Comic Book Review: Iron Man: Director of SHIELD #28

Iron Man continues to be another phenomenally well written title that unfortunately isn’t getting the attention that it so richly deserves. It is an absolute shame that much of the utter garbage that Marvel and DC foists on us each month sells better than Iron Man. Of course, when Marvel allows writers like Bendis and JMS to routinely perform character assassination on Tony Stark it is no wonder that more comic book readers aren’t giving this title a try.

Still, the Knaufs remain undaunted by the tough situation that Marvel has placed them in. The Knaufs continually deliver a complex, deep and impeccably crafted read each and every month. I have never seen a writing team do such amazing things with Tony Stark’s character since David Michelinie and Bob Layton gave us the “Demon in a Bottle” story arc. We are getting treated to a double sized issue with Iron Man #28. I’m sure that we are in store for another exciting read. Let’s do this review.

Creative Team
Writers: Daniel and Charles Knauf
Artist: Roberto De La Torre

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: We begin with Xang having lent Jack Kooning a four man sniper team. We see Kooning and the sniper team being air dropped outside the Mandarin’s country estate in China. We cut to the U.N. building where Tony tells the council that he believes that the Mandarin has possession of an airborne version of the Extremis virus and is about to deploy it and cause a pandemic with a 97.5% fatality rate. Tony says that they don’t have time to debate the issue and must act quickly against the Mandarin.

Tony mentions that Steve Rogers opposed the Registration Act because he felt that government red tape would strange super heroes and strip them of their autonomy to do their jobs. Tony asks the committee to have the wisdom and courage to prove Steve wrong.

We shift back to Kooning and the sniper team outside of Mandarin’s country estate in China. Suddenly, the Mandarin senses the sniper teams’ presence. The spotter suddenly turns to stone and the Mandarin and his stone Mongolian soldiers attack the rest of the sniper team. One of the Mandarin’s warriors then chops off Kooning’s head.

We slide over to Tony meeting with Dum Dum and Maria Hill while the joint General Assembly confers on their fate. Dum Dum informs Tony that the Mandarin owns over four hundred companies in China. Tony tells Dum Dum to narrow down the search to facilities dedicated to manufacturing and R&D.

We then zip to Tony, Dum Dum and Maria before the joint session of the Commission on Superhuman Activities and the United Nations as they are ready to render their decision. The joint committee announces that there is enough evidence to charge Tony, Dum Dum and Maria with charges of terrorism. That the joint committee has ruled that Tony Stark is guilty of multiple violations of the Superhuman Registration Act and is hereby terminated as the Director of SHIELD and shall be transported to a federal holding cell.

Dum Dum then whispers into his transmitter “Trap Door is green.” Suddenly SHIELD agents crash through the roof of the U.N. meeting room and quickly secure the building. Tony asks Dum Dum if he is crazy. Dum Dum responds that he is just following Tony’s orders for him to play this entire situation “Nick Fury dirty.” (God, I love Dum Dum. He is such a cool character. Thank god that Marvel killed him off.)

Maria Hill stands up and informs the joint committee that since she is the second in command of SHIELD that once the joint committee terminated Tony as the head of SHIELD that she automatically assumed control of SHIELD. Maria says that the U.N. building in on lock down from an external threat. That Director Norman Osborn testified earlier that there was an international criminal in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

That pursuant to SHIELD’s charter, one of their prime responsibilities in the protection of the U.N. building. Therefore, Maria will continue to act with extreme prejudice as the Director of SHIELD until the U.N. council can vote to enact a new Director of SHIELD.

Dum Dum hurries Tony off to a secret base that Nick Fury had hidden under the U.N. building. Dum Dum says that it took the U.N. council eighteen months to decide on the Director of SHIELD the last time they appointed a new director. Dum Dum figures that the military will respond with the hour to SHIELD’s taking over the U.N. building.

Dum Dum tells Tony that it is up to him to go and take out the Mandarin as quickly as possible so that the joint committee has no choice but to award him as a hero. Dum Dum then tells Tony that he had a suit of armor delivered from Tony’s Coney Island facility. That Tony can use the underground tunnel that leads to the ocean to make his escape.

