Heartbeaten (1989) Reading Order

Tony Stark is about to face his most crippling defeat ever. But it won’t be at the hands of the Mandarin. Instead, Stark’s philandering is about to catch up with him in the worst possible way. If that wasn’t enough, Iron Man‘s about to discover a war between two of Marvel’s biggest criminal organisations while will drag Stark Enterprises and the Hulk into the middle…

This story introduces a brand-new Madame Masque. Originally, David Michelinie and Bob Layton were going to reveal Rae LaCoste to be behind the mask, but they left the book after Iron Man #250 and the mystery was left dangling until Kurt Busiek revealed an entirely different explanation years later…

SCROLL DOWN to the bottom for the KEY COLLECTED EDITIONS for this event!

Crossover: While it’s not officially labelled as a crossover, the story jumps from Iron Man’s series into his Annual and the Incredible Hulk.

Must Reads: Story arcs marked with a ✔are must-read stories from this time period, along with any key related stories and often-forgotten tales that are worth a read.

Anthology Issues: When an issue contains multiple stories, the relevant story is denoted with square brackets. For example, [2/5] refers to the second story of the five stories in that issue, so you don’t need to read the other four. 

Want to keep it simple? Here’s the chronological reading order without story descriptions, or spoilers:

  • Iron Man #241-245
  • Iron Man Annual #10 [1/4]
  • Iron Man #246-247
  • Incredible Hulk #361
  • Iron Man #248

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Must ReadsTitle, Issue & Synopsis
Iron Man #241
Tony Stark‘s efforts to set up a Stark Enterprises branch up in Hong Kong are scuppered when his contact, Huang Hao, is murdered by a Hand assassin using one of the Mandarin‘s rings. All the clues lead Tony and James Rhodes to a man named ‘Zhang Tong’. Tony is warned that his ex, Kathy Dare, has been sneaking on the grounds of Stark Enterprises, back in California. Tony meets with Zhang Tong who is clearly the Mandarin. ‘Tong’ acts like he’s never met Tony and threatens to take away his company. Hand assassins – each armed with one of the Mandarin’s rings – kidnap Rhodey. Iron Man gives chase, fighting his way through to the Mandarin himself only to learn his faithful employees Bambi Arbogast and Felix Alvirez have also been captured. The Mandarin challenges Iron Man to a one-on-one fight. The winner keeps Stark Enterprises.
Iron Man #242
Tony Stark agrees to meet with ‘Zhang Tong’, but he can’t figure out why the Mandarin seems to have no memory of him or Iron Man. While the Mandarin was experimenting on his Mento-Intensifier Ring, there was an explosion which the Mandarin barely survived but with a ‘smudged’ memory. He’s now focusing on his business and criminal connections to gain enough power to single-handedly restore China’s greatness. Tony misses a call from Cathy Dare who mistakenly believes he’s hooked up with Soo Lin Chu. While the Iron Man’s televised battle with the Mandarin rages on, Soo Lin frees Rhodey and the others. Iron Man ultimately defeats the Mandarin. When Tony Stark returns home to California he’s shot in his own apartment by Kathy Dare…
Iron Man #243
Tony Stark is rushed to hospital in critical condition. The news reports that he was found bleeding out with Kathy Dare standing over him with a .38 in her hand, talking to him like nothing had happened. Dare is arrested. At the hospital, Dare’s fame-hungry lawyer implies that Stark psychologically and physically abused Dare. Tony’s friend Rae LaCoste hires a top surgeon to fly in, while the media are busy tearing him apart and recounting his lowest moments. Marcy Pearson is made acting CEO of Stark Enterprises before anyone even knows if he’ll pull through, making Rhodey suspicious of her loyalties. After many hours, the surgeon appears at a press conference to announce that Tony will live, but the injuries to his spine were severe. He’ll never walk again…

