by Matt Puddy
For fans of Kieron Gillen’s run on Iron Man this may seem like an odd choice for a New Beginning article, since Gillen started on the title last year, and is rumoured to be continuing well into 2015. The Iron Metropolitan story arc has just finished and this issue is the first part of Rings Of The Mandarin, which by virtue of the title may give a hint as to why we are re-visiting this fan favourite.
Although this is a continuation of the work Gillen has been doing, it’s fair to say that it’s been written in a way that new readers or lapsed fans jumping back on at this point are brought up to speed with recent events. Essentially Stark’s vision of making a new city in the remains of Mandarin City is brought to a grinding halt when terrorists attack. The difference that makes the impact though is that each terrorist has been sought out and emotionally manipulated by some of the ten rings of the late Mandarin, now working as autonomous individuals with a common goal. All they needed was an animosity towards Tony Stark and the drive to carry out what was necessary. Unfortunately these first three agents went on to not only be beaten, but to have their rings removed - occasionally in a bloody fashion - by none other than Malekith the Accursed.
Malekith is well known at the moment after having starred as the villain (played by Christopher Eccleston) in the most recent Thor movie, but a little more depth of character is expressed here, especially his willpower and presence of mind. When Influence tries to bring Malkieth into the fold as Mandarin Four, he is strong enough to realise what is happening and alter the situation to his preference as well. This all happens in the shadows, with Iron Man none the wiser as to who is behind the scenes.
Tony on the other hand is trying to move forward. His life is forever in the spotlight, but the commercial applications of this seem endless, including a stage show depicting his life that is currently in production. This in itself is a vehicle for further predicament. The original - and now spurned director - has found a new partner in becoming Mandarin Eight, and a fight is inevitable. However it’s not Stark who prevails as Malekith steps in to relieve our newborn villain of his ring... and finger.
In order to combat this Tony has to turn to a specialist. Not Thor as some may imagine (whom Tony is trying to keep out of this due to potential political ramifications) but Dark Angel, a former Marvel UK character who is knowledgeable in mystical and technological combination. With new associate and guidance, combined with an adjusted suit, Tony steps forward through a magical door and into the fray. From the frying pan and into the fire for sure.
Luke Ross is the artist for issue and has taken over from Bennett and Larocca – as previous examples- with a style that is very similar. Whereas it is not as clean lined as the aforementioned artists it is still really good to read. It is a little softer on the eye and smoother in texture but some of that will have also been provided by Guru eFX who has provided the colouring for quite some time. (It is also a leap forward from the horrific art by Greg Land that launched this title last year and so enraged my fanboy mind. BF)
The cover is quite a striking, as well as foreboding, piece as well from Michael Del Mundo which I felt really set off the comic to begin with.
As a jump on point, story wise it’s great and artistically it’s good, but I would go back through the last year for better examples, especially the Secret Origin Of Tony Stark storyline. Anyone looking to pick it up wouldn’t go wrong with this one but the back catalogue is also worth grabbing if you can.
Matt Puddy is getting back into Madden gaming.
This issue of Iron Man is just £2 at Proud Lion, with a free Skottie Young lithograph while stock last. First come, first served.