Iron Man #68-71
Issue(s): Iron Man #68,Iron Man #69, Iron Man #70, Iron Man #71
...he's told that he has to defeat Iron Man first. Since Iron Man works for Stark Industries, which would be a competitor for any business that Japan was bidding for, Sunfire agrees.
Fighting Sunfire, Iron Man thinks to himself that Sunfire could be a potential power for humanity, "if he could see beyond the fantasy of a national 'glory' based on physical force!". There is some reflection in these issues about Stark having given up weapons manufacturing, but i'm not sure if the irony of that particular comment is intentional.
The fight doesn't reach a conclusion, because the Mandarin is in need of a power source to transfer himself out of the Unicorn's dying body...
...and so he detects Sunfire and teleports him to his awesome undersea base...
...where he's been forced to hide since he tried to return home but discovered that his castle had been taken over by the Yellow Claw! More on that in a bit. For now, Mandarin tricks Sunfire into providing the necessary power to effect the mind transfer. The Unicorn is said to slump to his death.
Iron Man is able to track the Mandarin down, but Mandarin tags him with a torpedo that shatters his eye and mouth shields.
Iron Man is forced to retreat to a Stark Industries factory in the Philippines, where he creates a new costume. And yes, this is the one with the nose ("slightly modified to allow a bit more expression to show -- and so perhaps increase the fearsome aspects of my character to those who oppose me!" Not exactly!).
Note that the new armor will now also obey Stark's mental commands. Iron Man's costume started off as a giant iron suit of armor, and he had to manually attach various gadgets. And over time it became more sophisticated, but he was still manually activating his various weapons, via wrist controls (per the panel below). It's with this version of the costume that he can control his suit just by thinking about it. In the long run, that's more significant than the nose, although the nose is clearly a memorable blunder.
The nose makes all the difference in Iron Man's second assault on Mandarin's sea base (reduces drag).
But Mandarin responds by raising his sea base to the surface (told you it was awesome)...
...and then fighting Iron Man more directly. We again get a very clear explanation of Mandarin's rings, pretty consistent with the last time except the poison gas has been replaced with an impact beam and has swapped places with the sonic blast.
As always, the Mandarin is a tough opponent...
...and even his thermo-couplers are barely able to withstand the Mandarin's flame blast.
Ultimately, the Mandarin is able to weaken Iron Man, finish him off with a karate chop, and then lets him fly up into space, unconscious.
With that taken care of, and now that he's back in his own body, he turns his attention to the Yellow Claw...
...and revives Ultimo.
Iron Man rescued Sunfire before getting beaten by the Mandarin, and when Sunfire recovers he attacks Ultimo without really knowing what is going on.
Meanwhile Mandarin invades his base to battle the Yellow Claw.
The battle between the Mandarin and the Claw is the beginning of the War of the Super-Villains, a battle instigated by the Black Lama.
This is an idea that sounds really promising, and so far it's pretty cool, but it will unfortunately turn out to be a real dud.
Note above that it says that Mandarin's rings were destroyed. It further turns out that Mandarin was really only fighting a robot version of the Claw that is also a bomb.
It really seems like the idea was that the Mandarin was meant to be killed here. One of the Claw's lackeys, Loc Do, even says that he's scattered the Mandarin's ashes, and he takes the Mandarin's rings for himself, setting up for him to become a future Mandarin.
Meanwhile, Iron Man recovers and helps Sunfire defeat Ultimo...
...but Sunfire has no interest in helping Iron Man fight the Yellow Claw, so he takes his leave. So Iron Man goes it alone.
The Yellow Claw is a master of both robotics and genetic engineering, so Iron Man has to fight a whole bunch of weird and cool threats, including this weird blob...
...these adorable little robots...
...and this giant beetle, which breathes radioactive fire.
Iron Man has a unique solution to that particular problem.
The Black Lama shows up as well, and while Iron Man winds up triggering an explosion in the Mandarin's former castle that drives everyone off, he doesn't manage to capture anyone.
While all these battles are going on, Roxanne Gilbert is still looking for Marty March, and she soon finds him...
He leads her to a hidden underground city.
However, it turns out he's not welcome there anymore.
Like the narration box says, more on that in a future entry.
Back in the States, Eddie March shows up to say hello to Pepper.
He's seemingly recovered from his surgery, but considering his weird non sequitur, i'm a little worried he might have brain damage.
"You're up early today."
This awkward line of dialogue is due to the fact that someone wrote in asking why Eddie had hair after coming out of brain surgery in the previous arc. Now that is being responsive to fans! Another letter writer complains that Iron Man's armor hardly seems high tech any more, in light of the fact that in real life the nuclear-powered pacemaker had just been invented and yet Iron Man is constantly having to replenish his power, and with this arc we first have Iron Man using integrated circuitry for the first time and a little later...
...yep, a nuclear powered pacemaker.
Also, Happy has a secret plan to fix his marital problems.
Shocked as she looks, it's not like a sex toy catalog or anything. It'll just turn out to be that he's going to apply for a job with Stark Industries' security team, something Tony is happy to hire him for. It'll allow him to be closer to Pepper, but as Pepper thinks to herself, it doesn't seem to address his original concern, which was that she was working at all. But i guess he's come around on that, and good for him.