Must ReadsTitle, Issue & Synopsis
Iron Man #244
Tony Stark returns as CEO of Stark Enterprises, but struggles with his paralysis. Iron Man’s absence is explained away with him being on a ‘secret mission’. Rhodey asks the reformed super-criminal Clay Walker (aka Force) to stand in as Iron Man. Walker immediately faces the Fixer who overpowers him and destroys Stark’s new Sonic Finder. Tony feels truly sorry for himself until he talks to an upbeat guy in an iron lung, triggering a flashback to how he became Iron Man during Vietnam. We also learn Tony Stark was going to marry Joanna Nivena until his trip to Vietnam changed his life. Joanna initially encouraged Tony’s heroism, but broke things off believing Iron Man couldn’t be a family man. When the Fixer attacks Stark Enterprises again, the true Iron Man returns to defeat him. Tony Stark is back in the amour, but he’s still confined to a wheelchair in his civilian guise…
Iron Man #245
Tony Stark is frustrated by the recent sabotage attempts on Stark Enterprises and with getting knocked back by every woman he meets. When one of his ships is attacked by one of the Maggia‘s robot Dreadnaughts, Whitney Frost (aka Madame Masque) denies all knowledge. Iron Man soon discovers three Dreadnaughts and some armed goons in a warehouse and takes them all down. Later, Tony receives photographic evidence that Madame Masque was assassinated quite some time ago…
Iron Man Annual #10 [1/4]
Attuma, the current ruler of undersea Atlantis, agrees to help Ghaur and Llyra restore the Serpent Crown and invade the surface world. Iron Man and Namor the Sub-Mariner uncover a war between Hydra and the Maggia. It seems both are responsible for the recent attacks on Stark Enterprises. Namor learns Stark is now wheelchair-bound. Iron Man tracks down more Hydra goons and learns their latest plan is to give free drugs to American citizens, creating a nation of addicts and allowing Hydra to take over the country with ease. Iron Man destroys the warehouse that holds their stash and, with Namor, locates another Hydra ship and an army of invading Lemurians! The outnumbered duo get a little help from the US Air Force, but Iron Man is too late to save Namor when he boards the Hydra ship just as it explodes. There’s no way the Sub-Mariner could have survived…
Iron Man #246
Tony Stark and Rae LaCoste attend Madame Masque’s funeral. Maggia goons show up and kidnap Rae, warning Stark to stop Iron Man from meddling in their affairs. Iron Man and Rhodey apprehend the goons. Later, Agent Mallard of the FBI alerts Tony to suspected Maggia activity. But it turns out to be a set-up as Iron Man finds himself under attack from AIM agents and their robotic Dreadbusters. Iron Man barely escapes with his life and decides to look into the government cover-up. Meanwhile, Tony’s top scientist Abe Zimmer scours the internet for any mention of new spinal surgery methods…

Must ReadsTitle, Issue & Synopsis
Iron Man #247
The Hulk recently lost his job as Las Vegas enforcer ‘Mister Fixit’ and he’s short on funds. Iron Man meets with AIM and Hydra representatives, but refuses to kidnap the new Madame Masque for them. Instead, they hire the Hulk to do the job which draws Iron Man’s attention. Dreadnoughts destroy the Hulk’s money and fancy suit. Iron Man catches up with Agent Mallard who admits the FBI are in league with the Maggia in order to permanently end the threat of AIM and Hydra. Iron Man releases Mallard’s confession and shuts the operation down. Madame Masque is once again free, the Hulk is stranded in Los Angeles and Tony Stark decides to permanently step down as head of Stark Enterprises…
Incredible Hulk #261
Bruce Banner asks Tony Stark for his help in finding his pregnant wife, Betty Banner. In return, Banner convinces the Hulk to work with Iron Man against the Maggia. Iron Man ‘saves’ some Maggia bosses from the Hulk and agrees to kill him for them. Things don’t quite go to plan when Madame Masque escapes the tussle with AIM and Hydra. However, the Hulk grabs the Maggia’s cash. Banner leaves the search for Betty in Tony Stark’s hands and returns to Las Vegas. Tony learns that Betty had a miscarriage and keeps that information and Betty’s whereabouts from Bruce to avoid breaking his heart.
Iron Man #248
Tony Stark is on the verge of becoming Iron Man full time. Abe Zimmer informs him of a new experimental procedure that could give him back the use of his legs, but Cordco Inc refuse to try the procedure on him because it’s untested. Tony buys Cordco. The following week, Tony attends Kathy Dare’s hearing. Her lawyer convinces her to claim Stark had gone back to drinking and had beaten her. But friends and even enemies testify in Tony’s favour and Dare’s doctor provides evidence that she was responsible for the deaths or serious injuries of all her previous lovers. Dare is sent to a mental facility to await trial and Tony announces to the media that he’ll remain as head of Stark Enterprises. Days later, Tony returns to Cordco for the procedure. A week after that, Tony Stark starts walking again…

Must ReadsIssue & FalloutEvent / Crossover
Avengers West Coast #50-52 (1989)
Iron Man rejoins the Avengers right before fighting the rogue Atlanteans and the ‘death’ of Namor.
Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #9 (1989)
A disguised Namor next appears.