We cut to Tony in his old school Silver Centurion armor blasting out of the water. We cut to Iron Man busting into the Hu Po State Psychiatric Facility in China. Iron Man breaks into Maya’s cell. Tony takes off his helmet and tells Maya that he is here for her. Maya says that this is another trick. That this isn’t Tony. Tony then lays a nice sexy kiss on Maya. Maya then realizes that it is indeed Tony. (Yeah, playa! The sexual prowess of Mr. Stark is unrivaled in the 616 universe.)

Maya tells Tony how the Mandarin tricked her. Maya says that the airborne Extremis strain is modeled on the nano-cam tech she developed for SHIELD. That it is self-replicating and virtually unstoppable. Tony is then notified by Dum Dum that the National Guard has surrounded the U.N. building. Dum Dum says that everyone still thinks that Tony inside the building. Dum Dum also mentions that Jack Kooning was killed on a sniper mission outside the Mandarin’s estate.

Iron Man blasts off looking for Mandarin’s lab with the rockets full of Extremis virus. Tony’s armor informs him that there are ninety-seven manufacturing facilities in the Hopeh Province owned by the Mandarin. Tony then asks for only chemical or biotech facilities. His armor responds that there are forty-nine facilities.

Tony notices that storm clouds are gathering. His mind flashes back to Yo Hinsen commenting about the rain. Tony then asks his armor to search for the Mandarin’s facilities that deal with climate medication. There is only one facility and Iron Man streaks toward it.

We cut to Iron Man busting into the facility and coming face to face with the Mandarin. The two men engage in a massive brawl. The fight leads the two men tumbling into the part of the facility where large containers of the airborne Extremis virus are being stored. Iron Man blasts off a couple of Mandarin’s fingers and comments that Iron Man will take those rings off one at a time. The Mandarin then fires back.

Tony then realizes that the Mandarin is no longer wearing the rings on his fingers. That all of the rings are fused to the Mandarin’s spine. The brawl continues and the Mandarin gains the upper hand as he gets Iron Man in a vice lock grip. Iron Man reaches back and loops his finger around the first ring fused to Mandarin’s spine. Iron Man then proceeds to rip downward and hook his finger through all the rings and then tear them out of the Mandarin’s spine.

Iron Man then beats Mandarin to a bloody pulp. Mandarin gloats that Tony is too late. That as they speak the rockets are being launched. Iron Man is pissed and blasts Mandarin unconscious. Tony realizes that the airborne Extremis virus is based on the nano-cam tech. That the operational limits are compromised by x-rays, gamma radiation, extreme heat and extreme cold.

Tony then takes off his boot and says that he has to get rid of the dampener on his ankle so he can use his Extremis powers. So, Tony proceeds to use his pencil laser to slice off his own heel. (Oh, damn!) Tony then is able to slip off the dampener from his ankle. Tony then uses his Extremis powers to direct the rockets upward toward the jet stream. That the extreme cold air in the jet stream will be enough to kill the airborne Extremis virus.

Tony then tells a groggy Mandarin that he stopped the rockets. Mandarin is engaged and punches a container full of airborne Extremis virus. Iron Man quickly deploys his Freon stream and kills all of the Extremis virus. We see Mandarin frozen solid by coating of the virus and the Freon. Iron Man then passes out.

We cut to Dum Dum walking into Tony’s room as Tony gets up after recovering from his fight with the Mandarin. Tony’s heel is almost totally healed due to his Extremis healing factor. Dugan tells Tony that Tony is a hero again. That the U.N. and the C.S.A. have dropped all charges and that Tony has been reinstated as Director of SHIELD. Tony could care less.

Dum Dum asks Tony how he feels. Tony answers that he just saved ninety-seven point five percent of the human race, proved everyone who doubted him wrong and got to kick the living crap out of the Mandarin. Tony smiles and says that he feels great.

We slide over to a state facility in Beijing, China. We see a lab where the Mandarin’s rings are being kept under tight security. We see a figure covered in what appears to be frozen ash like substance.

We get a running monologue from the Mandarin talks about his years of stillness with his heart beating but once a minute as he has been exploring the infinite within. Searching for an epiphany. A final reconciliation between the man he thinks he is and the man he is. That he has commanded legions and yet never commanded himself. That he was tossed by rage, greed and envy.

