This week Iron Man must try to find out who’s stealing the Mandarin’s Rings, and we say goodbye to Animal Man!
Iron Man #23.NOW (Marvel Comics)
The rings of the Mandarin are searching for new hosts, and it’s causing Tony Stark a whole lot of problems in Iron Man #23.NOW, the new jumping on point for Marvel’s Iron Avenger. Written by Kieron Gillen and featuring art by Luke Ross, this issue serves as a pretty good launching point for new readers, even if it does stumble a few times.
The issue starts off with a quick rundown on Malekith The Accursed, whom you may remember from a little art house film called Thor: The Dark World. For some mysterious reason, one of the Mandarin’s rings appears to him, and after seizing control of it, Malekith decides that having all ten of the Mandarin’s rings is much better than just having one. Naturally, he attacks one of the current ring bearers as Iron Man is battling him. This alerts Tony Stark to who has been killing people who have been in contact with the rings, allowing him to try and plan a way to stop the rings from searching out new hosts. With assistance from his new coworker Dark Angel, Tony is able to transport into Asgard to try and gain access to a weapon that will neutralize the rings. Only problem is, he arrived in the middle of the Dark Elves’ throne room!
I’ve been catching up on the Marvel NOW Iron Man series in the collections, but I’m still not caught up. So in a way, I’m jumping onto this as a new reader. Gillen’s script works very well in presenting the new status quo for Tony Stark. However, there are a lot of moments that I feel could’ve been expanded upon, namely why the Mandarin’s rings are searching out new hosts. Is this a new plan by the Mandarin to take out Tony? Is the Mandarin dead and his rings are looking for a new host (like what happens when a Green Lantern dies)? Is the Mandarin real this time, or is it just another actor playing the “role of a lifetime”?
It’s questions like these that prevent this issue being a total slam-dunk. New characters like Tony’s long lost brother Arno are thrown in with little to no background info. I’ve read the storyline that introduced him, but I have no idea what he’s been up to since then. The whole point of these “.NOW” issues is that I don’t have to be caught up, so I shouldn’t be expected to know half of what’s going on when I grab one of these special issues.
Despite these problems, I still really enjoyed this issue, and will be trying out the next installment as well. Luke Ross’ art is good, even though sometimes his Iron Man face looks a little thin. Even though it gets a little confusing at times, Iron Man 23.NOW has a pretty cool hook that works well, and leaves you wanting more.
Animal Man #29 (DC Comics)
Animal Man comes to a heartbreaking end with issue 29, and writer Jeff Lemire and artist Travel Foreman definitely give Buddy Baker the send off he deserves. A quieter issue, the series finale focuses on what has been the heart of the series for so long: Buddy Baker’s family. Still reeling from the death of son Cliff, Buddy and his wife Ellen are finally home after the insane events of the previous arc, where Brother Blood decimated the Red Kingdom. After convincing Socks and Shepherd to become the new Totems of the Red, Buddy makes a deal to save his daughter Maxine from becoming the new Avatar of the Red, protecting her from any harm that the members of the Rot might try and inflict on her. In return, Buddy promises to make sure his family comes first, and that his superhero adventures come second.
This is hands down, one of the best single issues of the year. It’s extremely touching seeing Buddy and his wife finally reconcile after being separated for so long, and the bedtime story Maxine tells Buddy is sure to make even the most cold hearted reader well up a little bit. Lemire’s script is absolutely dynamite, and his art for the pages detailing Maxine’s story are so beautifully innocent that it’s hard to turn the page. You’ll want to keep staring at them so they don’t go away. Travel Foreman’s art isn’t too shabby either. Returning to the series to send Buddy Baker off in style, Foreman’s work nails the tone of the conversation between Buddy and Ellen. He also makes Socks and Shepherd look pretty BA in their roles as the new totems of the Rot.
It’s sad to see Animal Man go. It was one of the most original, weird, and emotional books on the stands, but at least it’s going out in the way the creative team wants it to. God speed. Buddy Baker. And God Speed to Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman. Thanks for the awesome series. We’ll miss you*.
*Until Lemire’s Justice League United comes out.