Invincible Iron Man Annual #1: Review

Jun 2010
Matt Fraction, Carmine DiGiandomenico

Story Name:

Mandarin: The story of my life

Review & Comments

4 stars

Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 Review by (October 10, 2012)
This issue gives titles to the rings, where earlier sources like the handbook only gave properties. Their properties have been intensified, and in some cases changed drastically. Right hand:- Little finger Nightbringer (black light) Ring finger Spectral (disintegration beam changed to intangibility/invisibility) Middle finger Spin (vortex beam changed to super-speed) Index finger Influence (impact beam now emits various forces?) Thumb Remaker (matter rearranger) Left hand:- Little finger Zero (ice blast) Ring finger The Liar (mento-intensifier changed to illusion control) Middle finger Lightning (electro-blast) Index finger Incandescence (flame blast) Thumb Daimonic (white light changed to mental dominance)

There is some confusion over whether the gun-running/origin of Iron Man story occurs during or after Chairman Mao's reign. This is appropriate given the competing origin stories:- In Vietnam in ToS#39. In Afghanistan in IM(2005)#1. But this retelling is squarely in the Afghanistan camp, but uses Raza from the Iron Man film origin as the head terrorist. The idea that Mandarin was present at Iron Man's origin is not completely new. #267-268 of the original run say that Wong Chu (from ToS#39) was working for Mandarin, who wanted Stark and Prof Yinsen captured to help investigate the properties of his rings. (That retelling also moved the origin forward in time from Vietnam to some unspecified Southeast Asian country.) The tale Mandarin tells of his early life is essentially the same as the one he related in ToS#62. There are differences such as his aunt raising him to hate the world. But the story of finding the rings was different from anything here. He spent all his inheritance and was ejected from his home simply for not paying taxes. His wanderings then led him to the cave, but there was no living alien. Instead a mental device told him all he needed to know. He used the rings to subjugate the surrounding villages, and ToS#62 ended the story there. All these fables wildly diverge from the truth as uncovered by Jun Shan, which is presented here for the first time. They show Mandarin refining the story over time, to put himself in an increasingly better light. one could say that the entry in the Official Handbook is more evidence of this, where it says that he became a high government official (mandarin) before Mao took over. In that version the Communists deposed him as a relic of the old ways.

This annual stars Mandarin, and only has Iron Man in flashbacks. But what the hey, it's an Iron Man title. It came out in the middle of Stark Resilient, but it forms a trilogy with #33 (the end of Stark Resilient), which returns Mandarin to Iron Man's life (he was last here in Iron Man (2007) #28) and the following renumbered #500, which shows a possible future dominated by him. Mandarin will then blend back into the background until #510. I believe this is the first mention of Mandarin City, but the story suggests that it's the castle he's had from his 1st appearance in Tales of Suspense #50. There are various competing stories of Genghis Khan's death, but none of them are peaceful. Jun Shan was probably also going to say, before Mandarin cut him off, that Genghis didn't conquer all of what is now China, but his son completed the conquest.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Award-winning martial arts movie director Jun Shan and his wife Chuntao are kidnapped by Mandarin and taken to Mandarin City. The villain wants him to make a make a film of his life story. When Jun protests, Mandarin blinds him in one eye, and then threatens his wife to gain his cooperation.

The story after this intercuts between Mandarin telling Jun things, Jun filming them (with Mandarin making 'suggestions' how to 'improve' scenes), and what really happened.

Mandarin claims to be a descendant of Genghis Khan, who unified China and then died peacefully in bed. Jun says he understood the Khan died in battle, but Mandarin won't brook disagreement.

Mandarin's version of his birth is that his mother was an English noblewoman in Shanghai, he went to boarding school, his parents died in a car crash, and he was brought up by an aunt.. The reality we see is that his mother was the only white prostitute in a Chinese brothel and opium den, and he was put to work there as a cleaner until his mother died from opium. Then he killed the brothel owner and took over the whorehouse.

He claims to have been a hero of Mao's revolution, but actually was on the run. Both versions have him entering the cave where he found his rings in a crashed alien spacecraft. One alien had been kept alive for centuries by the rings. Mandarin says he tried to help the alien, but he died and bequeathed him the rings. Reality shows the alien trying to warn him of something, before Mandarin killed him and stole the rings.

Jun asks about his wife, and Mandarin shows him a photo showing that 6 days ago she was alive in his seraglio.

All the people working on the film have been similarly forced into it. Including Jun's female assistant.

Jun is given access to Mandarin's archive of photos and documents, but realises most of them have been faked. But even so some things contradict Mandarin's story. For instance his birth record says he was born in a village called Habuquan.

