By Kieron Gillen and Luke Ross
The biggest advantage of these .NOW Marvel books is that not only are they intended as jumping on points, but also do they collect the first volumes of the respective series – the same has happened before in titles such as Captain America and Nova, and now it’s Iron Man’s turn. Written by Kieron Gillen, this series introduces us to a brand new arc – entitled The Rings of the Mandarin, and looks set to pit Tony Stark against – for now, a main Thor foe, Malekith. Why Malekith is fighting Iron Man and not Thor will of course be explained later on.
First of all, let’s talk about the cover art. Mike Del Mundo, Joe Quinones, Jenny Parks and Leonard Kirk all contribute towards it and it looks amazing. It’s not the most cluttered of covers and it’s something that really works as an eye-catcher, with the Iron Man mask being held up in front of a white background.
Now let’s move onto the plot. The powerful Rings of the Mandarin rings have reappeared, seeking new hosts – and one of them seeks to claim all of the Rings for his own. And that host just so happens to be Malekith the Accursed, who has also recently appeared in Thor: The Dark World – and a recent Thor: God of Thunder story arc. With his army of Dark Elves, Malekith actually looks like he might be capable of succeeding, and with one ring being enough to level cities on its own, not even Iron Man may be able to stop all ten – even with his allies in the form of Dark Angel, fresh out of Revolutionary War, and Arno, his brother.
The book on its own is nothing too memorable and is unlikely to be regarded among Kieron Gillen’s finest works especially when taking into account his terrific Young Avengers series, but Iron Man #23 is far from a weak issue. It manages to be consistently fun, and Gillen does well portraying Tony Stark as a character which is no surprise given his lengthy run on the title – this was one of the initial launch of Marvel NOW! after all. The interaction with Dark Angel and Iron Man was also good to see as well – hopefully there’ll be more Marvel UK characters cropping up in mainstream Marvel titles every now again and hopefully this will allow for them to achieve more mainstream attention.
The artwork by Luke Ross is pretty good as well. The suit is different from the movies but it’s still distinctively an Iron Man suit and his artwork is much better than the early issues drawn by Greg Land, which will come as a relief to some Iron Man fans who were turned off by the artist in question. There are some strong panels in this issue and going forward it’ll be interesting to see what Ross can bring to the table.
Overall, Iron Man #23 is a decent read and worth picking up because of the bargain that you get with it – a digital copy of Volume 1 for the same pricetag as this title. And on top of that, you get the start of a decent story that could develop into something better – it’s just a shame that Kieron Gillen is a far cry here from his high-quality Young Avengers series.