Marvel Comics Presents #169-170 (Mandarin)
Issue(s): Marvel Comics Presents #169, Marvel Comics Presents #170 (Mandarin story only)
Collectors Preview: Does this crossover have any long range implications for the main characters?
Scott Benson jumps in to say that the story does resolve the ongoing conflict between Iron Man and War Machine, but it's quickly clarified that it doesn't mean that they're going to be friends again, either. Ensuring that Rhodey never appeared to be Tony Stark's sidekick was a major goal, which is interesting because i never thought of him that way in all of his appearances, excepting maybe in the very beginning when he was just Stark's pilot. They've been at loggerheads since Rhodey first put on a suit of armor.
Another thing that comes out in the interview was the motivation for doing the crossover:
Collectors Preview: What made you want to do the "Hands of the Mandarin" storyline?
It's refreshingly honest to answer "Why are you doing this storyline?" with "Sales." as opposed to faking some creative motivation.
The other thing that was happening at this time, and according to Yomtov it was just a coincidence, is that the Iron Man cartoon was about to happen. Force Works will play a role in that series, and the Mandarin will be the recurring (basically in every episode) villain. So even if as Yomtov says the crossover wasn't designed as fodder for the cartoon, it had that effect.
Somewhat relatedly, the Mandarin has just had his hands - which were amputated during John Byrne's run - replaced with green dragon hands. In the cartoon, the Mandarin is completely green. And therefore a dead ringer for the cartoon Ming the Merciless.
The toy was green too, to my dismay at the time. I don't know why the Mandarin was green in the cartoon, but maybe him having green hands in this series was part of the reason.
Most of the Marvel Comics Presents stories retell events from the regular crossover from the perspective of a particular character, but these two issues provide new material. Having acquired his new hands, the Mandarin hears a voice which tells him that in order to prove himself, he's going to have to fight versions of himself wearing all his old costumes.
A lesser man like me would die of sheer embarrassment looking at those outfits, but the Mandarin has a stronger willpower and he prevails. The different past versions of himself all represent different character flaws that he has to do away with: self-defeating haste, unrestrained ambition, etc.. But the most important bit is the one representing science. The big idea - this is spelled out more in the interviews than in the story so far - is to repurpose the Mandarin with a clear motivation on par with Magneto's fight for mutants. The Mandarin will now exist as an anti-technological force. He wants to reset the world to medieval times. The thought is that his critique of technology might even be something that readers could partially agree with (although this is never done justice during the crossover). It's also, not coincidentally, the Mandarin's primary motivation in the cartoon.
After defeating his past selves, the Mandarin comes out with a magic orb and transforms a group of Chinese soldiers into his minions.
For a tie-in story in Marvel Comics Presents - and yes, that's the lowest bar possible - this isn't the worst. At least it's setting the stage for the crossover and doing a little bit of character analysis - although the research is a little hit-and-miss (see references). It would have been even better if they had front-loaded Mandarin's critique of technology in a way that got readers partially agreeing, as intended; in that regard it's a bit muddled. But at least there's some content here.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: A note says that the events of this issue take place immediately after Iron Man #307 (which means before the Mandarin's appearances in Iron Man #308-309). Note that even the other Hands of the Mandarin stories in these issues don't take place at the same time as these issues. Hands of the Mandarin formally begins in Force Works #6, but there are parts leading up to it in War Machine #8 and Iron Man #310, which take place immediately after Iron Man #309.
Crossover: Hands of the Mandarin
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Hands of the Mandarin TPB
Dr. No got the "Asian Villain Colored Green" syndrome in James Bond Jr. as well, and he not surprisingly looked the exact same as Ming and Mandarin ended up looking like.
Has nothing to do with the comic, just throwing it out there.
Posted by: MegaSpiderMan | February 9, 2018 6:47 PM
I'm in two minds about re-purposing the Mandarin so drastically. It does set him apart from other evil masterminds in the Marvel Universe, and I like the science/magic dichotomy it sets up between Iron Man and his main bad-guy, but it is so unlike his previous appearances that it feels rather jarring...
Posted by: Berend | February 10, 2018 3:53 AM
FNORD - there were a number of Collector's Previews with interviews like this about crossovers in 1994-1995:
Posted by: clyde | February 10, 2018 7:52 PM
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