Monday, July 5, 2010

The Invincible Iron Man Annual #1

This is an interesting, twisted version of an annual. It's also quite good.

But you won't find much Iron Man in here - in fact, there's only a one-panel flashback scene featuring the title character. What we have instead is the story of Tony Stark's greatest foe, The Mandarin.

The problem with that character is that in his early appearances, he was a "yellow peril" type menace - the typical evil communist Chinese character from the early '60s.

That's made him a difficult character for modern audiences, since he could easily be looked at as a stereotype, a figure of racist derision.

Through a clever plot twist, this issue offers up the origin of the Mandarin, and ties him in with the changes China has gone through.

The villain decides he wants his life story told by a gifted Chinese filmmaker, so he blackmails the artist into creating a biopic.

Of course, the truth is an elusive thing and the Mandarin hardly plays fair. But he's a powerful foe thanks to the 10 alien energy rings he wears (with their abilities delightfully redefined here).

The real goal of this annual, written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Carmine Di Giandomenico, is to bring the character back to the forefront, and set him up as a foe worthy and able to oppose - and possibly defeat - Iron Man.

This dark tale does that very well indeed. I wouldn't recommend this issue to young readers, but adult fans will be riveted.

Grade: A-

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