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Isn’t it Ironic, don’tchathink?: Graeme keeps with the Avengers from 9/6.

Graeme McMillan

The logo, as much as the rest of the cover, tells you a lot about IRON MAN: ENTER THE MANDARIN #1. Reminiscent of the Indiana Jones logo, with the rounded and Art Deco-ish letterforms of the subtitle, the message is there pretty clearly: old-school adventure and excitement in here (Compare it with the other Iron Man logos of recent times; no circuitry or tech-forms here, fanboys). Add that to the Rocketeer-lite imagery – again with Art Deco background – and the message is repeated. This isn’t about the new, but about the familiar.

It’s also, however, about the entirely enjoyable. It’s completely a throwback of a book, whether it’s in the plot, which returns us to Communist Bad Guys and mysterious evil Asian warlords (but in such an over-the-top, energetic way as to seem harmlessly tongue-in-cheek instead of the self-important xenophobia of Captain America: The Chosen), the characterization (Tony Stark as playboy, dating “Miss Veronica Vogue,” supermodel!) and dialogue, or Eric Canete’s amazing, cartoony and wonderfully scratchy artwork – his barrel-chested Iron Man is a joy to look at, Pixar-with-marker-pens and pop, miles away from the sterile nature of something like Steve McNiven’s take on the character in Civil War. Dave Stewart, colorist to the stars, adds an understated presence to the art, pulling it together in quiet ways that underline what makes the linework so powerful without undermining it. Visually, it’s a stunning thing that I’d love to see more Marvel books approach.

But back, at least for a second, to Joe Casey’s story, which takes great pains to work within Marvel continuity while updating it slightly; it’s another of his retro-books, like the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes series or his First Family mini, but one that’s more successful than either because it doesn’t rely on the reader’s knowledge of the continuity that he’s working around. Instead, it’s something that could be appreciated by anyone who understands that Iron Man is the good guy and the spooky guy with the magic rings the bad guy – it even ends its first chapter with the promise of a slugfest next issue (This coming after, of course, a full first issue that included plot set-up, a preliminary battle between the hero and villain, and quick expositionary burst to explain who Iron Man is for anyone completely unfamiliar with the character… The story goes at quite a speed, and a lot happens here), which probably makes it exactly the kind of movie-tie-in potential that Marvel were undoubtedly hoping for in the first place. I hope the next couple of issues keep up the pace and quality of this opener, and stay something that you could imagine Robert Downey Jr. smirking his way through, because somewhat surprisingly, this was rather Good.

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