Friday, September 20, 2019

At The Mercy Of The Mandarin!

What th...?? How did Iron Man come to this?

We'd better run down some bullet points on just what's led up to this shocking scene:

  • Tony Stark suffers a massive heart attack in the middle of Senator Byrd's hearing on the subject of Iron Man's true identity!
  • Stark's friend, Happy Hogan, decides to suit up as Iron Man and let himself be seen in public in order to divert suspicion from Stark, since everyone has finally gotten a clue that Stark and Iron Man are never seen together!
  • Happy's duplicity has been spied upon by the Mandarin, who, having seen Happy conferring with the bedridden Stark, believes he's finally learned Iron Man's true identity!
  • The masked fiend transports Happy to his stronghold in Asia, where he attacks him on sight and severely damages his armor!
  • Stark, realizing who's responsible for Happy's disappearance, leaves the hospital and returns to his factory to rush work on a new, more powerful suit of armor designed to better protect his heart from the strain of battle!
  • The Mandarin continues to interrogate "Iron Man" without mercy!
  • Stark's new suit tests out successfully, and he rockets to the Mandarin's castle to save his friend!

And just in the nick of time, as any hero will tell you.

And now, it's Iron Man vs. the Mandarin, in a battle to the finish!

With his ten rings of power, the Mandarin is more suited as a distance fighter, which is mainly why a battle between himself and Iron Man turns out to be a heated one; after all, an armored blow to the face or chest from the likes of Iron Man will under normal circumstances put a normal man such as the Mandarin out for the count. And so his rings would serve to keep his foe at bay while getting his range, so to speak, while giving him time to plan his strategy as far as which ring to deploy at any given time. Against Happy, who offered no defense, the Mandarin had Iron Man at his mercy--but Stark's experience, combined with his new armor, have the Mandarin fully engaged in keeping Iron Man on the defensive, even if that means closing with him.

The Mandarin has pointed ears?  Who knew?

"If there's a way to beat him," Iron Man? How about jetting in and giving the guy a hard right cross, instead of making yourself a living target?

And since every villain's hideout naturally includes the time-tested trap of walls closing in...

That's the spirit, I.M.! When you get past those high-powered rings, you're only dealing with human flesh, after all.

Which makes your next move a questionable decision to say the least, considering your friend in the dungeon is depending on you to rescue him. Are you expecting the Mandarin to remove his rings in response? Because any villain worth his salt will incinerate you where you stand. Alas, the Mandarin's pride is apparently about as misplaced as your own.

Returning his attention to his incarcerated friend below, Iron Man heads off to free Happy--only to find that the Mandarin's plan for Iron Man wasn't just to humble him. What happens next caps an issue meant to turn around the fortunes of both Iron Man and Tony Stark, by not only dealing definitively with Iron Man's greatest enemy, but also putting the golden Avenger back on track as a force to be reckoned with.

Which startlingly and unexpectedly brings us to an explosive new

Marvel Trivia Question

Where and when would this story be recycled?

Let's jet forward to the pages of Invincible Iron Man #s 98, 99, and 100, published over ten years later, where similar events ring eerily familiar--starting with another inquiry with Senator Byrd in attendance, this time as part of a probe regarding Stark's business dealings with foreign countries.

And while Stark doesn't experience a near-fatal heart attack this time around, his heart problems have returned with a vengeance, forcing him to redesign and recast a new suit of armor with the focus once more on keeping him alive.

With the armor still being tempered, however, Stark is forced to suit up as the Guardsman in order to stop the rampage of Sunfire--and Michael O'Brien, the brother of the first man to wear that armor and who, like his brother, suffered mental instability because of it, decides to be of help to Stark by donning the new armor (oh, now it's ready) and joining the fight.

As for the Mandarin, well, you can probably see where this is heading--another case of mistaken identity, and another teleportation jaunt to a dungeon with Iron Man's name on it.

At the Mandarin's castle, O'Brien, like Happy, is no match for the opposition...

...while the Mandarin again has plans to start a war using both Iron Man and a missile. Even for Stark, this is all starting to ring a bell.

Once in China, things play out pretty much the same, as well (though with the story extending to Iron Man's 100th issue, the battle between the Mandarin and Iron Man is not as brief). For example, O'Brien, like Happy before him, is at the end of his rope by the time Iron Man arrives:

And once Iron Man rescues O'Brien from the missile, O'Brien, too, gets the friendly skies treatment by having all of the settings in the older Iron Man armor pre-set for his flight:

There's the deadly karate display from the Mandarin: well as Iron Man putting an end to it with a toss:

And you just know what's coming next.

(I thought the addition of the footnote was a generous gesture, all things considered.)

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