Kieron Gillen continues to surprise and delight with his Iron Man run, you never know what to expect and this issue was no exception, as the threat of the Mandarins reveals itself to be more complex than first thought and it all ends on one hell of a cliff-hanger.
Gillen jumps the story forward quite a bit by the start of this issue, with the war between the Starks and the Mandarins over Troy having now gone on for 2 months. The city keeps getting attacked by ‘Remaker Bombs’ and Tony and Arno can’t track their enemies at all. The focus of this issue is actually not on Iron Man, but on one of the Mandarins, Red Peril, who starts the issue off by meeting with her ex-boyfriend (and current fiancé of Pepper Potts) Marc, who asks her to stop her attacks on Tony, that he’s trying to help the world. She ignores him, going straight to a fresh attack. It’s a race against time for both Iron Man and his drones to stop her, and as soon as Tony actually gets there, she’s teleported away.
Where to? Well, she’s teleported right to the heart of the city to do what she did before she got her magic ring, and be an investigative journalist. Abigail wanders through the city, using her ring as a Dictaphone, and gradually discovers that both Marc and Tony are right, Troy is a good thing, and it is going to help people. This causes her to ask her ring, why the heck is she doing this? We don’t see the elaboration, but it seems to me that the Mandarin’s mission is just to stick it to Iron Man, regardless of the cost, which is just a brilliantly dickish beyond-the-grave move from Iron Man’s arch-nemesis. Whilst Red Peril is talking to her ring, Iron Man and Arno are able to work out where she is thanks to Marc, and in a stealth suit, he follows her to a meeting with 2 fellow ring-bearers. The issue culminates with Red Peril meeting up with Lord Remaker, who is the crime-lord Tony ousted from Mandarin City, and The Exile from the Inhumanity issue. Remaker has built an even bigger bomb than before and plans to use it to destroy the city, because if he can’t have it, nobody can. I like the fact that the various Mandarins aren’t a unified force, that they are still people underneath it all, and are arguing amongst themselves. This makes them a much more complex group of villains, and hey, at this point, Red Peril isn’t really a villain, she’s more of an anti-hero.
The 3 Mandarins gear up for a fight, but as soon as they power up, they are able to see through Tony’s stealth-shields and go for him instead. Remaker launches his bomb, and since Arno refuses to evacuate, the issue ends with the tower engulfed in a fiery explosion and Arno seemingly dead. I actually wouldn’t put it past Kieron Gillen to introduce an important new supporting character that looks set to be around for years, and then kill him off only 5 issues later, as it’s basically the last thing you’d expect. Arno may have served his purpose as a character already anyway, he’s turned Tony’s world upside down, given him a new impetus, and in this issue, we see him show Tony some leads on his birth parents. I can’t wait to read the next issue and see if he actually did die, it’s a testament to Gillen’s writing that I am so interested in the character after, as I said, only 5 issues.
Joe Bennett’s artwork was once again great in it’s solid, traditional superhero style, he’s a great fit for this title.