The monologue continues that it is only fitting that he find himself the Lord of a castle of lunatics. That only the mindless eyes are fit to witness his coronation. The Mandarin is gone. The scientists cut open the substance around the figure and find that it is totally empty inside. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Iron Man #28 was a sensational read. The Knaufs treated the reader to one hell of an ending to a marvelous story arc. Iron Man #28 was a properly paced issue. The story moves with such a pleasant flow as it deftly shifts from fast paced scenes designed to get the reader’s adrenaline pumping to scenes with a more restrained pacing designed to create plenty of tension. This was certainly one intense ending to this story arc.

Iron Man #28 was a strongly plotted issue. The Knaufs managed to take all the detailed and complex plotlines from this story arc and dovetail them together in such a pleasing fashion. The Knaufs took advantage of this double sized finale to throw several twists and turns at the reader.

The surprises began quickly with Kooning getting killed and continued on to Tony being stripped of his position and placed under arrest, to the stunning SHIELD takeover of the U.N. building, to the appearance of the Silver Centurion armor, to the shocking move by Tony to slice off his own heel to stop the rockets and ending with the twist at the end with the disappearance of the Mandarin. That is a ton of twists and turns in one issue. The Knaufs have the reader’s head on a swivel as the reader has no idea what in the world is going to happen next.

The Knaufs craft more of their always impressive dialogue. Each character is well developed as the Knaufs continue their fine character work. I really like how the Knaufs write Dum Dum’s character. It is too bad that Marvel killed him off. I dig how Dum Dum ordered the ballsy move of SHIELD taking over the U.N. building and reminded a stunned Tony Stark that Tony told him to play it Nick Fury dirty. The entire plan to secure the U.N. building and sneak Tony out of the U.N. building was a wonderfully constructed scene.

I continue to adore the way the Knaufs write Tony’s character. The Knaufs just amaze me with their incredibly adept feel for his personality. We get to see the player side of Tony that we just don’t get to see that much anymore. I love that all it takes for Maya to realize Tony is real and not a fake is for him to lay one of his sexy kisses on her. Muy macho.

The Knaufs also understand Tony’s unwavering confidence in himself and his convictions. Even in the face of a hostile joint committee, Tony minces no words and refuses to back down even one inch. The Knaufs also show us that Tony is no government stooge. Tony has no love for the government and bureaucracy. Tony only supports the Act and wants to be the Director of SHIELD because he doesn’t trust anyone else to do it. That the only way to keep an eye on the government is to do so by being on the inside of the government.

Tony does only what Tony wants to do regardless of the Act and the government as we see Tony continually to display a willingness to blatantly break the government’s rules and laws in order to get the job done. All that Tony cares about is saving innocent lives.

The Knaufs also show us that Tony is a brave hero willing to sacrifice himself to save innocent lives. We have seen several times in this story arc, Tony willingly sacrifice his own well being in order to save innocent lives. And we see it once again as Tony doesn’t hesitate for a moment to slice off part of his foot in order to remove the dampener from his ankle. That was just nasty.

I dig Tony’s reaction to the conclusion of this story arc at the end of this issue. Tony could care less about being reinstated as Director of SHIELD. That is merely a means to an end. What Tony digs is that he saved the world, proved everyone who doubted him wrong and got to kick the Mandarin’s ass.

This was the Knaufs answer to all the Tony bashing that has been going on by other writers in all the other Marvel titles. Other writers who are blithely ignorant of Tony’s history and character have used and abused his character to serve their own selfish reasons to make their own political statements. They have misrepresented Tony’s character as some fascist government stooge.

The Knaufs had continually taken the high road. This was the Knaufs shot back. They emphasis that Tony is a true hero who will do anything to save innocent lives. That Tony is responsible for saving the entire world. That Tony could care less about the government and SHIELD. That Tony just wants to protect people and do the best job he can. That Tony proves everyone wrong who doubted him including those on other titles. It seems that the more other writers tear down Tony’s character it simply spurs the Knaufs to strive to give us an Iron Man that is one of the most heroic characters in the 616 universe.