Avengers Annual #18 (1989)
Iron Man returns to the war with Atlantis; Hulk and Iron Man next meet as allies.
Fantastic Four Annual #22 (1989)
Namor openly returns to the war against Ghaur; Ghaur plans are thwarted by the Avengers and Fantastic Four.
Avengers #311 (1989)
The Mandarin returns as a member of a new villainous partnership with Doctor Doom, Kingpin, Magneto, the Red Skull and the Wizard as the Prime Movers.
Uncanny X-Men #256 (1989)
The Mandarin continues working with the Hand who transform the amnesiac Psylocke into the assassin Lady Mandarin.
Incredible Hulk #372 (1990)
Bruce and Betty Banner are reunited without Tony Stark’s help.
Iron Man #266 (1991)
A battle with the armoured Kearson DeWitt damages the microchip implant that enables Tony Stark to walk.
Iron Man #267-275 (1991)
Tony Stark dons a neuro-net electromesh to counter the damage to the microchip and enable him to walk again, but it begins affecting his health; the Mandarin allies with Fin Fang Foom and uses him as a threat to the Chinese Government; Iron Man faces the Mandarin in battle again, but eventually sides with him against Fin Fang Foom and the alien Makluans.
Iron Man #280-283 (1992)
Tony Stark learns that the series of strenuous missions have taken their toll on his neuro-net and his body is killing him; to prolong his life and carry out a vital mission, Tony dons the War Machine armour.
Iron Man #284 (1992)
Tony Stark is pronounced dead; James Rhodes becomes CEO of Stark Enterprises and fires Marcy Pearson, considering her too power-hungry; Rhodes becomes Iron Man again, donning the War Machine armour; Abe Zimmer and Erica Sondheim secretly place Tony Stark in cryo-suspension until they can find a cure, as per Stark’s wishes.
Iron Man #285-286 (1992)
Kathy Dare is released from prison and tries to apologise to James Rhodes for the role she played in Tony Stark’s death; Rhodey angrily blames her; Kathy Dare commits suicide, shooting herself in the head.
Iron Man #287-288 (1992-1993)
Marcy Pearson is hired by Tony’s cousin and nemesis, Morgan Stark; Marcy Pearson tries to sabotage Stark Enterprises by planting files
Iron Man #289-290 (1993)
Tony Stark is woken from cryogenic suspension and is reunited with James Rhodes who quits Stark Enterprises in anger; due to his paralysis, Stark begins using the Modular Armour (aka Telepresence Armour) which responds to his thoughts from afar.
Iron Man #297 (1993)
Bethany Cabe returns to Tony Stark’s life; Tony recovers and dons the Iron Man armour again; Stark’s relationship with James Rhodes continues to deteriorate.
Iron Man #300 (1994)
Carl Oakley briefly takes up the role of Iron Man again as part of the short-lived Iron Legion.

Must ReadsIssue & FalloutEvent / Crossover
Iron Man #306 (1994)
Marcy Pearson is arrested for corporate sabotage.
War Machine #10 (1994)
The feud between Stark and Rhodes reaches its peak when the two of them fight it out as Iron Man and War Machine.
Iron Man #312 (1995)
After an extensive battle against the Mandarin, Tony Stark and James Rhodes put their feud behind them.
Abominations #3 (1997)
It’s implied that the infant Bruce Chan could be the son of the Hulk.
Iron Man: The Iron Age #1 (1998)
This flashback story adds further detail to Tony Stark and Joanna Nivena’s engagement; Tony Stark’s origin is expanded again.
Thunderbolts #11-12 (1998)
When the Fixer faces Iron Man again, it’s in his new guise as ‘Techno’, a member of the Thunderbolts.
Avengers #32 (2000)
The real Madame Masque reveals that the one who died in this story and others are bio-duplicates – clones she created to acts as decoys due to her intense paranoia.
Iron Man #79-82 (2004)
Carl Walker becomes Force again, working for the Pentagon in a new suit of armour; Walker is tricked by Sonny Burch into revealing secrets behind Stark’s armour designs; Force and Iron Man join forces to defeat Vitriol.
Incredible Hulk #85 (2006)
It’s heavily implied that Scorpion (Carmilla Black) is Bruce Banner’s daughter.
World War Hulk #5 (2008)
The Hulk is revealed to have a son, Skaar, from Caiera the Oldstrong on Sakaar.
Hulk: Raging Thunder #1 (2008)
Hulk is revealed to have a ‘daughter’, Lyra, created from his and Thundra’s genetic material.
Skaar, Son of Hulk #2 (2008)
A second son from Caiera the Oldstrong, Hiro-Kala, is revealed to exist.
Skaar, Son of Hulk #11-12 (2009)
Banner/Hulk meets Skaar.
Incredible Hulks #615 (2010)
Banner/Hulk meets Hiro-Kala.

See how this story fits into the wider Marvel Universe with these reading orders:

The key collected editions for Heartbeaten…

Collected Edition TitleCollects…
Iron Man Epic Collection: Return of the Ghost (vol.14)Iron Man #233-244
Iron Man: Crash
Marvel Fanfare #22-23, 44
Iron Man Epic Collection: Doom (vol.15)Captain America Annual #9 [part]
Iron Man #245-257
Iron Man Annual #10-11

Collected Edition TitleIncludes…
Atlantis Attacks OmnibusIron Man Annual #10
Atlantis Attacks: The Original EpicIron Man Annual #10
Hulk Visionaries: Peter David vol.4Incredible Hulk #361
Incredible Hulk by Peter David Omnibus vol.1Incredible Hulk #361

Reading Order ©OmniverseComicsGuide 2023

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