Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Iron Man: Rings of the Mandarin (#23-28)

In the end, I find Kieron Gillen's run on Iron Man to be a frustrating one. Gillen clearly has some fantastic ideas for the character. The run is full of unique, new obstacles for Tony Stark to overcome. The opening arc showed all sorts of potential, especially when dealing with magic as technology.

Gillen went back to the well for this final arc. The Mandarin's rings have always been alien tech, but they blended suprisingly well into a story that featured Malekith the Dark Elf. Malekith's faerie world proved fertile ground, as a souped-up, magically augmented Iron Man armor really made these conflicts stand out. And after seeing Stark struggle for so long, Gillen did a great job of turning things around just a few issues in to this storyline. With Dark Angel and Arno Stark's help, Iron Man was ready for just about every contingency. The three person think-tank was a great storyline, especially when Dark Angel became Stark's personal Oracle. (If DC isn't going to use the concept, why not let Marvel use it?)

After dealing with Malekith for a few issues, Iron Man takes on the remaining ringbearers as the story wraps up. While there are definitely times where the story starts to feel a bit Green Lantern-ish, with different colored rings tossing around different colored creations. I almost think this was on purpose, though, because the story quickly moves past the device. The driving force (for me) was the unique, interesting personalities exhibited by each of the rings. Instead of brainless tech, each ring has a personality and regularly attempts boardroom style meetings to hash things among peers. What a concept!

The Liar ringbearer was Pepper Potts' fiance, but man, I can't even remember the guy's name (and I read the issue last week). It sure feels to me like that storyline got rushed when Gillen exited the title. The dude was introduced and turned so fast, he didn't have time to make that much of an impression.

The art was consistent through this entire arc. Joe Bennett and Luke Ross made seamless transitions as they traded off artistic chores, and their complimentary styles meant that I barely noticed the artistic switches. (I've noticed this about Ross before, he's a chameleon). I love that Arno Stark is wearing a modern, black and gold suit that is CLEARLY telegraphing Iron Man 2020's gear-shouldered armor. We all know where this story is going, and it is great seeing the seeds planted.

So Gillen's run. Entertaining. Enjoyable. But I can't help but feel that there was some sort of disconnect between the dynamic ideas and the somewhat meandering feel of the monthly books. Perhaps some stories were padded? In any case, I will continue following Gillen to his next Marvel book (let's cross our fingers for those Dr. Strange rumors).

This book ended up being GOOD, but man, I think it was almost EXCELLENT.

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