It was definitely cool seeing Tony break out the old Silver Centurion armor once again. Now, this isn’t my favorite suit of armor since I firmly believe that the Golden Avenger should actually, you know, be golden. However, it is a distinctive suit of armor.

Also, I appreciate the symbolism in the Knaufs selecting the Silver Centurion armor for this issue. The Knaufs never do anything without a reason. The last time Tony broke out this armor was when he was fighting for his name against Stane. Tony had lost his company and was a drunk living on the streets. Tony had been discounted, dismissed and smeared by everyone. The Silver Centurion armor was Tony’s rebirth that served as a reminder to the 616 universe to not underestimate or doubt the true hero that Tony Stark is.

In the current Initiative driven 616 universe, Tony is once again fighting for his name. He has been dismissed and smeared by numerous people in the government and in the super hero community. Tony has been called insane and completely discounted in this story arc. Breaking out the Silver Centurion armor served notice that Tony has taken the worst life has thrown at him and always emerged as a true hero.

The Knaufs have treated the reader to what has been the best version of the Mandarin that I have ever read. I used to always find the Mandarin to be a rather one-dimensional, moustache twirling, evil megalomaniac. The Knaufs have managed to give the Mandarin a much more textured and intriguing personality. And a far more threatening of a villain than the standard issue “Mwuh-ha-ha-ha” villain that he used to be.

I loved the Mandarin’s beautiful monologue that ended this issue. This was a perfect way to close out this story arc. It gives the reader a nice sense of the Mandarin’s motivation and his state of mind. Plus, the Knaufs tease the reader that the Mandarin is still out there in some shape or form.

And despite the fact that the Knaufs’ calling cards are their wonderful dialogue, strong character work and intricate plotlines, they show off an equally adept hand at delivering dynamic fight scenes. I loved the massive battle between Iron Man and Mandarin. It was incredibly vicious and nasty. This was a truly brutal fight. I liked the limited use of dialogue during the brawl. The Knaufs are smart enough to let the action and artwork tell the story.

Roberto De La Torre delivers plenty of solid artwork on this issue. De La Torre’s style of art is certainly not my preferred style of art and is not the type of art that I would choose for a title like Iron Man. I also find De La Torre’s Iron Man to be rather dull looking. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the artwork is quite well done and matches the mood and tone of the Knaufs’ story.

The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.

Overall: Iron Man #28 was an excellent read and a phenomenal ending to an impressive story arc. Iron Man is another title that I can’t urge people enough to run out and go purchase. This is an unbelievably well written title that will appeal to a wide range of comic book readers. Only fans of mindless action themed comic books will fail to find this title an interesting read. I highly recommend getting the trade paperback of Ellis’ run on this title and the Knaufs’ previous story arcs. You won’t be disappointed.

3 Comments

  1. “Dugan”‘s comment about Brand having stolen their minisub provides a kind of black humourous foreshadowing; he was so annoyed that he suicide-bombed their base.

    FYI, the Knaufs take four issues off now (Stuart Moore filling in with an arc called “With Iron Hands”) because of other jobs, such as the launch of the new “The Eternals” series with Daniel Acuna.

    I also thought that the L & M return to Iron Man with Legacy of Doom was pretty good (the just-released hardcover of the first two stories is on order, but I haven’t gotten it yet).

    Final note, but one of Joey Q’s MyCup ‘o Joe interviews on MySpace released on Friday has a lettered preview of Fraction’s book. It looks pretty good (Larroca looks born for Iron Man). The url (in pieces):

    http://blog.myspace.com/

    index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.

    view&friendID=

    92159514&blogID=381462344

  2. lol about dugan. We dont know that he is dead for sure though. loved the issue, the whole “nick fury dirty” was freaking hilarious and the silver centurion was a nice touch too. I love it when writers dont really get entangled in the quagmire that is old continuity but are still able to “kick it old school” once in a while. The only thing i didnt get is how the mandarins rings went from his spine to iron mans finger.
    -hobosk8er

  3. I watched Carnivale Season 1 over the weekend and it was absolutely fantastic. So today I went looking for more written work by Daniel Knauf and lo and behold he writes Iron man. I am going to grab the TPBs for this series now. If it is half as good as his work on HBO I will be quite satisfied.

    Thanks for the review!

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