Tales of Suspense (Vol. 1) #50

Credits:

Cover Date: February 1964

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, George Roussos

“The Hands of the Mandarin”

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciller: Don Heck

Inker: Don Heck

What’s Going On?

Iron Man goes to Communist China to investigate the mysterious Mandarin! And by “investigate,” I of course mean “fight.”

Details:

  • The Mandarin is feared by all who know he exists, even the Communist government of China.

  • In America, the government asks Iron Man to travel to China and get information about the Mandarin.

  • Iron Man travels to China and arrives at the Mandarin’s castle. The Mandarin was waiting for him, though, and attacks.

  • Back home, Pepper is upset that Tony isn’t around to take her to a fancy Stark employee dinner and ball, so she asks Happy to be her date.

  • Meanwhile, in China, the Mandarin defeated Iron Man, but let him recover. Why? Because he wants a challenge when he kills Iron Man with his karate skills!

  • In a desperate move, Iron Man times a counter-blow perfectly, causing the Mandarin to collapse in pain. That gives Iron Man enough time to escape and catch a ride back to the USA.

Is It Good?

It’s almost okay. The Mandarin is horribly overpowered, so Iron Man actually appears to be an underdog against him; I like that. I didn’t like the political slant of the plot, but that’s just something you come across in random Silver Age books. The Mandarin is a “yellow peril” stereotype, though, and that makes reading this comic substantially less fun. I’m also not a fan of the Happy-Pepper-Tony love triangle that seems to be brewing. It’s making the characters involved come across as dumb or just cold, and this book is already lacking in sympathetic characters, so that’s not a great fit.

Continuity:

  • This is the first appearance of the Mandarin. Aside from being a karate master, the Mandarin has ten power rings, one for each finger, and they give him ten separate (but unspecified) powers.
  • Pepper Potts has had a makeover! Her freckle-faced, Ann Davis-inspired character look has been officially replaced with a more traditionally glamorous design.

  • Happy seems to be under the impression that he and Pepper are now a couple. Pepper is not under that same impression; she still has a crush on Tony, who is largely oblivious to her.

 

Comics Are Goofy:

  • It should be noted that Iron Man was tasked with “investigating” the Mandarin. What he did was attack the Mandarin. No stealth was even attempted.
  • So…they named a character “the Mandarin.” That is just such a nonsensical name. Would we take a villain seriously if he called himself “the English” or “the French-Canadian”?
  • What the hell is going on with the Mandarin’s costume? He lives in an isolated castle, surrounded by subservient boot-lickers, and he still feels the need to wear a giant, purple “M” on his cloak? And what’s with his mask? Shouldn’t it be disguising him? Or is it just supposed to be a skullcap, and he’s got some matching exfoliating strips across his face?
  • This may be the biggest nonsense I’ve read in this title. Tony uses math to calculate the weak spot in the Mandarin’s karate attack on the fly? Nope.

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • “With your help, we could menace the world with nuclear destruction!” —- extremely realistic, and in no way politically skewed, dialogue.

  • Listen, Marvel, not every Asian character needs to be a Yellow Peril stereotype.

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