Tuesday, May 04, 2010

All this week: Iron Man!...reruns.

This one's from 2007, one of my favorite Iron Man comics and probably my first as well. Oh, and a Green Lantern bit, to boot.

Well, after that much buildup, of course it's going to disappoint, which is why I usually show up late.

Sometimes, in the course of several months of comics, a villain can be built up into what seems like an insurmountable obstacle for a hero; all to make it that much more dramatic and satisfying when the hero finally wins. Fair enough. But sometimes, the story builds up so much, and the hero's victory is then so decisive, it's hard to picture that villain as a credible threat ever again.
This scene is after the two rocks Sinestro hired to kill Hal Jordan deliver his body.  Yeah, I know, but at least they didn't kill him by hitting him in the head.
(The converse to the long-term villain would be someone like Sinestro, who showed up for his routine ass-kicking time and again; in this sequence, about to be beaten like a rug off-panel. Sinestro was dead for a long time in DC continuity, because he had become a creampuff.)(EDIT: Sinestro used to just commit crimes there for a while too, didn't he? No big picture or anything...)

For me, it's the Mandarin: the first appearance of his that I read, and probably my first Iron Man comic, features Iron Man defeating him so one-sidedly, by the end all the Mandarin can do is stand and watch as his castle is destroyed. I swear, you really think Mandarin is about to cry there by the end.
Any comic that starts with this, recap is just gravy by this point.
Iron Man #100, "Ten Rings to Rule the World!" Written by Bill Mantlo, art by George Tuska and Mike Esposito. Great Jim Starlin cover too. Like I said, I'm pretty sure this was my first Iron Man comic, although I had probably seen him in the Marvel house ads. This issue would be the big finish of a plotline that had been building for a while: I've picked up a few of the prior issues since, but I'm not sure exactly how long this had gone on.
I guess repulsoring it's face off is one way to see if its alive or not.
Like so many of the comics I really love, it starts with a bang: years later I would read #99, and see Tony Stark, in an older Iron Man armor, rescue Michael O'Brien as mentioned above. The caption in #100 doesn't mention, though, that O'Brien had been wearing the newer model, and Tony reveals his secret identity to him, trades armors, and then boot-jets into action, starting with the skull-faced samurais of the Mandarin's Death Squad!
As O'Brien laments his suckitude, Iron Man enters the Mandarin's castle, and confronts him. They fight for a bit, with a break when Mandy's ice ring freezes Shellhead up and Mandy can recap his evil master plan: frame Tony Stark for treason, check. Stark's missile defenses about to be shut down, check. Missile launch to trigger global holocaust...how did the Mandarin plan on surviving that, anyway?
That smoke effect shows up later too.  Nowadays its probably all Photoshopped...and I'm ok with that, really.
Mandy glosses over that to instead explain how he survived bitchslapping "an explosively-charged robot Yellow Claw in IM #70--Arch." (Editor Archie Goodwin, who also wrote Marvel's Star Wars up to Empire, and was generally awesome.)

First, what a great demise. Second, Mandarin's inevitable resurrection is also more interesting than the usual 'healing factor' or 'escaped at the last second': The Yellow Claw leaves a flunkie to dispose of the Mandarin's charred corpse, but the flunkie helps himself to the Mandarin's ten rings of power. Good idea, bad idea: before the flunkie can become the new Mandarin, the original takes over his mind from the rings, moves into his body, and remakes it to look like his old carcass. Technically, the flunkie may have gotten his wish...
I don't usually do full-page scans, but there's so much going on in these two.
(And, I don't have my copy of Marvel Universenext to me right now, so I don't remember all ten. Or do I? Let's see: black light, white light, vortex beam, disintegrator, mind-controller, electricity, poison gas, ice beam...has to be heat beam and magnety, right? I kept thinking one defeats DVD region-coding, a snarky comment from Iron Man in a modern issue that I mentioned the other day. Crap, the one I thought was poison gas was the matter rearranger, of course. And the impact beam! Damn, it's been too long since I've seen the Mandarin, but god forbid Iron Man fight a goddamn villain anymore.)
In the background on the last panel, I always think that looks like the Mandarin's samurai skullface teddy bear.
While the Mandarin goes on about body-jacking, Iron Man has finally, dramatically...reached a knob to turn up the heat and break out of the ice. Yes, I know that's not very 'futurist,' but it was functional, all right? Iron Man starts to rally, then magnetically pulls the rings off of Mandy's fingers. He uses "a palm-magnet (to) electronically neutralize their power!" Yeah, that didn't take: the rings are alien technology or magic or something, Tony; not your old Styx tape. Still, by this point Tony is pretty much murdering Mandy, and he slaps him into...his big missile control console. Nice.
I know it's a trap, but is the tear gas strictly necessary? Meanwhile, in Washington, sort of: the Mandarin turns on his secret spy camera, to watch his agent name Tony Stark as a traitor, in front of two senators and a news crew. By this point, Mandy's master plan is looking a little threadbare, but maybe he could pull it out if Stark's missile defenses were turned off. Really though? That's your plan? I mean, if Bill Gates was discredited or framed or ate a puppy or something, would everyone just quit using Windows like that? Mac users, look into that, please.

The agent, who had been posing as Senator Hawk's assistant, dramatically proclaims that the evidence in this briefcase proved Tony Stark had sold the U.S. defective missile defenses, and sold foreign powers Iron Man armor. He pops open the case, which instead releases tear gas, then melts. Senator Hawk and Stark had left the briefcase as a trap, set to open once before arming; to let the traitor incriminate himself. Furious that Stark wouldn't be discredited, and that his missile defenses would still be in place, Mandarin kills his agent by remote control. This was probably the conclusion of a subplot that may have been going for a while, but just coming into this issue, the agent's murder seems more hardcore, if a bit arbitrary.
Ooh, those cops are going to have a hard time explaining that one. Probably should've stopped Mandy pressing buttons a few minutes ago, huh? Fed up, Iron Man proceeds to use his repulsor rays on the Mandarin's console, missiles, and castle; levelling the place while lecturing Mandy on why he doesn't kill. The lecture is probably punishment enough. Without his rings and infrastructure, Mandy is reduced to an older Asian guy in a Ming the Merciless costume. (And pointy ears. Why does he have pointy ears?) Much later, he would try different looks like samurai-style armor or a three-piece suit, or long silk robes. But the Mandarin would never seem like a credible threat to me again, which may not be saying much for a guy with two fistfuls of costume jewelry.
Stay strong, Mandy: Don't let him see you cry... Green Lantern and Sinestro panels from, of all places, Action Comics #444, "Beware the Hero-Killers!" Written by Cary Bates, art by Curt Swan and Tex Blaisdell.

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