He demands to be allowed to visit the places where things actually happened, or he can't make the film properly. Mandarin agrees to it, for the sake of the film.

Mandarin's men take Jun and his assistant to Habuquan. They give him 3 hours. If he doesn't return they will kill the assistant and all the villagers. Jun learns there about Mandarin's real early life.

On his return Jun gathers together crucial film staff and persuades them to help him make a film of the real story as well as the one Mandarin wants.

The film continues with Mandarin's time in Mao's China. He describes himself as being a major supporter of Mao, and being granted Mandarin City as his own kingdom which he ruled benevolently. But Jun had learned from the villagers that Mandarin had used the rings against both them and Mao's soldiers, presumably carving out his own little empire.

Mandarin catches Jun filming an early-life scene in the village. Jun has to spin a cover story about showing what life for the peasants was like before Mandarin improved it.

The next stage involves the origin of Iron Man.

Mandarin claims to have been a peace envoy of China, distributing aid. He was visiting a hospital in Afghanistan where Tony Stark was being treated for injuries he received while smuggling heroin.

An embittered former employee of Mandarin says they were running guns for drugs. They were supplying Raza in Afghanistan when he had Tony Stark captive. Stark exploded into action in his prototype Iron Man suit. And Mandarin protected himself from a blast by holding the employee as a human shield.

Iron Man also ran rampage in the hospital in Mandarin's version. He ignores Jun's question as to why Mandarin didn't stop Iron Man with his rings. Instead he insists on himself picking the actor to play Stark, making sure he appears sufficiently slimy and dissipated. But then he makes the scene show himself heroically saving crippled children from the evil Iron Man.

Jun protests that Mandarin is going too far, making things look ridiculous. But Mandarin takes over directing and gives Jun the night off. Jun spends it stealing a look at his captive wife.

Mandarin defines the remainder of the film as showing how the corrupt Iron Man has harassed him since then. And it will end with him killing Tony Stark. He claims he wouldn't need his rings to accomplish that. To prove it he sheds the rings and fights 3 criminals (like Stark) to the death.

He claims that when Mao took over he left China to study all the martial arts. Jun points out that this contradicts what Mandarin said earlier, and what they have filmed. Mandarin just denies that he ever said anything different to what he claims now. And burns Jun's hands for his impertinence.

Someone has dug out a decades-old movie made to show a heroic Mandarin. The people who made it are all dead.

Jun and crew are struggling to create a consistent film out of Mandarin's conflicting lies. Especially now that he wants them to show Stark dying, when newspapers report him as very much alive.

It is time to film the final battle between Mandarin and a villainous-looking Iron Man. Mandarin disapproves of everything, and eventually decides to replace the leading man and play the part himself. After forgetting his lines he attacks 'Iron Man' for real, and everyone else as they try to pull him off, until the actor within the suit is dead.

Jun holds a meeting with his collaborators on the alternative film. He points out that Mandarin will kill them (and their loved ones) when he finds out what they've been doing. He offers any of them the chance to walk away before it's too late. All but his assistant and one other do so. Jun says he will try to deflect blame from those who leave.

Mandarin interrupts one of their editing sessions with more ideas for the period of his ongoing conflict with Iron Man (he mentions Armor Wars and Extremis). Jun refuses more changes, daring Mandarin to kill him and forfeit the film. Mandarin partially backs down. But insists on seeing daily progress, when he will give suggestions. He also says they have 3 weeks before the premiere of the film.

Jun's female assistant tells him she has mapped Chuntao's regular movements. They prepare a duplicate of Chuntao's dress for her, and she promises that Jun and Chuntao will get out of this alive.

It is the day of the premiere, and Mandarin arrives with Chuntao in tow. But supporters of Jun grab Chuntao and the assistant takes her place. Chuntao is like an expressionless dummy, but Jun takes her with him as he escapes the theatre.

Jun's other faithful film-maker is acting as projectionist. He shows the 'true' film they made. Angry Mandarin has the projectionist and female assistant killed (and probably later everyone else involved). He burns down the theatre.

Meanwhile Chuntao cuts Jun's throat, and returns to her master Mandarin.

And just to show he's a complex guy, Mandarin has the theatre rebuilt in Jun's name. It opens with a retrospective of his works, and a eulogy from the leading actress of his last one.

Carmine DiGiandomenico
Carmine DiGiandomenico
Matthew Wilson
Salvador Larroca (Cover Penciler)
Salvador Larroca (Cover Inker)
Frank D'Armata (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Joe Caramagna.
Editor: Ralph Macchio.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)

Plus: Chuntao Shan, Jun Shan.

> Invincible Iron Man Annual: Book info and issue index

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