Iron Man #241-243
Issue(s): Iron Man #241, Iron Man #242, Iron Man #243
These issues feature a new incarnation of the Mandarin but the more significant event is the culmination of the Kathy Dare Fatal Attraction storyline.
The Mandarin story is pretty noteworthy in itself. Stark Enterprises is trying to expand into Hong Kong, but they find that they are blocked at every turn by a local businessman named Zhang Tong. Tong turns out to be the Mandarin, although he's playing like he doesn't know Tony Stark.
Another unusual aspect of the Mandarin is that he's ok with distributing his rings to his followers, the Hands of the Mandarin.
Mandarin kidnaps James Rhodes, Mrs. Arbogast, and Stark's lawyer Felix Alvarez in order to force Iron Man to agree to a duel, with the winner gaining access to Hong Kong (if Iron Man loses, Stark has to agree to work for him). It's a very capitalist motivation for Iron Man to fight the Mandarin, and the Mandarin similarly ensures that he gets the video rights to the fight.
Alvarez provides his expert legal advice on that one.
We eventually learn what caused the change in the Mandarin. He was experimenting with his mento-intensifier ring and it backfired on him, resulting in a more subdued personality, and one that doesn't believe that his rings came from an alien dragon. But his ultimate goal - Chinese hegemony - still remains.
During his duel with the Mandarin....
...Iron Man tries to use his EMP blast to disable the Mandarin's rings. And it doesn't work, which doesn't exactly surprise me. But even if it did work, i've learned over the years that in addition to his rings, the Mandarin is a master of karate, so he's hardly "just another human" that Tony Stark should want to go up against in a fist fight.
In any event, Iron Man does manage to defeat the Mandarin and rescue his employees, in part thanks to the help of the obscure Michelinie/Layton character Soo Lin Chu.
The Mandarin keeps his word and allows Stark to expand into Hong Kong. If only all trade disputes could be settled with duels.
But to get to the Kathy Dare plot, when Start gets home, he finds Kathy there. And she shoots him.
Issue #243 takes place while Tony is in the operating room, and focuses on the supporting characters and news blitz around the shooting.
It's interesting to see Windsor-Smith on inks. Some of his characteristic style comes through, but it's more subdued.
One of the more annoying aspects of this issue is the re-introduction of Bert Hindel, who volunteers to be Kathy Dare's lawyer. Hindel was fired by Stark for very unfair reasons and never showed any signs of being anything other than an upright lawyer. But now he's a sleazy publicity hound.
The idea that Hindel is taking this case as vengeance against Stark, or maybe because he's so desperate for money due to his unfair firing that he needs the money, might have been interesting. But for all intents and purposes he's a different character, in look and in action. There's no reference to his firing and readers could be forgiven for not realizing that it's an existing character.
Marcy Pearson is made head of Stark Enterprises while Tony is incapacitated.
That's Justin Hammer reacting to the promotion of Marcy in the scene above, and there's also a cameo from Scott "Ant-Man" Lang and his daughter Cassie. The real surprise appearance, though, is from Tigra (and Windsor-Smith's inks are really coming through here).
At the end of the issue, it's said that Tony Stark has survived the gunshot wound, but he'll never walk again.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 196,095. Single issue closest to filing date = 221,800.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (16): show
I really liked Mandarin's new look. It didn't last long, as I recall. In an entry with an earlier Mandarin appearance, you said you thought part of why he never broke through to the top tier of villains was because he lacked an iconic look. I agree with that and I think this blue armor look, had it been introduced sooner, might have given him a distinct look instead of just looking like a Fu Manchu-wannabe in a long robe or a guy in a business suit.
Posted by: Robert | September 21, 2014 5:03 PM
I remember scratching my head when issue 243 came out trying to remember when Greer had been in love with Tony. The only thing I could think of was West Coast Avengers 12, where Greer is not in her right mind and throws herself at Tony. Unfortunately, the idea that Greer was in love with Tony doesn't go away- it was repeated in Avengers West Coast 72.
Posted by: Michael | September 21, 2014 5:30 PM
I second the Mandarin's change here. Seeing how ridiculous he was in the 60s as "Fu Manchu with magic rings", seeing him here as more a businessman with a tech armor and the rings really feels more like a Mandarin who is a threat than some excuse for Tony to fight an Asian stereotype that represented the worst of Red China.
Posted by: Ataru320 | September 21, 2014 7:42 PM
Before I got old and jaded, seeing Tony blown away (clearly a kill shot) was a bit shocking, especially as i didnt see it coming.
However, adding another health problem to Stark is overkill. I remember him being described in "What the?" as "a heart-transplanted, alcoholic, paraplegic with a hangnail."
Posted by: kveto from prague | September 22, 2014 3:41 AM
This is one of the few missteps of Michelenie/Layton. I was very shocked and admit I was very interested in what would happen next. However, I was disappointed in its resolution and felt technology was being employed like magic.
If a writer can't come up with a new status quo that works and essentially handwaves away the problem he specifically created, it just fails. There's a lot of things I deride as "fake drama" = very contrived situations that are seemingly high stakes that are resolved with little effort and seems like deus ex machina.
On a lesser note, I never saw the need for a revised Mandarin. It doesn't add anything to the character. Once again we have a chance for an old villain of Iron Man to react to the "replacement"; in fact the one foe closest to being his archenemy. Great opportunity to showcase the "changes" since the Armor Wars. But nope, nothing. I was really getting upset about this at the time even though I still enjoyed the title.
Posted by: Chris | September 26, 2014 10:55 PM
As Michael mentions, Greer's "love" for Tony will come back in WCA. Yet, here she seems to have the idea that Tony might still be Iron Man, whereas in that WCA she seems completely stunned by it.
After all the great art this book had for a couple of years, it's disappointing to see the Windsor-Smith faces start to show through, even if the original pencils keep them from looking too much like deformed fish.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 26, 2015 9:07 AM
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