The sentient rings of the Mandarin have returned, each controlling/influencing a human wearer into attacking Tony Stark from all sides. With his worst enemy multiplied by a factor of ten, what change does even an Iron Man have? Major Spoilers review of Iron Man #28 awaits!
IRON MAN #28
Writer: Keiron Gillen
Penciler: Joe Bennett/Cliff Richards/Drlis Santacrux
Inker: Scott Hanna/Rick Magyar
Colorist: Guru eFX
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Iron Man: “The rings of The Mandarins have declared war on Tony Stark. Acting as a team, the sentient Rings have recruited Iron Man’s enemies to help them execute their plan. After capturing four Rings, tony has drummed up a group of his allies — including his robotic soldiers, nicknamed the Trojan Guard; his secret brother Arno; and Abigail Burns, a one-time Ring bearer and full-time anarchist. Together they’ve brought the fight to the Rings’ underground fortress. Just when Tony thought they had the upper hand, the mysterious host of The Liar Ring revealed he was Marc Kumar, Pepper Potts’ fiance.
And he’s holding Pepper hostage…”
WE HAVE TO STOP THIS RING-ON-RING VIOLENCE
The opening scene of this issue is a barn-burner, with Iron Man, Arno Stark and their various allies in an all-out battle with the bearers of the Rings (one of whom is The Mole Man, with his usual kaiju pets in the middle of the fracas as well). It’s what the WWE announcing team would call a Donnybrook, and one that causes the remaining free rings to panic in their tactics. The interactions between the now-sentient rings actually makes for the highlight of the issue for me, as each try to regain control of the situation, only to have one of their number betray them. (But, c’mon, guys. He’s called The Liar Ring. You might have seen that one coming, yeah?) The rest of the interactions in the issue aren’t quite as successful, especially a tense moment where Pepper Potts’ fiance challenges Iron Man and threatens to kill Pepper if Tony Stark doesn’t cut off his attack immediately. The subtext of the situation is rough for me, making me root for Tony for all the wrong reasons, and even though the situation is revealed to be not exactly what it seems, I don’t like the connotations of a woman as either hostage or prize, especially given my respect for Gillen’s writing. The battle is short and sweet, and ends with the Liar Ring trying to escape to freedom, only to get swept up by Iron Man with a curt “Oh, hell no.” The last bit of the issue is all house-cleaning, with Tony contacting the alien Rigellians to return their wayward Recorder (whose machinations are revealed to be inadvertently behind the Mandarin rings) while Pepper cleans up her relationship, leaving us with a final page of Tony and Arno Stark flying off together as brothers. Iron Man actually says the words “What could possibly go wrong?” as his exit line, so there’s no way that’s going to be good.
IS THIS THE LAST ISSUE?
I’m a bit confused about what’s going on with Iron Man, as his comic (along with Hulk) has been put on a temporary hiatus for the duration, instead spending his summer tying in with the ‘Original Sin’ crossover. I can’t find anything about what will be happening with Iron Man after that, though, so I don’t know if we need to look for #29 in the fall, or a relaunched #1. That is a secondary concern for the enjoyment of this issue, but it does affect the bottom line, as Keiron Gillen’s run ends here, and having all the finale elements shoved into this issue makes for a story with little breathing room. The art is rather nondescript throughout the issue (multiple hands delivering a consistent, inoffensive job drawing neither wows nor tsks), although the cover feels very slick and almost generic to me. The final page of Iron Man and Bro taking off is lovely work, though. There is one moment that feels absolutely out-of-place for me, though, and that’s the choice to take one of the Mandarin’s rings and return it to ‘The Red Peril’, the French anarchist girl who was the first recruit to the Mandarin’s army. Sure, she’s a fun character, and it’s nice to see a superhero with such a challenging attitude, but it’s problematic either way. If you like her, it’s inevitable she’ll be depowered when the real Mandarin returns. If you don’t, they’ve just let an emotionally compromised rage-machine with massive alien technological power loose in Paris. Either way, it’s a hard narrative moment to love, especially given that we’re seemingly supposed to cheer her return as fire-powered defender of… something.
THE BOTTOM LINE: FEELS CRAMPED AND ANTICLIMACTIC
In short, while Gillen’s run has raised a lot of interesting issue for Tony Stark, and differentiated itself from all that has gone before, wrapping it all up with a big bow here makes the issue feel rushed, and leaves a lot of threads hanging, which I hope the next creative team will be willing to pick up. I like bits and pieces of the issue, but felt the conversation with the Rigellian (in which the creator of the Recorder tells Tony that he’s gonna be fine, feeling a bit too much like the voice of the writer intruding) and the final question of what will happen with TWO Stark-piloted Iron Men in play is up in the air. Iron Man #28 has some strong narrative pieces, but tries to juggle too much at once, and ends up dropping a ball here and there, but leaves us with a more than respectable 3 out of 5 stars overall. The writer of the next big era of Iron Man has some shoes to fill here, even if the landing was a bit wobbly…