10 Thoughts on Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 by Matt Fraction and Carmine DiGiandomenico (REVIEW)

1. This is an expensive comic at $4.99, but checks in at 68 whopping pages of original content and is worth every penny.

2. This is not an Iron Man story. This is the story of the Mandarin kidnapping a filmmaker and his wife and holding them hostage to force them to make a film of his life. Do not let this dissuade you from buying it. As Chris Sims says, this is a Killing Joke level comic and probably the best superhero comic Matt Fraction has ever written.

3. Mandarin starts out as a threat, but the sheer levels of his delusion, self-indulgence and petulance throughout the issue make him a truly worthy villain to fear. In one issue, should Fraction follow up with a big story based on Mandarin, and he almost has to, Mandarin has become an A-List villain and the premier Iron Man villain thanks to his depth… and the depth of his depravity.

4. Filmmaker Jun Shan makes a fantastic point-of-view character and tragic hero. His dogged insistence on telling the true Mandarin story as payment for the kidnapping and torture inflicted upon him is inspiring. More, the ties to his love Chuntao feel organic and real, making the remainder of the book truly heart-wrenching.

5. Artistically, this is top notch. DiGiandomenico isn’t someone I’m familiar with, but is someone I’ll be searching out. The gloominess of the Mandarin’s true life and the present when contrasted with the fairy tale of a movie that Mandarin pretends his life has been is breathtaking.

6. Some of the best moments come from Mandarin’s reactions to Tony Stark’s presence in his life. Insisting casting the actor to play Tony Stark, Mandarin picks a slovenly, slimy actor who is even slightly pudgy to play his rival, who he insists runs heroin. Iron Man’s armor becomes almost monstrous, a Venom version of Iron Man to be the villain to the film’s epic hero, the Mandarin. Finally, the insistence that although this is supposedly a biopic, Tony Stark die at the end truly gives depth and insight into the way this “petulant child” (as Jun Shan describes him) views a hero that opposes him.

7. Everyone who ran into Mandarin in the past is destroyed either physically, emotionally or both.

8. One of the best parts here is the expectation that Iron Man will show up and save everyone. It’s hoping against hope and it really shows that even in the Marvel Universe, the villains will succeed and everyone will not be saved.

9. The ending. Oh man. The ending.

10. Rating: 10/10 – This is as perfect as superhero comics gets and should be remembered for decades to come as the definitive Mandarin story and when he became an important villain, if Marvel doesn’t blow it. This is a rare opportunity to create a Joker, Magneto, or Dr. Doom for a character. More, this is one of the best comics of the year and should win an Eisner.

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