For Part One of these Iron Man 1970s classics click HERE.
IRON MAN Vol 1 #57 (April 1973)
Title: The Mandarin Strikes Back
Villain: The Mandarin
NOTE: This is the REAL Mandarin, Iron Man’s archenemy since 1964, NOT the comic-relief figure used in movies like Iron Man 3 and in the recent Shang-Chi movie. The Mandarin is sort of a hybrid of Doctor Doom, Fu Manchu and Chiang Kai-shek. As his nom de guerre would suggest, he wanted to return China to its glory days under the old imperial dynasties. He opposed the Communist Chinese and had carved out a little territory of his own on the mainland, as opposed to the island of Formosa used by the Taiwan government.
This villain’s powers came from his ten power rings which he took from a crashed Makluan spaceship. Each ring has specific powers. He uses other elements of reverse-engineered Makluan technology in his schemes for world conquest.
Synopsis: We pick up an unknown number of days or weeks after our previous installment. Tony Stark returns to Stark International’s Long Island headquarters only to learn that while he and the other Avengers were occupied with taking on Magneto (Avengers 110 & 111) the workers at Stark International re-organized under a whole new union. (It’s a comic book. Ignore the real-world problems with that happening so quickly and just go with it.)
That new union, headed by the mysterious and reclusive Gene Khan (really the Mandarin himself) has convinced the workers to go on strike until Tony Stark agrees to return his company to handling national defense contracts. Gene Khan has convinced labor that the real reason that Tony ended Stark’s Defense Department contracts was so he could share technology with Soviet Russia and Communist China.
Khan has further convinced them that Tony Stark will be secretly developing defense technology for the Soviets and for Peking under the guise of that “technology sharing” initiative.
Presently, Tony is chewing out his subordinates for failing to stop all this during his absence. (This was when the world did not know that Tony was Iron Man, he just claimed Iron Man was his high-tech “bodyguard” to explain why the armored superhero so often showed up wherever Tony Stark was.)
Tony gives his underlings their orders to try legal and political measures to counter this strike and the way Gene Khan’s union became his workers’ new representation in collective bargaining. Amid this chaos, Pepper Hogan, the former Pepper Potts, returns and shows up in Tony’s office.
Naturally, Tony makes time to meet with her in private. She said she and her husband, Tony’s former chauffer Happy Hogan, are having trouble keeping up with inflation so she would like a job. Tony rehires her as his personal assistant, the position she held before getting married to Happy.
With that settled, Tony reaches Gene Khan by phone, but the Mandarin keeps the conversation very short and hangs up on Stark before he can recognize his voice as that of his archenemy. Frustrated, our hero dons his Iron Man armor and flies down to talk to the striking workers, who have blocked off every entrance to the Long Island headquarters.
The striking workers take offense that Tony Stark seems to have “sicced” his bodyguard on them instead of facing them himself and they demand a meeting with Tony. Iron Man soon loses his patience and nearly punches one of the jeering strikers.
Getting control of himself, he instead flies off to secretly spy on Gene Khan’s main office in Manhattan. While carrying out this covert surveillance, Iron Man hears Gene Khan addressing his subordinates about their strategy and how it can leave Stark International incapable of fulfilling its few remaining defense contracts AND incapable of fulfilling the new contracts Tony has signed for other projects. Stark faces economic catastrophe.
At length, Iron Man gets a good enough look at Gene Khan to recognize him as the Mandarin using a false name. Our hero bursts into the office, planning to capture the world-renowned villain and parade him to his workers to show them how they’ve been suckered.
Iron Man mistakenly believed that the Mandarin was still without his Rings of Power (RINGS, not arm-bands like in the Shang-Chi movie). After the Mandarin had been defeated by Black Bolt and the rest of the Inhumans (Amazing Adventures Vol 2 # 3&4 November and December 1970), Black Bolt had stripped the villain of his rings and buried them beyond the now de-powered Mandarin’s reach.
The Inhumans then had the villain flown back to his castle headquarters in his part of China. At any rate, Iron Man was wrong, the Mandarin has retrieved his rings and the pair engage in a destructive battle in the office building owned by “Gene Khan” as his underlings flee.
