in IRON MAN: DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D. ANNUAL #1. Get a quick primer on one of Marvel's deadliest cities straight from writer Christos Gage.

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By Ben Morse

IRON MAN:
DIRECTOR OF SHIELD
ANNUAL #1
cover by
Jimmy Cheung

Normally when millionaire playboy Tony Stark takes a vacation, he jets off to a nice spot like Monaco or the Bahamas to lay on the beach with some fly honeys and sip mineral water (non-alcoholic mineral water, of course). However, when you're Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., sometimes you don't get to pick your vacation spots. Such is the case in IRON MAN ANNUAL #1, courtesy of writer Christos Gage and artist Harvey Tolibao, Tony has a trip booked sans Iron Man armor to one of the most dangerous spots in the Marvel Universe: Madripoor. "Madripoor has always been the playground of the idle rich and a haven for evil activity," says Gage. "For the right price, you can do anything and the authorities will look the other way. It's sort of Casa Blanca mees Vegas."

IRON MAN:
DIRECTOR OF SHIELD
ANNUAL #1
interior art by
Harvey Tolibao

While the small island Principality—that means it's run by a prince or princess, y'all—notorious for serving as a safe harbor to pirates, criminals and other dregs of society debuted in NEW MUTANTS #32, the most frequent visitor to its treacherous shores has been Wolverine. The feral X-Man has spent so much time in Madripoor he even established an alias as the crime lord Patch to better keep an eye on the unsavory element. Gage saw Madripoor as the perfect place to tell a different kind of Iron Man story. "[Marvel Executive Editor] Tom [Brevoort] came to me wanting to do a fun action-spy story with Iron Man," recaps Gage. "I mentioned those kinds of stories often take place in exotic locales and he said, 'As long as you don't use Latveria, have fun.' I did a little research and remembered that Madripoor is ruled by Madame Hydra. If I was Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and there's an entire country run by a terrorist and their entire economy is probably geared toward terrorism, this would be something I'd want to deal with. At the same time, I thought it would be fun to take a Wolverine setting and put Iron Man in it."

IRON MAN:
DIRECTOR OF SHIELD
ANNUAL #1
interior art by
Harvey Tolibao

Of course, as a ridiculously wealthy technological genius who also happens to run the world's largest peace-keeping organization, Tony has a different approach to curing the ills of Madripoor than a hairy, beer-swilling mutant with sharp claws and a Napoleon complex would. "Wolverine would go in covertly and if he got in trouble just hack his way out, but Tony takes a more finessed approach," Gage explains. "He knows he can't sneak in, so he just sails in on his yacht as a billionaire playboy on vacation. They can't turn him away because that would be an admission that something shady is going on, but they'll do anything to stop him from figuring out what's going on and hopefully kill him along the way. He's hiding in plain sight. He needs to find a home-grown resistance to take Madame Hydra out. He also couldn't sneak his armor in, so he really has to rely on his wits, his genius and his crack squad of hot and deadly S.H.I.E.L.D. agents." Here's Iron Man's need-to-know dossier on the friendly and fiendish faces of Madripoor.

Madame Hydra in
all her decadent
deadliness

MADAME HYDRA Also known frequently as Viper, if the Marvel Universe were a James Bond movie, then Madame Hydra would be the femme fatale—picture Famke Janssen in "Goldeneye" (and when you're done, come back and finish reading this article). A Hungarian orphan with little knowledge of her own early life, Madame Hydra has gained an infamous reputation as one of the world's most dangerous terrorists as a member of the Hydra organization, leading groups like the Serpent Squad and on her own. Her peak level agility, mastery of most weapons and lethal knowledge of poisons, coupled with her nihilistic disregard for all life and creepy ability to accessorize any outfit with green make her a deadly opponent. While she has primarily run up against Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D., she has also come afoul of the X-Men, even blackmailing Wolverine into marrying her briefly to consolidate her power in Madripoor.

IRON MAN:
DIRECTOR OF SHIELD
ANNUAL #1
interior art by
Harvey Tolibao

As a beautiful woman unafraid to exploit her sexuality, Madame Hydra also has the means to exploit Tony's well-known vices involving a fondness for the female form. "Tony has three [female] S.H.I.E.L.D. agents masquerading as his traveling companions, but of course they're not really," notes Gage. "He's a ladies man who very rarely misses the chance to spend time with a beautiful woman, which Madame Hydra certainly is, but she's also incredibly deadly. It's like the lure of a Venus flytrap." If that's the case, Tony better make sure not to spend too much time checking out the local flora and fauna on this trip. "She's crazy, bloodthirsty and much older than she looks," says Gage of the Madame. "She doesn't fear anything or hold any life sacred, which makes her perfect to lead Hydra. It was fun to write her in her official pose as ruler of this legitimate country and [Tony] in his pose as a playboy on vacation because they both know she's actually a terrorist and he's actually the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. so it leads to some great verbal and mental fencing between them."

Roughhouse:
All beard, no fear

ROUGHHOUSE & BLOODSCREAM The schoolyard bullies of the Madripoor set, Roughhouse & Bloodscream generally go after more than lunch money or pogs, preferring blood and a whole lot of pain. The deadly combination of Roughhouse's brute strength and Bloodscream's creepy vampiric skills has made life hell for Wolverine on more than one occasion and even come close to rubbing Logan out for good! Given that Wolvie had a healing factor and unbreakable adamantium skeleton going for him while Tony's merely got a great mustache and killer stock portfolio, the road ahead looks rocky for S.H.I.E.L.D.'s main man.

Bloodscream:
A different kind
of night terror

"[Roughhouse and Bloodscream] are cool because on the surface they're just a couple of lowlifes, a vampire and a big brawler, but there's more to them," warns Gage. "Roughhouse is really a lost Asgardian, while Bloodscream is not a conventional vampire—he feeds off life force, but also can't be killed by any blade forged by mortal man. They seem like straightforward villain archetypes, but are actually pretty formidable enemies for both Tony Stark and Iron Man."

Tyger Tiger,
burning bright

TYGER TIGER Tyger Tiger, the lady so nice she named herself twice, puts a pretty face on the Madripoor underworld, but stare too long and she will make you regret it. A Singapore-born Harvard graduate, Jessan Hoan's life changed forever when the Australian bank belonging to her family suffered an attack by the cyborg mercenary Reavers and only Jessan survived the ensuing massacre. The X-Men defeated the Reavers and rescued Jessan, but not before the sinister Pretty Boy had used his mental powers to alter her mind and leave her with a wilder, aggressive personality.

IRON MAN:
DIRECTOR OF SHIELD
ANNUAL #1
interior art by
Harvey Tolibao

Unable to reconcile with her remaining family, Jessan tracked the Reavers' employer to Madripoor, where she adopted the persona of Tyger Tiger and killed him, making her the island's new crime lord. Given her at least partial code of ethics, Wolverine elected to allow Tyger Tiger to take control of Madripoor, viewing her as a preferable alternative. Madame Hydra's rise to power has displaced Tyger Tiger. "In Madripoor, she's the lesser of two evils," argues Gage of Tyger Tiger. "She doesn't deal in drugs or slavery. She's more into gambling and the less violent vices. On the scale of Madripoor, she's actually not that bad, but you have to be pretty tough just to survive there." So does Tony Stark have that toughness? Find out November 21 when IRON MAN ANNUAL invades stores.

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