Graphic Novel Review: Iron Man: Rings of the Mandarin
11:32 07 November 2014
Tony Stark takes on the inheritors of the deadly alien technology which spawned his arch foe the Mandarin
If there’s one thing scientific realist Tony Stark hates, then it’s magic, but Iron Man is forced to confront mysticism head-on as he does battle with enemies of his Avenger buddy Thor in this concluding volume in Kieron Gillen’s critically acclaimed run.
After the alien rings once wielded by Stark’s late adversary The Mandarin gained sentience, they each chose a different host to empower with their extraterrestrial technology, only to realise they may have been better off working together.
The dark elf Malekith the Accursed wants to use the rings as tools in his own ruthless machinations, and will stop at nothing to claim them, even if that means violently removing the artefacts from the fingers of their existing hosts.
Resolving to recover and lock away the ten deadly rings, Tony Stark and his newly discovered brother Arno join forces with Shevaun Haldane, aka Marvel UK’s techno-mystic Dark Angel, in order to strike at Malekith where he least expects it – in his realm of Svartalheim.
Unable to call on Thor’s assistance because of Asgardian politics, Tony embarks on a black ops mission into the Nine Realms, wearing an Iron Man suit which has been specially customised to do battle with elves and other magic users.
But the other remaining ring-bearers are also intent on reclaiming their lost counterparts from Malekith, who suddenly finds himself outmanned and outgunned on his own turf, leading to an unlikely alliance with Stark himself…
In the wake of a brutal battle in Svartalheim from which not everybody emerges unscathed, Iron Man must then return to Earth in time for a final bloody confrontation with the surviving wielders of the Mandarin’s rings.
Highlights of this latest book include the welcome appearance of Dark Angel after last year’s Revolutionary War crossover, which promised to fully integrate the characters of Marvel UK into the mainstream universe, and the growing relationship between the Stark brothers, which has brought a fresh outlook and impetus to Tony.
Key themes running throughout Gillen’s run have been Tony’s search for identity and purpose, and how he has adapted to being outside his comfort zone, whether in outer space or the Nine Realms, and it’s good to see a resolution of sorts in this final volume, as he clears the decks for the next creative team.