Soon, the Mandarin has the upper hand and does a Villain Rant to boast to Iron Man how he recovered his Rings of Power. Though the Inhumans had taken his rings AND the Eye of Yin, which he had just discovered before fighting them, the Mandarin re-read all of the ancient books about the Eye of Yin from his castle library.
The villain pieced together the fact that the Eye of Yin was not a supernatural relic like millennia of superstition had led humanity to believe, but, like his Rings of Power, was really technology left behind by ancient alien visitors to Earth.
Armed with that information, the Mandarin returned to the hidden remains of the crashed Makluan spaceship from which he had taken his rings years earlier. He spent weeks inside the wreckage, further reverse-engineering the alien technology until he was able to repair a device that allowed him to psychically activate his rings remotely.
He was also able to activate the Eye of Yin that the Inhumans had buried WITH those rings. The rings and the Eye were able to blast their way out of the place Black Bolt had buried them and fly to the Mandarin, restoring his rings to him. However, the Eye of Yin was drained of all power.
By now Iron Man resumes his attack on the Mandarin (fictional villains are so stupid). Their battle destroys the building and spreads to the streets below, where countless New Yorkers are frightened by it.
The Mandarin’s rings as always allow him to shoot black rays, disintegrators, sonic blasts, gases, white rays, fire, electric blasts, etc. He also uses the extraterrestrial Yin martial arts that he learned from the Yin books and this “super kung-fu” makes his martial arts blows able to knock Iron Man around. (And this was even before Mantis joined the Avengers with her own super kung-fu that she learned from the Kree-born Priests of Pama.)
Our villain manages to damage part of Iron Man’s right shoulder armor and to rob him of the use of his repulsor rays. With our hero reeling, the Mandarin reveals that under his mask he can use the powerful headband he is now wearing to immediately summon another of Iron Man’s old foes – the Unicorn.
This is the cliffhanger ending to this issue as Iron Man, already reeling from the Mandarin’s attack, now has to face TWO villains at once.
IRON MAN Vol 1 #58 (May 1973)
Villains: The Mandarin and Unicorn
Synopsis: As the Mandarin and Unicorn use their combined powers to blast Iron Man around like a rag doll, the Mandarin’s remarks make it clear that the Unicorn is currently mindless and controlled by the Mandarin’s headband.
Soon the combined attack has severely damaged Iron Man’s chest-plate and torso-piece, preventing him from being able to use his chest-plate’s Uni-Beam and laser beam. The damage is so bad that the armor is rapidly losing power, even the power for Tony Stark’s pacemaker which drives his recently transplanted heart.
In desperation, Iron Man flees the scene, losing his two foes and flying erratically back to the Long Island headquarters of Stark International. As he reaches the HQ the striking workers below taunt his damaged form as he flies above them.
Iron Man almost makes it to Tony Stark’s office to plug in his chest-plate for recharging but collapses after reaching Pepper Potts-Hogan’s desk outside that office. Pepper does not yet know that Iron Man is really Tony so she tries to contact Tony Stark after plugging in the chest-plate for the collapsing Iron Man.
Time passes, and Pepper uses the power-gauge that Iron Man once showed her and Happy how to use long ago. The gauge shows that the damage is too severe – the chest-plate is still losing power, not gaining it, and Pepper fears her “fellow employee” of Tony Stark is dying.
We cut to Milford Sanitarium, a Connecticut mental hospital where Tony’s former fiance Marianne Rodgers has been committed because of the way her psychic powers have begun driving her insane. Dr Guy Lillian, her psychiatrist, is holding another session with her.
Marianne fears that the doctor doesn’t believe her as she tells him again about her psychic powers and how of late those powers are inflicting involuntary images on her, making it hard to distinguish between dreams and reality. Suddenly she feels consumed with burning sensations and Dr Lillian has her sedated and wonders if she is too far gone to save her sanity.
We now join the Mandarin and the mentally controlled Unicorn back at the remains of Gene Khan’s office building in Manhattan. The Mandarin makes with another Villain Rant, recalling aloud how the Unicorn recently sought him out at his castle in China.
The Unicorn made it clear that the treatments and technology which gave him his powers were now slowly killing him. He was putting his faith in the Mandarin’s abilities to save his life, following which they could team up against their mutual foe Iron Man.
