Writer: Robin Laws
Artists: Michael Ryan (p), Sean Parsons with Rich Perrotta (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Iron Man in tough against the new Mandarin, as the injuries he sustained earlier in the arc are catching up with him, and unlike their previous encounter, Temugin is using the ten rings of power he inherited from his late father. While Tony is able to narrowly fend off the more damaging attacks, as well as deliver one of his own that momentary has Temugin sporting horrifically burned hands, we see the odds finally catch up with him and Iron Man is moments away from being on the receiving end of an attack that is sure to kill him. However, when Tony reveals that his investigation of the attack on the Chinese Embassy lead him to Temugin's headquarters, we see Temugin denies the accusation that he played any role in the attack. However both men are quick to take notice of the very guilty looking henchman named Po, who admits that he orchestrated the attack so Temugin would be forced to accept his destiny as the sworn enemy of his father's killer. As Iron Man snatches Po up before he can be executed by Temugin, we see Iron Man finally catches a break when Po confesses to his crime while standing before the crowd gathered at the ruins of the Chinese Embassy, thus exonerating Tony of having played any role in the tragic attack, and all the criminal charges against him are dropped.
One simple has to love how villains seem to universally recognize when would be the most inopportune moment to confess their role in the evil plan they had spent so much time putting together, as I don't think Iron Man could've asked for a better performance to exonerate his guilt than the one he received in this issue. Now, I'm not sure the Joe & Jane Publics of the Marvel Universe should immediately be supporters of Tony Stark simply because it was shown that he wasn't responsible for the attack on the Chinese Embassy, as the simple fact of the matter it was a weapon that he designed that lead to the horrific attack, and simply because he didn't pull the trigger shouldn't immediately cleanse his public image, as this arc has acted as a powerful reminder to the public that Tony was a weapons manufacturer, and that to a certain extent he still is, if one was incline to look upon his Iron Man armor as a weapon. Now I guess his membership in the Avengers, and the mountain of heroic deeds, both in and out of his armor, that he's accomplished has likely amassed Tony Stark a great deal of good will. However, if nothing else this arc has shown us that Tony walks the thin line that most celebrities walk, in that there's nothing the public enjoys more that a scandal involving one of their beloved celebrities, and Tony certainly has more that enough skeletons in his past to keep the tabloids busy.
The opening half of this issue has Iron Man doing battle with the new Mandarin, and unlike their first meeting which was a rather silly display of Iron Man discovering that a suit of armor that has withstood a good pounding from the Hulk, was vulnerable to a well trained material artist, this second meeting has the villain making use of his father power rings. Now the issue is almost apologetic when it comes to Tony's rather poor performance, as we see he's still suffering from his various injuries, and as such the battle largely consists of Tony taking a right good pounding from the varied attacks of the ring. However the issue does afford fans one moment where we see Tony does possess an inventive mind as we see that he has come up with a theory about how at least one of the rings operates, and he devised a counter attack using this knowledge that manages to deliver a rather painful looking attack. Now I do have to ask where the healing power came from, as I don't recall his father being able to pull off this little trick using the rings, and the various abilities that I know the rings are capable of wouldn't seem to cover this little trick, though I guess in a pinch one could claim the matter manipulation ring was used to repair the damaged tissue. In the end this was a fairly exciting little tussle, as Iron Man was the clear cut underdog, which is a role I prefer all heroes to be operating from in battles against their villains.
First off I have to make mention of the cover, as it's a wonderful shot of Iron Man rising up out of an explosive backdrop, and the coloring work on this image is truly marvelous. As for the interior work, I'm always been a big fan of the Mandarin from a visual sense, as while I always found the villain a bit long-winded, I've always been rather found of villains who bring a wide array of powers to the table, and the ten power rings make for a solid visual showcase. Now the battle between these two characters is cut short when the true villain is exposed, but for seven pages, we're treated to a pretty solid array of attacks, and the new Mandarin manages to incorporate his material art mastery into the mix, though the rings still provide the more engaging visuals. Iron Man also gets some fairly impressive moments, from his big blast that drives the distracted mandarin away from him, to the scene where he delivers the true villain to the police, after unloading a left hook to the villain's jaw. The art also does some nice work on the little moments, like the shaky flight path that Iron Man takes when he exits the Mandarin's base, as this panel nicely captures the idea that Tony's in bad shape. There's also a nice quiet sadness to the scene where Tony visits the ruins of the destroyed Embassy, and has his nicely understated encounter with the Mandarin.
About as good an ending as one could've hoped for, as the issue opens with a pretty entertaining little tussle between Iron Man & the new Mandarin, before it has to focus of resolving the crisis that it had spent the previous four issues building against Tony. Now I have to say I was a bit unimpressed by the rather convenient confession that the real villain offers up, as just once I'd like a villain to realize that they have the hero right where they want them, and their further silence would be far more damaging than an outright confession that serves little purpose other than to clear the hero's tarnished reputation. Then again, I'm more than ready to move on to the next story arc, so frankly I'm rather glad to see the villain's confession effectively wrapped up this story in a nice tidy manner. I do hope that the follow up material doesn't shy away from the idea that Tony is particularly vulnerable to this type of attack, as it would appear people are more than willing the believe the worst about him.
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