Comics : Free Comic Book Day 2008 (Marvel Adventures)

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This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

Iron Man, The Hulk, Spider-Man, three members of the Marvel Adventures Avengers. Together they take on some of Marvel's most dangerous villains.

In Detail...

"Seven Rings Hath the Mandaran"
Free Comic Book Day 2008 (Marvel Adventures)
May 2008 : SM Reprint
Summary: Spider-Man Appears
Editor:  Mark Paniccia, Nathan Cosby
Writer:  Jeff Parker, Paul Tobin
Pencils:  Alvin Lee
Inker:  Terry Piekos
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Review

As this initial episode opens up, the three heroes are being blasted by an unseen source, which we soon learn is the murderous Mandarin. Assisting the three Avengers, is their sometimes comrade, Ant Man. As the Mandarin blasts the heroes with his rings, Ant Man has his insect friends stage a sneak attack on the eastern Mystic, while the Mandarin uses his mind control ring to take possession of The Hulk's pea brain so as to turn him on his friends.

Luckily for the heroes the Hank Pym's ant friends swarm the Mandarin and swipe three of his rings, also, luckily, it turns out that the Mandarin has something of an ant aversion fetish, and wigs out, swiftly teleporting away. With the immediate threat of the Mandarin gone, The heroes inspect his booty that was left behind, and determine that he seemed to be attempting to spirit away several ancient Incan artifacts. As they are examining the artifacts, Ant Man attempts to contact his ants that stole Mandarin's rings (who also when missing when the villain teleported), only his cybernetic helmet short circuits. Essentially bereft of his powers, Ant Man tells the others that he will fly them to where the Artifacts belong, and then attempt to repair his gear, as he would be useless in a fight.

While Ant Man is flying the heroes to the site where the Artifacts were looted, Spidey is telling Iron Man about an old Karen Black made-for-TV film (Trilogy of Terror) that involved an ancient statue that drove her insane. Iron Man, being all business, returns the conversation to the artifacts and their impending arrival at the Incan site of Machu Picchu. As they approach the Incan ruins, Iron Man attaches a pair of funny-looking antennae to his helmet so he can get a bearing on the location of the missing ants and the rings.

The heroes approach the ancient ruins and enter the underground chambers where they are confronted by an army of ants, some standard size, some the size of collies, and at least one the size of the Ants from that 1950-era film, "Them," The giant ant can speak, is named Grottu, and declares the heroes as intruders, setting the rest of the ants on them. During the Melee Grottu reveals that another intruder had breached the chamber earlier. This brings Iron Man up short to question Grottu. This conversation reveals that this other intruder was the Mandarin.

Utilizing the antennae from earlier, Iron Man communicates with the ants, broadcasting their earlier fight with the Mandarin to prove that he is not their friend and that they want to help the ants recover their stolen artifacts. Mollified by what he sees Grottu calls off his hoards as he relates his own encounter with Mandarin. It is here that the Mandarin returns to resume what he had begun. Snatching the statue from Spidey, Mandarin prepares to escape, and heroes prepare to trash him, when Spidey stops everyone.

Before the fisticuffs actually begin, he explains that they are inside a temple that is thousands of years old, and any altercation between them will certainly trash the entire building. In a surprising display of understanding, the Mandarin acknowledges what Spider-Man has said, and states that he is actually embarrassed as he hails from a land of ancient treasures and should be more sensitive to the ancient artifacts of other cultures. Hence all the protagonists adjourn to the base of the cliff to resume their fight.

Safely out of the way of any breakable artifacts, the four of them go at it, with Mandarin animating the mountain to squash Iron Man and Spidey, with the Hulk breaking the mountain into little pieces. Still, tapping into the rings he has remaining, Mandarin continues blasting away at the three heroes. Finally, Stark hits on a strategy, and tells Spidey to punch in the air in front of him when told to do so. Nut understanding, Spidey does as he is told. As Iron man blasts away at Mandarin, the Chinese warlord 'ports away, and Iron Man has Spidey swing away, knocking out a newly-appearing Mandarin.

Once he is out cold, Spidey strips off Mandarin's remaining rings. At this point, Grottu emerges from the ruins and agrees to return the three missing rings to the heroes, which happen to be in his mouth. Discovering that's where they are being kept, Iron Man passes the "honor" or retrieving them to Hulk

In General...

While I understand the behind-the-scenes of why these three heroes were chosen to headline this book (see below) there really is no reason to put these three characters together for an on-going series. Still, given the premise of the book, and the nature of the series (and characters) themselves, this really is a fun read, and effectively works as a lead-in to the upcoming, on-going Marvel Adventures Superheroes series.

Also, having the Mandarin appear as the villain (and have that goofy, '60s cutaway schematic of which rings do what) was a real wicked-cool throwback for us old timers. An especially nice touch was the Mandarin (and well, Stark) agreeing to continue the fight outside the shrine so as not to destroy any of the priceless ancient artifacts. I also really enjoyed the by-play between the all-business Stark and goofy-silliness of Peter, as it served as an interesting counterpoint to the action of the rest of the story.

Overall Rating...

Like I said, I like this story, but really can't see these three characters hanging around with each other over the long term. Hence on some terms (if done correctly), these stories could probably make for interesting stories, and only time will tell if the writer (or writers) will be able to successfully pull it off.

Footnote...

This issue also reprints a Chris Giarrusso Mini Marvel (staring the Avengers and Elephant Steve fighting Ultron (Mini-Spidey does not appear).

Let's be honest about this comic, Hulk and Iron Man have movies coming out this year, the last Marvel movie out (2007) was perennially best selling and corporate icon, Spider-man. Assisting them in this issue is Ant Man (who is slated for an upcoming flick, so we really don't have to be the world's greatest detective to figure out why these three (four) were thrown together to headline this title. (Personally, I could do with a little bit of Marvel Adventure Captain America (and I do mean Steve Rogers here) or even some of Professor Xavier's students, but hey, nobody at the (once) house of ideas, is taking my calls these days.)