The Mandarin had spent days trying to heal the Unicorn’s dying body but realized it was hopeless. He did NOT tell that to the Unicorn, and instead used the Headband of Yin, which had been attached to the now de-powered Eye of Yin, to take over the Unicorn’s mind so he could use him as a human battle-slave – a figurative “eleventh ring” of power.
Back on Long Island at Tony Stark’s office, Pepper, unable to reach Tony, resolves aloud to contact other people to try to help the prone Iron Man. Our hero manages to sit upright and tell her no. He is able to stand now and locks himself in Tony Stark’s private laboratory, feigning a brusque attitude with Pepper to help hide the fact that he is really Tony himself.
Throughout the night and into the next morning, Tony tests replacement armor AND tests his pacemaker, at length happily realizing that his body has finally accepted the transplanted heart and he no longer needs the pacemaker. For the first time since his injuries during the Vietnam War he is finally free of the need for artificial power for his heart.
Tony sleeps on a couch in his office. Meanwhile, Pepper arrives that morning to start her second day of work back as Tony Stark’s private aide. Eventually, the Mandarin’s minions work the striking workers up into such a frenzy that they raid the Long Island complex enroute to Tony’s office.
Stark had given his security personnel orders not to harm the strikers, so the angry mob soon reaches Pepper’s desk outside Tony’s office and wreaks all kinds of destruction on that floor of the building. This wakes up Tony, who, in civilian clothing, emerges from his office to confront the mob.
Eventually, Tony’s negotiations with the strikers calm them down enough for him to explain that news reports of Iron Man’s battle with the Mandarin at Gene Khan’s offices is some of the proof that their new union is part of that villain’s latest evil plans. The workers are wary, but Tony agrees not to press charges for the damage they caused and they agree to look into the reports from “Gene Khan’s” office building.
Pepper goes out for a meal, while Tony dons his armor and, as Iron Man, flies to what is left of Gene Khan’s Manhattan office building to search for clues about where the Mandarin and Unicorn may be located. The pair are hiding in the ruins and now attack Iron Man again.
The battle once again spills out onto the streets where innocent bystanders are again caught in the crossfire. Before the Mandarin and Unicorn can once again whittle Iron Man’s armor down with damage, a fluke shot from the Unicorn’s Power Horn hits the Mandarin’s headband, through which he has been mentally controlling the Unicorn’s body.
That vagabond blast causes the Mandarin’s mind to become trapped in Unicorn’s dying body, while the Unicorn’s failing mind becomes trapped in the Mandarin’s body. The infuriated villain quickly realizes what has happened, and, in the Unicorn’s body, uses his Power Horn to bring down another nearby office building, forcing Iron Man to save the lives of innocent people while he as the Unicorn flies off carrying the Mandarin’s body.
Hours later, Iron Man flies back to the Stark HQ on Long Island. We learn that the workers now know the truth about their new union, which has been exposed as a front for the Mandarin. They negotiate new deals with Tony Stark and return to work.
This issue closes with Tony happily contemplating the end of the strike and the new freedom of his healed heart.
NOTE: The Mandarin/ Unicorn situation will take on new significance in a few issues when the enigmatic Black Lama returns.
I’LL POST THE NEXT INSTALLMENT SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO MY REVIEW OF SPIDER-MAN 1970s CLASSICS CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ MANTIS/ KANG/ CELESTIAL MADONNA STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR A LOOK AT “IRON MAN & SUB-MARINER” # 1 and ONLY, CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ KREE-SKRULL WAR STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR THE FIRST SEVERAL IRON FIST STORIES CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s ADAM WARLOCK/ GAMORA/ THANOS/ MAGUS STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR THE EARLY GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY STORIES CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s BLACK PANTHER VS KILLMONGER STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR DC FANS, CHAPTER LINKS TO MY REVIEWS OF WORLD WAR TWO ERA JUSTICE SOCIETY STORIES. CLICK HERE.
6 responses to “IRON MAN: 1970s CLASSICS 3 – THE MANDARIN AND UNICORN”
So good to see the Mandarin get treated with the respect that character deserves! You rock!
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