The Mandarin kidnaps a famous Chinese director and forces him to make a movie of his often-contradictory life story.
Wow... where to even start? I'm just in awe of how many things Fraction and Di Giandomenico were able to make this annual be at once - - and how every one of those things was so exceptional! On one level, you have this genuinely intriguing premise about a super-villain imprisoning his favorite director in order to make the most unholy vanity project ever committed to film. You can feel the mounting sense of horror and desperation Jun Shan suffers as production continues, as well as the true sense of tragedy in the terrible betrayal he faces at the end. On another level, this annual updates the Mandarin's origin for modern times without contradicting anything that's come before. In fact, it reconciles all of the seemingly-irreconcilable aspects of the Mandarin's history with his maddening habit of telling conflicting stories and pathological lies about his own life. On yet another level, this story's absolutely rife with satirical digs at tyrannical, micro managing producers, executives and patrons, as well as China's own infamous habit of censoring its news and history. Di Giandomenico's art is virtuoso, forming a brilliant storytelling dance with Fraction's script. I was not only impressed by the number of panels he was able to fit on each page, but also by the artful way he arrayed them all in the layouts. I could go on and on singing this books praises...
Nothing. There's really nothing bad about this.
The Verdict - 5/5
At $4.99 for 80 pages of superlative story, this is the best value you're likely to get out of any comic from the big two. Buy this now, either off the shelf or online. I can think of no better book to kick-off Marvel's simultaneous delivery model. This had the complexity of a novel. It pulled off the mesmerizing trick of both transcending its background in a long-serialized title while still remaining true to its roots. This is a portrait of charming, petty and capricious evil that deserves marks of distinction on its own merits. It may be too early to say, but I think this will be looked back on in years to come as one of the seminal Iron Man stories. If you need your faith in these characters and this universe restored, then read this book. Now!