A military tank hurled through the air strikes the wing of a passenger plane carrying Tony Stark. Stark secretly dons the Iron Man armor he carries in his briefcase, flies out of the plane, and guides it to a safe landing in the ocean. Navy ships approach and soldiers help the passengers to safety, and bring Iron Man to an island base. They tell him the tank was thrown by Namor, who was defending a resident of the island that the soldiers were trying to remove, because the island is used as a toxic waste disposal site. Iron Man confronts and fights Namor, before it's revealed that the soldiers actually belong to the Roxxon Oil Corporation, which is secretly occupying the island to mine the vibranium it contains. Iron Man and Namor team up to fight and defeat the soldiers, who escape and trigger explosives contained on the island, destroying it along with any evidence that they were ever there.
While flying home, Iron Man's armor begins to malfunction, sending him flying uncontrollably through the sky and crash landing. He regains control and later tests the armor in his lab, and finds nothing apparently wrong. Stark is visiting a casino with Bethany Cabe when Blizzard, the Melter, and Whiplash arrive and attempt to rob the casino's vault. Stark slips away, dons his armor, and battles and defeats the villains. During the fight, he overhears a comment from Blizzard about “Hammer” wanting Iron Man kept alive. Stark later receives and agrees to a request for Iron Man to represent his company, Stark International, at a public ceremony and meet with a foreign ambassador. At the ceremony, Iron Man's armor again malfunctions, striking the ambassador with a repulsor blast, killing him. Iron Man tells the police about the malfunction, claiming he did not intentionally kill the ambassador. Doubtful, but knowing they can't fight him, the police let him go but demand that Stark turn over his armor for inspection, and Stark complies. During this time, Stark's drinking increases significantly.
Stark meets with the Avengers, agreeing to their request that Iron Man temporarily step down as their leader, and asks for and receives hand-to-hand fight training from Captain America. He then meets with Hank Pym, and asks him to sneak into the prison where Whiplash is being held to get information on the person named Hammer. Stark uses the information and flies to Monaco with James Rhodes to investigate. Hammer is alerted to their presence and sends soldiers to attack them. They are both knocked unconscious; Stark is taken prisoner and Rhodes is left in public and arrested by the local police when he awakens. When Stark awakens he is confronted by Justin Hammer, who reveals that he has been responsible for Iron Man's armor malfunctions. Angered that he lost a lucrative bid to Stark International, Hammer, with the aid of scientists in his employ, took control of Iron Man's armor and forced him to kill the ambassador in an attempt to ruin the reputation of the company. Stark attempts to escape Hammer's compound by climbing over a wall, but sees that he is on a giant floating island at sea.
Imprisoned, Stark escapes when he attacks a guard after fooling him into opening the door. Hammer learns of Stark's escape and orders the supervillains he keeps in his employ (including Constrictor, the Beetle, Man-Killer, Water Wizard, Discus, Stiletto, Porcupine, and Leap-Frog) to find him. The supervillains find Stark, who has found the confiscated briefcase containing his spare armor and suited up. Iron Man battles and defeats the villains, then goes after Hammer. Rhodes has convinced the police of his story and the island is attacked by police helicopters. Hammer escapes, and Iron Man flies into the air and crashes down, damaging the island and causing it to sink. Stark returns home and continues binge drinking, and drunkenly yells at his butler, Edwin Jarvis. Jarvis resigns the next day.
Continuing to drink to forget his problems, Stark is confronted by Beth, who tells him about her former husband, who became addicted to drugs, which ended their relationship and eventually killed him. Stark admits to his drinking problem and accepts Beth's offer to help him to quit drinking and help him through withdrawal. Stark then apologizes to and renews his working relationship with Jarvis. He learns that Jarvis's mother is sick and offers to pay for her medical costs, but learns that Jarvis has sold the two shares of stock he owned in Stark International that were preventing S.H.I.E.L.D. from buying a controlling interest in his company. The story ends with Stark optimistic about the future, conquering his alcoholism and determined to retrieve the stocks and maintain control over his company.
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