Characters Appearing: Happy Hogan, Iron Man, Mandarin, Pepper Potts, Uatu the Watcher
Tales Of Suspense #54-55
Issue(s): Tales Of Suspense #54, Tales Of Suspense #55
Especially in smaller panels, they just wind up looking like dots and it feels like the art is unfinished. They obviously confused the colorist here, too.
Anyway, someone is stealing Tony Stark's "observer missiles" and it turns out to be the Mandarin. When we last saw the Mandarin, he was minding his own business when Iron Man showed up to attack him. So maybe this is revenge, or maybe the Mandarin just doesn't like spy satellites floating over his country.
What follows is a battle where Iron Man gets himself defeated and tied up, and eventually escapes.
The Mandarin still has a physical side, something that always surprises me. In addition to his karate...
...he uses a giant sword.
But he does also use his rings.
And has an array of super-science gadgets as well.
The blurb on the first page of issue #55 says "This may possibly be the greatest Iron Man epic yet produced by the Mighty Marvel Group!" but it's not true. I mean, you're gonna have a hard time topping Fantastic Four #25-26, for one thing. But more importantly, it's not so much a battle as it is Iron Man getting his ass handed to him nine different ways, and then escaping while the Mandarin isn't looking. Nice way to increase the standing of your bad guy, but not really an epic.
Iron Man eventually destroys the machine the Mandarin was using to steal the missiles and then flies away, which again means there's no decisive victory.
At least the Mandarin isn't painted yellow.
Meanwhile, Tony had put Happy Hogan in charge of Stark Industries while he was away, mainly to keep him from making time with Pepper.
Happy is not doing a very good job; he was griping that Stark had it easy and now he's learning that our corporate executives are actually hard working and productive members of society.
Also in issue #55 we get a another look at the technology behind the Iron Man armor. I'm still surprised by the fact that IM's arms and legs are actually made of chain mail, which makes sense because they bend with Stark's arms, but i always assumed they were a hard metal shell. It also makes the way Tony stores his armor and 'magnetically' dresses himself a little more believable.
Issue #54 reminds us that Iron Man is into roller-skating.
There's also a pin-up of Pepper Potts.
I call your attention to the blurb at the bottom of that pin-up, which says that Heck has been drawing Pepper as a more attractive woman as the series has progressed. Heck drew romance comics during the Atlas era, and drawing beautiful women is considered his specialty.
Finally, there's a Tale of the Watcher, where a space alien lands on the moon and plans to steal the Earth's sun, but the Watcher keeps him talking while his UFO sinks into a bog.
Among the "extras" in Marvel Masterworks: The Invincible Iron Man vol. 2, there's an original black & white cover of Tales of Suspense #55. The only difference from the actual cover is that the Mandarin had long pointy fingernails, but that apparently caused a problem with the Comics Code Authority, and it had to be touched up.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: As Merhaj notes below, Iron Man's new faceplate debuts here but it also appeared in Avengers #6. Since Avengers #6 continues soon after #5, i like Merhaj's explanation that Iron Man redesigned his faceplate at the same time he was souping up Captain America's shield between those issues, and then he appears here afterwards.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Masterworks: The Invincible Iron Man vol. 2 (issue #55 is an original)
I think this Iron Man story is better when read together with the previous issue - but not a lot better... Maybe goes from "D" to "C-"
Posted by: Merhaj | October 28, 2012 11:29 AM
Thanks for the info, Merhaj. It looks like the Marvel Chronology Project agrees with you as well. I'll be adding issue #54 as part of my back issue additions and i'm expecting to have to make a lot of shifts along the way that'll bring me in line with you.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 28, 2012 12:54 PM
This features one of the most cartoonish things in a comic. The Mandarin drops heavy stuff on IM (can't tell what exactly, you know Don Heck art)and he falls through the floor creating a perfect Iron Man shaped outline hole, Wile E coyote style.
Posted by: kveto from prague | December 15, 2013 2:01 PM
#54 has a silly little sci-fi backup where a race of aliens are scared away from Earth because they see a little old lady wearing a fox fur around her neck. Why does this scare them? Because their enemies are a race of fox people they've never been able to defeat. So they assume if even the most fragile Earthlings are walking with the pelts of dead foxes, they must be tough!
Posted by: Robert | February 7, 2016 4:21 PM
Yeah, the visible bolts on the helmet's faceplate make him look more like Scrap-Iron Man!
Posted by: Brian Coffey | July 9, 2017 10:59 PM
The Watcher gets pretty dark in #55, since the ending implies he's just going to, well, watch as the alien slowly suffocates to death in front of him.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 1, 2017 6:29 AM
The armour that premiered in TOS #48 was always one of my favourites and I didn't like the rivet mask version, so I am in complete agreement here. In the UK the Avengers stories were being printed long before the Iron Man installments, so we had an idea of the various phases that the armour would go through.
Posted by: Mike Teague | November 4, 2017 6:00 AM
Whoa horsey !!! The wording on that splash page at the start of #55 - how on earth can anyone tell whether Iron Man has a smile on his face ??? Least of all the Mandarin, as all he can see from that position is the back of Iron Man's head !
Posted by: Mike Teague | November 7, 2017 4:41 PM
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