Well, this was really fun. I mean, just wild and crazy fighting. Unfortunately, this prelude to the War of the Super-villains, which sounded like it was meant to be more of a line-wide event ("Big things are shaping up all over at Marvel") turns out to be a pretty small scale affair, with a really disappointing ending. But leaving aside the eventual disappointment, these issues on their own represent a nice battle between the Mandarin and the Yellow Claw. Throw in Sunfire and Ultimo and a new costume, and (nose aside; it wasn't his fault) some of the better art i've seen from George Tuska.
Regarding the nose, from Sean Howe's Untold Tales of Marvel Comics:
There was also the chance that [Stan] Lee would swoop in, look at a page, and offer an offhand remark that would send the office scrambling. Near the end of Roy Thomas' tenure, Lee had taken a look at Iron Man pages in which it was so flat it didn't look like Tony Stark's nose would fit. "Shouldn't he have a nose?" he asked Thomas... In the next issue, Stark redesigned his helmet to include a big metal triangle in the front. Months later, Iron Man pages by Mike Esposito landed on the desk of... Bill Mantlo. "I'm looking at this book and thinking, 'Jesus Christ, I must be hallucinating'" said Mantlo. Iron Man doesn't have a nose.' So I sat there, very innocently, with a tube of White-Out, and painted out all the noses, and maybe an hour later, I hear screaming, 'Esposito, are you out of your mind?! What happened to his nose?'...". Mantlo went through and dutifully scraped the White-Out from every panel.
Twenty pages later...
As it was, [Stan] barely looked at the comics. He took a look at Iron Man for the first time in over a year, saw the triangular nose that had been added to the helmet on his own orders, and said, "What's this - why is this here?"
Beginning with issue #71, Iron Man is moved to a bi-monthly status due to low sales.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: At the beginning of issue #68, Iron Man is already in Vietnam, having tracked down Roxie Gilbert. He says the only delay was "the Avengers mission I agreed to join here", with a footnote to "this month's Avengers", which would have been issue #124, which also takes place in Vietnam. So it would have been logical to assume that this arc takes place directly after Avengers #124, except that in Avengers #125 Iron Man is shown to have returned from Vietnam with the other Avengers, and doesn't yet have his new faceplate with the nose. You could argue that's an art error, but i don't like to do that and in any event it means the Avengers were cooling their heels in Vietnam while Iron Man was a short distance away fighting Sunfire, Mandarin, Ultimo, and the Yellow Claw, which seems unlikely. So, i've got this between Iron Man's appearances in Avengers #125-126, following the Index and the MCP. Note that Tony's statement that "the only delay" was the Avengers' mission in Vietnam ignores the Zodiac civil war storyline and the conclusion of the Thanos war in Captain Marvel, too.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
Interesting sound effects: "krakato" refers to the volcano Krakatoa, "kung" is probably a mistaken reference to karate, and I'm not sure why "spam" is in there...
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 20, 2013 9:22 PM
Amazingly, this listing of Mandarin's rings doesn't stick either. The sonic blast is eventually replaced with a matter rearranger.
Posted by: Michael | April 20, 2013 11:13 PM
It seems like the Mandarin actually had more than ten rings. I wonder where he wore the other two.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 21, 2013 12:22 AM
It actually would make sense for there to be more than ten rings, or at least, there's no reason why the Makluan power source that the rings come from should only have had ten of 'em. I'm not sure, but I don't think the dragons wore them as rings.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 22, 2013 2:07 AM
I seem to remember that during Byrne's run, one of the dragons said that they originally wore the rings on their fingers until they grew too large.
Posted by: Michael | April 22, 2013 7:53 AM
This book's frequency during these few years is weird. It actually goes bimonthly with #66, becomes monthly for a brief period in mid-1974, goes bimonthly again with #71, and then becomes permanently monthly in mid-1975.
The Unicorn is listed as a villain on #69's cover, but he only appears in flashback.
Hop Sung's name mysteriously changes to Hop Ling in #71, and the underground city's leader seems to change his race after this issue.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 11, 2013 4:32 PM
What are the publishing dates?
Posted by: EHH | June 7, 2015 12:43 AM
Added the dates. Thanks, EHH.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 7, 2015 11:15 AM
Maybe Tony decides to not wear "the nose" to fight Thanos thinking the Mad Titan would think he looked too silly; let alone fighting in space people will think "hey, you're not supposed to breathe in space" when of course the suit has that covered). (or he just wasn't ready to reveal it fully yet to others outside his own missions)
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 31, 2015 10:22 AM
"He is offering that globe to the world's mightiest villain - to be determined by Mortal Kombat!"
Sorry, could resist :)
This issue: the Yellow Claw wins! Fatality!
Posted by: Piotr W | February 26, 2017 5:46 PM
So we've pretty well got the Iron Man nose problem covered, but why does Chief Kuon Set have buttons stitched over his eyes?8)
Posted by: Holt | January 29, 2018 12:27 PM
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