Getting excited about Iron Man 3? The final part of the Iron Man trilogy will be released in the US on May 3, 2013, and from what I’m hearing and seeing, it sounds like Iron Man 3 is more firmly rooted in specific stories from Iron Man’s comic book history than either of the first two films.
This post will outline some of the trade collections and comics most likely to provide background for the film, along with history of the movie’s villain, The Mandarin!
Where To Start
I’ve mentioned before that Iron Man 3 faces the least amount of pressure of any Marvel movie in recent history. The success of The Avengers and the complete and utter implosion of DC’s Green Lantern all but guarantees Marvel Studio’s continued reign of glory.
This could mean Iron Man 3 finds Robert Downey, Jr. and company coasting to another pay day. I think it’s more likely, though, that it expands the level of creativity and source material used in the film.
This is great news for fans of the ol’ shellhead, as there are tons of great Iron Man story arcs deserving of the silver screen.
The below list details the stories most likely to play a role in Iron Man 3, along with key comic issues and stories explaining Ben Kingsley’s new Iron-foe, The Mandarin. As a bonus for those looking to take a real deep dive into Iron Man, I’ve included additional classic Iron Man stories that inevitably come up in any “Best of the Golden Avenger” discussions.
Quick aside: The below is intended to be spoiler-free, both for the movie and the individual comic arcs mentioned.
Issues: Iron Man #225-#232
In a lot of ways, the Armor Wars were the driving force behind Iron Man 2, with a bunch of classic Crimson Dynamo revenge mixed in for Mickey Rourke’s Russian Whiplash.
Remember the congressional hearings where Tony Stark snarked his way through accusation of possessing a threat to national security? Well that’s classic Armor Wars logic, and from the trailers we can see that Iron Man 3 is going to feature a wide variety of Iron Man suits. Who’s in control of the suits and how does Tony get them all back under his watch? That’s another dilemma entirely.
Issues: Iron Man #1-#6 (2004 relaunch of the title)
An instant classic from the one and only Warren Ellis, one of the best comic book writers of all-time.
Truth be told, Extremis has been movie-ready from day one, even providing inspiration for the modernized Iron Man movie origins back in the first issue in 2004.
I won’t give away the central development of Extremis, but it truly does change our understanding of the Iron Man character (in my opinion, for the better). This storyline serves as a major focus for future Iron Man plots as well as the major Marvel events to follow.
Iron Man: World’s Most Wanted
Issues: Invincible Iron Man #8-#19
It’s a little less clear if Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca’s “World’s Most Wanted” storyline from Invincible Iron Man will be heavily integrated into Iron Man 3, but there are definite hints.
In the comic arc, “World’s Most Wanted” is very heavily tied to the overall continuity of Marvel’s Dark Reign. Without spoilerizing anything, Dark Reign turns the status quo of the Marvel Universe on its head, with generally villainous characters (cough… Norman Osborne… cough) raising to political power following the events of Secret Invasion.
As you can tell from the title, this puts Tony Stark in the unfamiliar position of running from the law. I would recommend a general understanding of Iron Man’s previous few years before diving into this arc. In addition to Extremis, the Civil War and Secret Invasion events provide most of the essential developments.
Again, because of the heavy ties to the Dark Reign continuity of the time, it’s unlikely we’ll see an exact rendering of this storyline. Nonetheless, it could be utilized in a similar vein to The Dark Knight Rises, bringing Iron Man to his lowest point before all is said and done.
Most long-time Iron Man fans have been pulling for a movie Mandarin since the first film was announced.
Mandarin is without a doubt the arch-nemesis of Tony Stark, and there has been a lot of speculation that he’s actually been the architect behind much of the adversity Iron Man’s faced in the first two movies.
The Ben Kingsley take on the villain is one of the most exciting aspects of Iron Man 3, and sets up the film for the highest stakes Iron Man has faced yet.
If you’re looking to catch up on the origins of the Mandarin, or some of the all-time Mandarin stories, check out the list below. I’d also give a quick thanks to this resource for a great Mandarin overview.
Origin of the Mandarin
The Mandarin’s first appearance came eleven issues into Iron Man’s debut run, back when the comic was still called Tales of Suspense. From there the Mandarin quickly became an Iron Man regular rogue, even getting his own origin issue in Tales of Suspense #62.
There have been plenty of origin twists since then, but Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 is the most recent. The story focuses on the sinister Mandarin developing the movie version of his own life, and just like the actual comic book history, a lot of the details are simply what you choose them to be.
The Dragon Seed Saga
Issues: Iron Man #270-#275
I can’t sit here and claim that John Byrne’s “Dragon Seed Saga” is the pinnacle of comic art, but it is a fairly monumental arc in the history of Iron Man and the Mandarin.
In addition to a dramatic ending for the Mandarin, the series involves more Mandarin backstory, and plenty of dragons, including everyone’s favorite: Fin Fang Foom. It’s hard to determine just how far back these five issues set Asian/American relations, but hey, win some lose some.
Revenge of the Mandarin
Issues: Iron Man #8-#14 (1998 relaunch)
This one brought back the Mandarin to the post-Onslaught Marvel Universe. Not necessarily a must-read classic, but with Kurt Busiek writing (of Marvels and Avengers Forever fame), you can’t go too wrong. To my knowledge this series is not available in Marvel Unlimited, so looks like it’s trade, back issues or bust here.
Return of the Mandarin to the Modern Marvel U
This post-Extremis issue marks the official return of the modern Mandarin. Sets up the major Mandarin-related events of the next series…
Iron Man: Haunted
In a lot of ways, Haunted might be the single most relevant Mandarin story for Iron Man 3. It stems straight out of Extremis, launching a bold new direction for the Mandarin.
As a quick note, I’m including the Annual issue here because it’s included in the trade, but it’s completely separate from any Mandarin related activity. You can start with that issue if you want to get familiar with Stark as Director, or skip it all together if you don’t feel like you’re missing an issue where every woman is apparently a porn star.
Most Recent Mandarin Stories
Issues: Invincible Iron Man #510-#527
Fraction and Larocca’s run on Invincible Iron Man gets very Mandarin heavy following the events of Fear Itself.
Naturally, diving into these later issues is going to present some continuity confusion if you haven’t been following Iron Man’s progression since Extremis. Nonetheless, this is the latest and greatest in Mandarin, and there’s a particular emphasis on greatest here.
Only a portion of these are available via Marvel Unlimited (missing #517-#522, and only extends to #525 right now), and all of them are now collected in three separate trade volumes.
The following aren’t necessarily going to fit into Iron Man 3, but they are some of the more frequently reference elements of the Iron Man mythos.
Demon in A Bottle
Issues: Iron Man #120-#128
Tony Stark’s playboy lifestyle catches up with him in “Demon in a Bottle,” as Stark comes to the revelation that he’s become an alcoholic.
It’s a solid look at a real-life issue through the lens of an Avenger, and one that has been a major part of Stark’s character ever since.
Any time you can add Dr. Doom to a heroes rogues gallery, you have to pull the trigger. Doomquest takes Iron Man and Dr. Doom back in time to the court of King Arthur! No, really.
So what do you think? Does this cover all of the best Iron Man reading in anticipation of the coming movie? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!