By Joe Casey & Eric Canete (Marvel)
With the blockbuster sequel to the Iron Man movie imminently expected, there’s a lot of shiny glittery product out there devoted to the Golden Avenger and this impressive reworking of Tales of Suspense #50-55, which introduced his greatest foe, is still available and probably one of the most accessible to new readers as well as being a cast-iron cracker in its own right (and for a highly recommended look at those original masterpieces see Marvel Masterworks: Iron Man 1963-1964 – other reprint editions are available…).
The excellent Joe Casey has taken the events of that landmark sequence created by Stan Lee and Don Heck and first published from February to July 1964, at the height of the Cold War, and by refocusing on the villain rather than the hero has managed the tricky task of updating without radically counteracting or denying what has gone before.
Originally released as a six issue miniseries it shows how the oriental mastermind was a Chinese aristocrat who discovered ten rings in the belly of a crashed spacecraft, but due to his arrogance simply retired to await the moment when the world would eventually become his. Calling himself The Mandarin he idled away his days until the communist government provoked him into an angry life. Unfortunately, this unforeseen activity provoked American intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D. into action too…
Convincing weapons-technocrat Tony Stark to investigate, they are unaware that they are sending Armoured Avenger Iron Man to a meeting with destiny: his initial clash with the Chinese warlord will set the Mandarin on an obsessive, aggressive vendetta against both Stark Industries and the entire debased modern world…
As well as featuring a delightfully entertaining take on supporting cast favourites Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan this epic includes skirmishes with the deadly Scarecrow, Crimson Dynamo and the Mandarin’s own son, but the real graphic rewards come in the form of the spectacular, devastating clashes with the inimical Master of Menace that open and close this great tale, illustrated with clunky, retro-magnificence (think of Art Deco with all the nuts and bolts on show) by Eric Canete (whose sketchbook of covers is also included at the back of the book), winningly coloured by Dave Stewart.
Enter: the Mandarin is quite simply one of the best Iron Man books in years. What are you waiting for…?
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