All-New Marvel Now might have given this book a fancy new logo, but it’s still the same quality on the inside, and thankfully, a lot of my fears about the end of #22 were unfounded. Kieron Gillen hasn’t just dropped everything about the ‘Troy’ concept for the shiny newness of Malekith The Accursed, and all of the events here build on past events brilliantly. I’m not sure how much sense this will all make for the new reader the .NOW issues are supposed to bring in, but then I guess that’s what the digital trade giveaway is for.
Gillen kicks off by doing one of the things he likes best, writing in a cod-fantasy style and filling us in on the back-story of Malekith and the Dark Elves. Gillen, who of course wrote Thor and Journey Into Mystery for quite some time, is well-versed in this style, and I dare say that fans of those books who haven’t tried his Iron Man yet will love this opening. There won’t be as many ‘feels’ to be had about Iron Man as there was about Kid Loki, but still, Gillen gets comic book fantasy, in all of it’s ridiculousness. We see Malekith sitting on his new throne as King of the Elves, and how he was initially approached by one of the Mandarin Rings. The ring wants to use Malekith to take down Tony Stark, but it’s made a mistake here, as Malekith is far more powerful than the little trinket and soon, Malekith is in control, rather than the other way around. Gillen has some fun here with the old ‘magic is just advanced technology’ cliché, and you can see that this whole arc is going to be very much about the relationship between those two concepts. Iron Man is a staunch realist who doesn’t really hold with magic, so how does he deal with a magical villain that he doesn’t understand? Malekith, as we saw at the end of last issue, then begins to hunt down the other ring bearers so he can steal them for himself.
The story then moves over to Iron Man going up against the latest Mandarin, who is a Musical Director who was hired by Stark Industries to make a Broadway Show about Tony, and then fired when he depicted him as a pervert. Iron Man is fighting this ‘Lightning Conductor’ right in the middle of Broadway, but the fight doesn’t last long, as Malekith intrudes, blows the Lightning Conductor’s head off, takes the ring and warps away.
I said before that Tony doesn’t understand magic, and that’s true, so instead he just employs someone who does know about it, in the form of Marvel UK hero Dark Angel. Despite being British, I’m not very familiar with Dark Angel, so a lot of the back-story here went over my head, and man, there are too many red-heads in this book aren’t there? Tony and Dark Angel check up on ‘The Bride Of Darkness’ from way back in #4, which is a plot-point I had forgotten about, and then get on with trying to track down Malekith. Gillen comes up with a solid explanation for why Tony doesn’t just call up Thor to help, and we also get some more of the previously mentioned science-is-magic-is-science stuff, and Dark Angel successfully sends Iron Man (whose suit doesn’t actually have any Iron in it at the moment) to Svartalfheim, but unfortunately, she sends him right into the middle of Malekith’s throne-room, where he is of course surrounded.
This was a strong opening issue to this arc, it set up the immediate conflict between Iron Man and Malekith well, and it also depicted the more thematic conflict in an interesting way too. Luke Ross’ art was strong, he’s an artist with a lot of different styles, and here he’s using one that’s somewhat half-way between his Jonah Hex stuff and his more traditional superhero work, which does fit a fantasy story.
Oh yeah, I forgot about the one tasty chunk of subplot we got here, which showed Abigail Burns (another pesky red-head) struggling with her lack of hands, before being contacted by Arno, who wants her to test out some new technology that he’s made that can help her. She wants to write a story on Arno, but more interestingly, there cracks in the relationship between the Stark Brothers are growing, with Arno saying that his brother is ‘just a man’. How long before Arno is a villain? It’s only a matter of time…